SEATTLE — While his teammates quickly dressed for the trip back east, Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry sat stoically, still in uniform.
"I still want to play," he said quietly. "It's hard to believe it's over."
Perhaps few will remember the performance given by Landry and the Redskins' defense yesterday. After all, it was two late interception returns by a pair of Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks that helped end Washington's season with a 35-14 loss.
But for several moments in one of the wildest fourth quarters of this NFL season, the Redskins' defense, hoisted by the memory of a lost teammate, looked like the best unit on the field.
More specifically, Landry — a rookie safety — made two of the biggest plays of his season by snaring two interceptions in a four-minute span to stymie Seattle's attempts to take control of the game.
But any discussion of the Redskins' defense must begin with the first three quarters. With the offense sputtering, the defense kept the game close, allowing just a single conversion on fourth down and forcing the Seahawks to twice settle for field goals.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Redskins finally scored as quarterback Todd Collins hit Antwaan Randle El on a 7-yard pass. Two plays later, Landry intercepted a pass intended for Seahawks wideout Bobby Engram, giving the Redskins the ball on the Seattle 42. Three plays later, the Redskins led 14-13.
"We knew that if we could just keep it close, we'd have a chance," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "That's just a preview of what you're going to see with [Landry]. He's an exceptional young player. That's the type of talent he has. That's the type of plays he can make."
But with about 10 minutes to go the Seahawks appeared poised to take control again. Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham had just missed a chip shot field goal, and the Seahawks responded with three quick first downs, determined to regain the lead they had held nearly all game.
That's when Landry stepped in front of Seahawks wide receiver Ben Obomanu to snare his second interception of the fourth quarter.
Landry, however, was in no mood to discuss moral victories.
"The game wasn't over," he said. "I wasn't really worried about the fact that it was a big play or a momentum changer. They still had time on the clock."
Indeed, the last five minutes of the game went in the Seahawks' favor, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck finally connecting on his first touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett and cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux returning two Todd Collins interceptions for scores.
But if the performance of the defense was overshadowed, it will be remembered for its full body of work on the season. After all, it was the memory of Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor, murdered in November, that is credited with helping the team to a four-game win streak to earn a playoff berth.
"I guess the thing that I will be most pleased about is that our defensive confidence came back," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "And people don't take other people for granted any longer. This is a cutthroat business, but there's still a huge human element to it. Our guys really played hard down the stretch because they had to care a little bit more about each other."