Walters: Season Ends in Seattle
[center][b][u]Season Ends in Seattle[/u][/b]
Had someone told Redskins fans before kickoff Saturday that NFL MVP and leading rusher Shaun Alexander would be forced out of the game early on with a concussion, it would have been logical for them to assume that victory was a much greater possibility than it had been just minutes earlier. Were they then told that Washington would force three Seattle turnovers, while committing none on offense, and that Santana Moss would go over 100 yards receiving, most would have started making arrangements to take Friday off in preparation for the NFC Championship game. But in spite of all of this, Washington was unable to overcome the decidedly partisan Seattle crowd and their own injury troubles and fell 20-10 to the top-seed Seahawks, thus ending both their season and Cinderella playoff run.
Despite the defeat, the Redskins displayed an impressive resolve that demonstrates the strength of character that the team has built in the two years since Joe Gibbs’ return. Role players, such as safety Pierson Prioleau and lineman Demetric Evans, became key contributors, and allegedly washed up veterans, like Mark Brunell and Phillip Daniels, recaptured some of the success of their younger days. It would have been all too easy for this team to quit after the loss at home to San Diego which dropped their record to a disappointing 5-6. Many Redskin teams of the not too distant past would have folded under the pressure of remaining in the playoff hunt with such a dubious record. But this collection of Redskins is different, and it is that very difference that will guide this team through the rough patches down the road.
Even without star running back Shaun Alexander, the Seattle offense – ranked second in the league during the regular season – is a forced to be reckoned with. In Alexander’s place, normally solid reserve Maurice Morris was held to a pedestrian 48 yards on 18 carries. The real damage on the ground was done by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and on fullback Mack Strong’s 32 yard scamper. The stat sheet truly does a disservice to the critical role that Hasselbeck’s mobility played in preserving several key Seattle drives that were a catalyst to their victory. His 21 yards, most notably his touchdown run, all seemed to come at crucial junctures and appeared to catch the Redskins off guard most every time.
Hasselbeck’s counterpart, Mark Brunell, was also effective, though he was still visibly hampered by the right knee sprain suffered on the curiously low hit by Giants linebacker Nick Greisen in the Week 16 win over New York. In fact, some of the throws Brunell attempted in the season finale in Philadelphia and a week later in the wildcard round in Tampa Bay looked quite similar to some of the ducks he unleashed in 2004 when his knee was also not completely healthy. Clearly Brunell can still play when physically sound, but perhaps the best assessment of him at this stage of his career is that he no longer has the natural ability to overcome the nagging injuries that come with playing in the NFL. At this stage, he still very capable of not losing games, but his ability to be the force that propels a team to victory has all but departed him.
The week did not go by without a sliver of absurdity, though. A local Seattle paper, [i]The Seattle Times[/i], decided to limit the number of times columnists could use the word “Redskins” to one per column as a reference, and disqualified the word from appearing in headlines or captions. The story almost seems too preposterous to be true, but it sadly is completely factual.
Apparently, the good folks over at [i]The Seattle Times[/i] are of the opinion that should one be so inclined as to be offended by the use of the term “Redskins”, that the offense would be taken from the second, and any subsequent, use of the word. It would seem to me that if you’re going to be offended by the word, then the first use of it would be just as offensive as the second. But I suppose this nugget was lost in the flawed thinking that devised the restrictions in the first place. Political correctness in our society is as overblown and ridiculous as the pre-season hype surrounding Julius Jones, but it has yet to fall on its face like the Dallas halfback did.
It is in this spirit of hypersensitivity that I have purposely only used the term “Seahawks” one other time in this column, so as not to offend any fish that may be reading. The term is one of many synonyms for an Osprey, a large bird of prey that feeds primarily on fish. You see, these poor, innocent fish are simply swimming along, minding their own business, perhaps even doing some sort of aquatic charity work, when they are plucked ruthlessly from their home by this evil predator. In light of the unfortunate plight of these unassuming fish, you’ll find no endorsement here of this barbaric practice.
But since this is the United States, one of the many freedoms we are fortunate enough to enjoy is the freedom to be offended by whatever we wish. No one can tell you what you can or cannot find personally offensive, though it is their right to disagree with you. But remember this simple warning; you’d be amazed at what offends you if you make it your mission to be offended. A column analyzing the culture surrounding the Redskins moniker is coming in the spring, but until then, can’t we all just calm the hell down and stop taking ourselves so seriously? Sports is the great glue binds people of different backgrounds together like nothing else in society, so if you want to be offended by something legitimate, feel slighted that the politically correct culture has infiltrated the sports vernacular.
The ludicrous aside, the final game ball of the season goes to Santana Moss, whose touchdown grab off a deflected pass breathed air into a mostly lifeless Redskins offense. Moss was the single most important acquisition by any team in the NFL this season, and offered further proof of that Saturday. His six other catches totaled 83 yards to go with his 20 yard touchdown grab. The most amazing thing about Moss is that he was able to be so astoundingly productive without so much as the hint of a threat from the number two receiver. The very fact that he was able to free himself from the sophisticated coverages designed specifically for him is amazing in and of itself, but to put up the numbers he did Saturday and all season long as the clear first option is nothing short of astonishing.
Well, friends and neighbors, this season of redemption has seen its last snap. A four game regular season improvement is certainly an acceptable result given the Redskins’ futility in the past several seasons. The most promising aspect of the final tally is that, while all seemed pleased at the turnaround, there was no tangible sense of satisfaction among the players or coaches. No one thinks that losing in the Divisional Round is the ultimate goal for this team, and that attitude will be a major force in fueling Washington’s playoff run next season.
The 2005 season review is coming next week, so check back in for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!
Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]
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