Team overcomes loss of Alexander, three fumbles
The Seahawks made enough plays to win a rain-drenched NFC divisional playoff against the Washington Redskins, 20-10, Saturday at Qwest Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
They wiped their brows and exhaled. Then they celebrated — players, coaches, the owner, fans and anyone else pulling for the Seahawks on Saturday.
That sound you heard coming from Qwest Field as the game clock showed zeroes was as much a sigh of relief as it was a collective primal scream of joy.
The city of Seattle and Seahawks Nation had waited more than two decades for a playoff victory, and finally it was theirs.
That was all that mattered. The Seahawks made enough plays to win a rain-drenched NFC divisional playoff against the Washington Redskins, 20-10, Saturday at Qwest Field.
"I just feel like we're a team of destiny," fullback Mack Strong said. "This is a year of destiny, and we knew if we came out here and played together as a football team, we would find a way to win.
"I'm so glad that we're playing for the NFC championship right here in Seattle. Our fans deserve it. The city deserves it. I can't wait until next week is here."
The Seahawks host the winner of today's Carolina-Chicago divisional playoff game, with kickoff at Qwest Field set for 3:30 p.m. next Sunday.
But there was almost no next Sunday to speak of.
The Seahawks made enough mistakes to lose, with three lost fumbles, two on special teams in their own territory. And that wasn't all they had to overcome to win and break the NFL's longest postseason victory drought.
Running back Shaun Alexander was lost for the game when, with 4:29 left in the first quarter, he suffered a concussion upon impact with two Washington defenders and the turf following a run for a 1-yard loss.
Alexander struggled to get to his feet with help from trainers as the playoff-record crowd of 67,551 chanted "MVP! MVP!" in support of the NFL's Most Valuable Player and rushing champion.
He wobbled to the sideline and never came back into the game. Moments before, Alexander had fumbled at the Washington 11-yard line as the Seahawks were taking their opening drive down the field with authority.
It was just his second lost fumble of the season. Without him, the Seahawks' offense sputtered for a time.
After the game, Alexander was not available for interviews, though he did say he was OK. Coach Mike Holmgren indicated that Alexander's concussion was not of high grade but that he will be administered tests. Holmgren said he thinks the team doctors will clear Alexander to play next week.
And there will be a next week, thanks in large part to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, wide receiver Darrell Jackson, ball carriers Strong and Maurice Morris and a defense that knuckled up and answered the call when momentum shifted to the visitors from the nation's capital.
Hasselbeck connected with Jackson for a 29-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give the Seahawks the lead. That came after punt returner Jimmy Williams' fumble led to a Washington field goal.
Hasselbeck also ran for a touchdown, his 6-yard sprint to the right corner of the end zone giving the Seahawks a 14-3 lead and capping an 81-yard drive in the third quarter.
Jackson was all heart after returning from a back injury that forced him out of the game briefly. He caught nine passes for a team-playoff-record 143 yards.
Morris, who filled in for Alexander, rushed for 49 yards and picked up two important first downs on third-and-ones during Seattle's first scoring drive. Strong sealed the victory with a 32-yard run with less than five minutes to play in the game and the Seahawks needing to make a third-and-six to keep the clock running.
All the while, the Seahawks' defense was doing its part to keep Washington from scoring. It allowed just 59 rushing yards and spent practically the entire afternoon in the backfield in dogged pursuit of Washington quarterback Mark Brunell.
"The teams that really believe in each other understand the game is not over," defensive Chuck Darby said of the team's response to the loss of Alexander and the team's turnovers. "If your brother went out there and fumbled the ball, go out there and get the ball back for him. Let him know we're going to get the ball back. That's how you win games. If you feel sorry for yourself, it's over."
As Darby spoke, team president Tim Ruskell walked over to his locker with CEO Tod Leiweke and congratulated Darby.
"You were a warrior today," Ruskell said. "As always."
Darby wasn't alone, and that's why the Seahawks are still alive.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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