- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

SEATTLE — A season that went further than anyone predicted — at least, anyone not paid by Dan Snyder — came to an end as far from home as possible for the Washington Redskins.

The 20-10 divisional-round playoff loss to the NFC’s top seed, Seattle, was no disgrace, not even with MVP Shaun Alexander forced from the Seahawks’ lineup early on because of a concussion.

The Redskins’ defense and kick coverage were outstanding for the most part, as they have been all year. The offense, however, was punchless for a second straight week. And unlike last week’s victim, Tampa Bay, Seattle — even minus Alexander — has too much offense to be shut down all afternoon.

The Monday Morning Quarterback, a little bleary-eyed from two coast-to-coast flights in less than 48 hours, weighs in on what went down in the land of Starbucks, grunge and constant rain.

Q: How do you lose when you knock the NFL’s MVP from the game after he rushes for just 9 yards on six carries and loses a fumble?

A: You lose because except for a brief resurgence in the fourth quarter your offense is uglier than the weather in Seattle. Mark Brunell hasn’t been the same since he sprained his knee in the next-to-last regular-season game. And with no passing attack, Clinton Portis had nowhere to run.

Q: What would have happened if Carlos Rogers hadn’t dropped that interception in the second quarter with nothing in front of him but the end zone?

A: It would have given the Redskins a 10-0 lead and made for a different game for a while. But even without Alexander The Great, the Seahawks have too much offense to be held under 10 points.

Q: It seems unfair that this defense is saddled with this offense, doesn’t it?

A: It’s amazing the Redskins got this far, considering their recent struggles on offense. It’s not just Brunell’s knee that’s not 100 percent. The 13-year veteran isn’t seeing open receivers in the end zone and has made poor decisions on throws behind the line of scrimmage.

Q: Can you really blame Brunell when he has only Santana Moss and Chris Cooley to throw to?

A: You can’t blame Brunell for not having his second (David Patten), third (James Thrash) and fourth (Taylor Jacobs, who got sick) wideouts, but after being a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year at midseason, Brunell kept getting worse.

Q: Why didn’t Joe Gibbs bench Brunell for the stronger-armed Patrick Ramsey?

A: It took lots of ugly defeats for Gibbs to make the move last year, and that was before Brunell had played well for him. For this year at least, the coach and the quarterback were joined at the hip.

Q: Did Portis just wear down after that string of 100-yard games?

A: The defensive focus on the running game combined with his shoulder stingers to turn C.P. into a very average RB.

Q: How special are Washington’s special teams? They forced two fumbles on punts.

A: The coverage units are superb. The rest are mediocre.

Q: What happened to Ray Brown? I saw him get carted to the locker room.

A: Brown had cramps. One press box wag suggested they were just calling the 43-year-old guard “Gramps.” Fortunately, one of the NFL’s great people did not end his 20-year career in that fashion; he returned to play in the fourth quarter.

Q: Speaking of careers ending, was that the last time we’ll see LaVar Arrington in a Redskins uniform?

A: Yes. There’s no way the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker comes back, thanks to his $12 million salary cap number and the bad blood between him and the organization. Arrington, who ended Troy Aikman’s career with a concussion-causing hit in 2001, was the tackler who sent Alexander to the sideline for the afternoon.

Q: Was Sean Taylor the spittin’ image of a Pro Bowl safety?

A: After his horrendous lack of sportsmanship last week against the Buccaneers, Taylor behaved himself against the Seahawks. Part of the fascination with watching Taylor is that you never know if the million-dollar talent or the 10-cent head will rule.

Q: Why does John Hall still have a job?

A: Good question. Hall’s kickoffs were short. He didn’t have enough leg for Gibbs to have him try a 51-yard field goal, and then he killed the Redskins’ momentum by missing a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter. Hall has more pulled muscles than big field goals the last two seasons. The Redskins need a new kicker.

Q: How good are the Seahawks?

A: Good enough to win without their best player. Good enough to win their first playoff game in 21 years. Assuming Alexander plays, good enough to beat whoever survives today’s Carolina-Chicago contest.

The Seahawks will get the winner of that game next Sunday at Qwest Field, where they’re 22-4 the last three years. The ‘Hawks should be Super Bowl-bound for the first time in their 30 seasons.

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