SEATTLE - In less than 2 1/2 fourth-quarter minutes, the Seattle Seahawks watched a 13-point lead turn into a one-point deficit. Nothing was going right — they couldn’t even catch a simple kickoff.
“I was looking at the scoreboard, like, ‘What just happened?’ ” defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “But you just have to continue to play all the game through.”
And so they did, reversing the tide, stopping a team that had been playing with unbeatable passion for four weeks. So what if the other team scored two touchdowns early in the final period? The Seahawks responded with three of their own in Saturday’s 35-14 victory over the Washington Redskins in the NFC wild-card playoffs.
“It’s amazing how the tables turn so fast,” left tackle Walter Jones said.
Seattle, 8-1 at home, set aside concerns about a cream-puff schedule by beating a team that finished with a winning record for the first time since Week 1. The Seahawks will travel to Green Bay next Saturday, a rematch of a 2004 wild-card game remembered for Matt Hasselbeck’s proclamation of “We want the ball and we’re going to score!” after the Seahawks won the overtime coin flip.
Instead, Hasselbeck threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
“I’m just saying it right now: We want the ball and we’re going to score,” Hasselbeck said with a laugh as he opened his postgame news conference Saturday. “OK, I said it.”
The Redskins had been on a mission since the death of safety Sean Taylor, who was shot Nov. 26 in Miami and died a day later. Determined to win for their fallen friend, they went 4-0 after his funeral to claim the NFC’s final playoff berth and appeared to have unstoppable momentum when two quick touchdowns gave them a 14-13 lead with 12:38 to play.
“I can’t believe it’s over with for us,” Washington linebacker London Fletcher said. “It just seemed our story was going to be written all the way to the Super Bowl for us.”
The Redskins’ offense had come alive with a no-huddle drive capped by Todd Collins’ 7-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El. Then came an interception by LaRon Landry, who took over at free safety after Taylor’s death, to set up a 30-yard pass to Santana Moss that gave the Redskins the lead.
Then came a bizarre play that made the Redskins really look charmed. Seattle returner Nate Burleson couldn’t field a wind-blown kickoff. The Redskins recovered and were primed to score again. A pass to Chris Cooley just missed, and kicker Shaun Suisham had his shortest miss of his young career — wide left from 30 yards.
Landry intercepted another pass on Seattle’s next drive, but a 33-yard punt by Derrick Frost gave Seattle good field position to set up the go-ahead touchdown. Hasselbeck pumped right and threw left to D.J. Hackett, who had safety Pierson Prioleau beaten by 5 yards, for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead with 6:06 to play.
Then Collins, who engineered all four victories in the winning streak despite not having started a game since 1997, threw a crucial interception. When Moss gave up on a route deep down the right sideline, Marcus Trufant easily hauled in the ball and returned it 78 yards for a score.
“I thought it was a dead play,” Moss said. “Then, all of a sudden I look up and the guy is catching it like a punt. You hate to be in a situation where the ball is coming and you don’t even know it.”
With the Redskins desperately trying to catch up, Jordan Babineaux intercepted a Collins pass and returned it 57 yards for a score with 27 seconds left.