- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

— Given the usual forecast of rain, the Seattle Seahawks’ Qwest Field remained surprisingly dry yesterday. The sun occasionally peeked through the clouds, and yet again, it appeared to shine on the Washington Redskins.

It was a magical, mystical month for the Redskins, who overcame a 5-7 record and well-chronicled adversity to reach the playoffs. And here they were, mounting another comeback, erasing a 13-0 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 14-13 lead in their bid to add another amazing chapter to their improbable story.

But all stories have endings, and sometimes they arrive sooner than expected. And sometimes, depending on how you look at it, they’re not happy.

Spurred by their vociferous fans, known as the “12th Man,” the Seahawks showed some pluck and resourcefulness of their own, responding with two quick touchdowns and another at the end for a 35-14 victory to send the Redskins home for good.

“It was a little bit like our season,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “Nothing seemed to go right for us early, but this team found a way to get back into it. I wish we could have made more plays, but we didn’t.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Redskins completed a 12-play, 84-yard drive when quarterback Todd Collins found Antwaan Randle El for a seven-yard touchdown pass to cut the Seattle lead to 13-7. On the Seahawks’ next possession, LaRon Landry intercepted quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and the Redskins turned that into a 30-yard touchdown pass from Collins to Santana Moss to take a 14-13 lead with 12:38 remaining.

As the game started to resemble the Redskins’ changing fortunes this year, it took a big turn in that direction when Redskins’ Anthony Mix recovered the ensuing kickoff on the Seattle 15. The crowd was out of the game, the 12th Man nowhere to be heard.

But nothing came of it. The Redskins faltered, and Shaun Suisham missed a 30-yard field goal attempt, wasting a splendid opportunity.

The Redskins still led, but the Suisham miss was an ominous sign. So was this: Landry intercepted another pass, and again the Redskins failed to take advantage. Given yet another chance, Seattle moved briskly downfield and scored on Hasselbeck’s 20-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett, made the two-point conversion and regained the lead, 21-14.

Things then got out of hand.

Marcus Trufant intercepted Collins’ poorly thrown pass and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown. Seattle led 28-14 with 5:38 to go, and that was that for the Redskins. Another interception return for a touchdown gave the appearance of a blowout, which it was not.

Coming into the game, Collins had not thrown an interception since he stepped in and played brilliantly after starting quarterback Jason Campbell got hurt against the Chicago Bears in the 13th game of the season. That’s when the Redskins were 5-7, still emotionally wobbly from the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor. Collins finished the victory over Chicago, the first of four in a row, and, as a starter for the first time in more than 10 years, orchestrated the Redskins’ next three wins.

Given what they had done to get there, the Redskins expected to beat the Seahawks after they took the lead.

“We just came up short,” defensive end Andre Carter said. “Through everything that happened this season, we came together as one, and we tried to win, and we did that. We showed a level of character and integrity the last month. Nobody thought we could do it, but we did. But the playoffs, it’s a whole ‘nother level.”

There was the expected and profound disappointment in the visitors’ locker room after the game. But the Redskins looked at the bigger picture and appreciated what they saw.

“I told the football team I was really, extremely proud of them,” Gibbs said. “I haven’t been part of a group that took more pride in the way they played.”

“I don’t think many teams could have done what we did,” said veteran linebacker London Fletcher, who joined the team as a free agent during the off-season and proved to be a valuable addition.

“To beat the four teams that we did to get into the playoffs and give ourselves a chance, to come here into a hostile environment and take a lead in the fourth quarter and give ourselves a chance to win another ballgame, this is the most resilient football team I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on two Super Bowl teams.”

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