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Portis, Alexander: Still Something to Prove

In the last five years, Clinton Portis and Shaun Alexander have become accomplished backs in the NFL. But neither back has had a breakout game in the playoffs yet in their careers. Both have played in two postseason games.

It's quite possible that the running back who produces a 100-yard effort on Saturday will be the victor in Saturday's Redskins-Seahawks game. The winning team earns a spot in the NFC Championship Game.

In 2005, Portis became the Redskins' all-time single-season leading rusher with 1,516 yards on 352 carries. Seattle's Alexander was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player after rushing for a league-high 1,880 yards on 370 carries.

While Alexander and the Seahawks had a bye last week, Portis and the Redskins played a tough-nosed Wild Card game in Tampa Bay, defeating the Buccaneers 17-10 at Raymond James Stadium.

Portis has taken some hard hits in recent games, but he said mid-week that he feels physically ready for Saturday's game at Seattle.

"I'm fine," he said. "I've had the opportunity to relax and get massages throughout the week. I've been careful in practice. I actually feel good. I'm got a massage on Wednesday night and another Thursday before I left for Seattle.

"I'm as fresh as you're going to be at the end of the season. Everyone has little bumps and bruises, but it's nothing major. Being in the position that we're in and knowing how close we are, I have all offseason to rest."

Last Saturday, Portis rushed for 53 yards on 16 carries, but did have a 6-yard touchdown run to give the Redskins an early 7-0 lead. The performance ended a string of five consecutive 100-yard games by Portis.

In a 2003 playoff game as a member of the Denver Broncos, Portis rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries in a 41-10 Wild Card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

As for Alexander, the sixth-year running back out of Alabama first played in the postseason in 2003. In a Wild Card playoff game against Green Bay, he rushed for 45 yards on 20 carries, but had three 1-yard touchdown runs. It wasn't enough, as the Packers won in overtime 33-27.

A year later, in another Wild Card playoff game, Alexander logged 40 yards on 15 carries in a 27-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Playing in the relative obscurity of the Pacific Northwest, Alexander has only recently made a name for himself as an elite back. In 2004, he was one yards shy of the NFL rushing crown. This year, his 1,880 yards were 20 yards more than the Giants' Tiki Barber.

"I don't play for national attention," Alexander said earlier this season. "I play to have fun, score a lot of touchdowns and help our team win. It is bittersweet. There are times when you see a cool commercial and you are like 'That would have been sweet if they would have showed me in that.' That is about as far as it gets. It is not really that big."

The Redskins' defense certainly has Alexander on its radar screen.

"He's a rare running back that has the patience, speed, and power--the whole package--put together," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "Plus, the Seahawks have done a very good job of assembling a very good group of offensive linemen and a Pro Bowl fullback up there.

"Make no bones about it--Shaun Alexander is a guy who has very few negative-yardage plays. We're going to have to do a good job of tackling and swarming to the ball carrier, because he's not a guy who is easy to bring down one-on-one."

Added linebacker Marcus Washington: "He is a very patient runner. I still don't think he gets the credit that he deserves. He is a guy that wants the ball in his hands. He is just a competitor and we just have to be ready for him this week. It is going to be a tough challenge."

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