- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

SEATTLE — When Antwaan Randle El scored a 7-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, he set a personal high with 10 catches in a game.

The touchdown also moved the Washington Redskins within one score at 13-7 of the Seattle Seahawks yesterday in their wild card playoff game.

The Redskins lost 35-14, but Randle El — a former quarterback at Indiana — was the team’s top offensive player with 94 yards receiving. The touchdown matched his total during the regular season.

“We knew they would be doing a whole lot to try to take away Santana [Moss], but we still got going,” Randle El said. “They took some of that deep stuff, and I was still able to get open on some of the medium routes.”

On a day in which the running game struggled, quarterback Todd Collins routinely found Randle El for short gains to keep drives alive. Randle El had five first-down catches, the longest for 19 yards.

The game capped a career year for Randle El, who set personal highs with 51 catches and 728 yards during the regular season. He more than doubled his yardage output from last season — his first with Washington — when he had 351 yards receiving on 32 catches.

Though he has not been the breakaway threat the Redskins had hoped for when they signed him as a free agent away from Pittsburgh in 2006, Randle El has been a solid complement alongside No. 1 receiver Moss.

However, the career day and strong individual season did little to lessen the team’s disappointment.

“It is disbelief,” Randle El said. “This is it for a while. It is a terrible feeling after all we have been through and all the opportunities we had today.”

A loss but not lost

Dealing with plenty of adversity — including the death of safety Sean Taylor — the Redskins rallied from a 5-7 record, winning their last four games to reach the postseason.

“You hurt for losing for one thing,” Moss said. “You have it in the back of your head that you wish you could’ve done a little more for Sean. What it all boils down to is you hurt for going out there and not being successful this time of year. All I can say is we did all we can. We fought hard.”

Before the season-ending surge, Washington had lost four straight and appeared to be out of the playoff picture.

After Taylor’s murder, the Redskins had a built-in excuse to finish poorly. Instead, his memory became their rallying cry.

“This team came together more than anything,” said Randle El, who played on last season’s 5-11 team. “We look back last year at Week 14 and 15, and we were never as close as we were this year. A lot of that has to do with the loss of Sean.”

But the Redskins‘ late run made yesterday’s first-round playoff loss in which the Redskins led in the fourth quarter that much tougher.

“The late run showed what we can do as team,” said Moss, Taylor’s teammate at the University of Miami. “No one in the locker room should hold their heads down and feel like we didn’t accomplish what we tried to accomplish. We came close. If you ask me, we could’ve been closer.”

Momentum stopper

After taking a 14-13 lead early in fourth quarter, the Redskins caught a break when they recovered an unintentional onside kick at the Seattle 14-yard line.

After failing to score a touchdown, Washington seemed assured of at least a field goal from 30 yards. But Shaun Suisham’s kick was wide left, and the Seahawks soon took control of the game.

“It was just a bad kick,” Suisham said. “It is not what I get paid to do. Especially to miss a 30-yarder in the playoffs is frustrating.”

Instead of the Redskins taking a 17-13 advantage, the Seahawks got the ball back, took a lead and eventually pulled away.

“It’s a totally different game if we are up by four,” Randle El said. “The crowd got into it. They got the momentum, and we never got it back.”

Thrash active

The only question about the inactive list concerned James Thrash, but the receiver made the playing roster despite aggravating a high ankle sprain last week against Dallas.

The activation of Thrash meant Keenan McCardell was inactive for the third straight game.

Seahawks receiver Deion Branch was out with a strained right calf.

The Super Bowl XXXIX MVP with the New England Patriots had 49 catches for 661 yards and four touchdowns this season but missed four games with a sprained foot.

Extra points

Washington coach Joe Gibbs was 9-1 in playoff openers before yesterday. The other loss was to the Chicago Bears in 1984. …

Redskins defensive end Chris Wilson’s sack in the second quarter was his third in two games. The second-year player from Division II Northwood (Mich.) University had two sacks in the first 15 games of the season.