|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
Seahawks don't just hope to win — they have to win
Seattle Times staff columnist
KIRKLAND — Life as we know it in Seattle will end today if the Seahawks lose to Washington and add one more year to their playoff drought.
At least that's the impression you get if you hang out at Tully's or listen to the talk shows or pull up a stool at the neighborhood pub.
Even though this is merely the divisional playoffs, this game feels like Seattle's Super Bowl. Everybody in town seems to have given their minds over to the necessity of this win.
For the Seahawks, this is the mother of all must-win games.
"There's no question, we've got to win the game," said Mack Strong, the Hawks' Pro Bowl fullback. "We'll be throwing everything we have, all of our weapons, all of our energy, all of our focus, all of our concentration. It's not just because it's been so long since we've won a playoff game. But it's more that if we lose, we're done, and we have higher goals than that."
The last time a Seattle team played a game that meant this much to this city was June 1, 1979, when Seattle beat a different Washington team in a different sport and won the NBA championship.
And like that team, this team has no excuses.
"I've been on some bad teams with a lot of down years," Seahawks center Robbie Tobeck said after a practice this week. "People don't even know who you are. You'd be out and they'd be ripping the heck out of your team and then they find out who you are and they kind of feel small. This is better than that."
Washington is battered. The Seahawks are better. Washington had to travel across the country. Seattle is home. Every time Washington quarterback Mark Brunell calls signals, Qwest Field will be as loud as Sea-Tac.
Last season, in their 27-20 playoff loss to the Rams, the Seahawks were hurting physically and psychologically. They were fragile and fading. These Seahawks are different. These Seahawks are ready for a game this big.
Almost everybody is back for Seattle this week — cornerbacks Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon, and wide receiver Darrell Jackson. And Shaun Alexander will be running behind a Pro Bowl line that has ripened in this 13-3 season.
The Redskins can't beat the Seahawks. Only the Seahawks can beat the Seahawks. They can't make early turnovers that give Washington a lead and suck the air out of the stadium. The Hawks have only themselves to fear.
"There's never any excuses," Tobeck said. "You either get it done, or you don't get it done. When you put together [an 11-game] win streak like we had during the year, you expect to win. In years past, I think our team felt we could win, but didn't expect to win. We know Washington is a good team, but we expect to win."
Washington's brilliant coordinator, Gregg Williams, will design a defense to stop Alexander, the league's leading rusher. Linebacker LeVar Arrington probably will shadow Alexander like a Secret Service agent watching the president.
And in two previous playoff starts, Alexander has been stopped. He rushed for 45 yards in 20 carries two years ago in Green Bay and 40 yards in 15 carries when the Hawks were playing catchup in last year's loss to St. Louis.
"They're going to try to stop Shaun? Wow, news flash," Strong said, laughing. "I feel like we have a balanced enough offense that if Shaun gets 50 yards, if that's all he's got, we can still win the football game. If Washington comes out and tries to put eight, nine guys in the box, then we're going to have a great day passing the football. It's going to be incredible. I think it's going to be hard for them to defend us."
It's Show-Me Saturday for the Seahawks.
"This is what you visualize when you say you want to play pro football and you want to win the Super Bowl and you want to do all these different things," said Tobeck, who played in the Super Bowl with Atlanta in 1999. "This is the funnest year I've had."
And life as we know it in Seattle will continue for at least another week.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company