- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2008

— A week ago, Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn said his team was “treading water and not swimming,” coming off a stretch in which it went 2-3 and twice got manhandled in their home stadium.

Perhaps now the Redskins can start swimming toward the playoffs.

In his triumphant return to face the team for so long was associated with, Zorn’s Redskins capitalized on LaRon Landry’s first interception of the year and then rode Clinton Portis for a clock-sapping drive to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 20-17 Sunday at Qwest Field and snap a two-game losing streak.

But it didn’t come without drama.

After burning nearly seven minutes, the Redskins gave Seattle one last chance when Ladell Betts fumbled with 1:28 seconds remaining, an opportunity Shawn Springs erased on the next play when he intercepted Matt Hasselbeck at the Washington 44-yard line.

“We were trying to do right and keep the ball in our possession,” Zorn said, “and Ladell tried to strain for that extra yard and he got on somebody’s back and wasn’t on the ground and they ripped the ball out.”

With five games left on the regular season schedule, the Redskins (7-4) remained tied with Dallas and Atlanta for the final wild card spot in the NFC playoffs, with Carolina (8-3) in the fifth spot. Philadelphia (5-5-1) fell further behind after a lopsided loss at Baltimore.

“We needed a game like this to get over this hump and get this funk out of here,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “I hope it will pay dividends.”

The Redskins’ last hope at making a dent in the lead of the division-leading New York Giants (10-1) comes Sunday when Tom Coughlin’s team visits FedEx Field for a 1 p.m. start.

The winning points came on Shaun Suisham’s 22-yard field goal with 9:19 left in the game. But the game was won with the kind of clock-draining, opponent-deflating drive that was commonplace during the Redskins’ 4-1 start.

Keyed by a Lorenzo Alexander sack of Hasselbeck, the Redskins forced a Seattle punt after only four plays. The Redskins took possession at their own 4-yard line with 7:09 remaining and didn’t give the ball up until Seattle had wasted its final two timeouts and only 1:28 remained.

Portis, who rushed 29 times for 143 yards, once again played the thoroughbred role for the Redskins’ run game. He started the drive with runs of 9, 11 and 20 yards. Three plays later, on third-and-6, Campbell threw 13 yards to Santana Moss.

The win was an exclamation point for Zorn in his return to to face the team he quarterbacked, the franchise that employed him as a coach in the stadium that bears his name in the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor.

“It was really hard before the game because I did know a lot of people, and I did want to say ‘hi’ to a bunch of people but I wanted to keep from it being a distraction,” Zorn said. “But it was fun to see people who I had worked with for so long. I was well prepared in knowing what I wanted to do because I knew it would be a distraction.”

Leading 10-7 at halftime, Seattle was in position to extend its lead thanks to a 58-yard kickoff return by former Maryland star Josh Wilson to begin the third quarter. But Rocky McIntosh sacked Hasselbeck for an 8-yard loss, and Olindo Mare missed wide right on a 53-yard field goal attempt.

The Redskins took advantage of the field position with a long drive that didn’t result in a touchdown [-] Suisham’s 26-yard field goal tied the score at 10-10. Zorn gambled to keep the drive alive, going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 16 and making it on a 3-yard Portis pitchout carry.

On Seattle’s next possession, Landry dived to pick off a throw by Hasselbeck that was nowhere near a Seattle target and returned it 13 yards. In last year’s playoff loss to the Seahawks, the Redskins safety posted two interceptions.

The Redskins wasted no time taking a 17-10 lead. Campbell hit Chris Cooley for 21 yards and, two plays later, Campbell found a crossing Antwaan Randle El for an 8-yard touchdown with 3:25 remaining in the third quarter. It was Randle El’s first touchdown catch since Week 4 and the Redskins’ first touchdown after a takeaway since Week 5 against St. Louis.

The Redskins have four interceptions in their last three games following a four-game stretch without a pick.

Seattle answered with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Hasselbeck kept things alive with two key third-down conversions [-] 11 yards to Deion Branch (against Carlos Rogers) on third-and-5 and 25 yards to Bobby Engram (against Shawn Springs) on third-and-8. One play later, rookie tight end John Carlson got behind McIntosh and Chris Horton to catch a 10-yard touchdown pass to the score at 17 with 13:24 remaining.

The Redskins’ offense didn’t start well, punting on their first two possessions and seeing Suisham’s 43-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar despite no evidence of a strong wind. Seattle fared no better [-] Hasselbeck misfired on six of his first seven attempts [-] but led 3-0 on Mare’s 45-yard field goal set up by Maurice Morris’ 44-yard run.

The Redskins took their first lead with 4:32 left in the first half when Betts capped an 11-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, his first of the year. Betts sprinted onto the field before the snap to sub for Portis, who sustained a hip injury on the previous play. Portis would return to the game. The score was set up by a 20-yard run by Portis and a 21-yard pass interference call on Kelly Jennings. The Redskins survived a 15-yard Moss penalty for slapping Wilson in the head.

Seattle answered 29 seconds before halftime on Morris’ 4-yard touchdown catch. During the nine-play, 72-yard march, the Seahawks never faced a third down, and moved down the field on a 14-yard pass to Koren Robinson and a 19-yard run by Julius Jones.

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