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Redskins Facing a West Coast Challenge


Back on Week 13 when the Redskins headed out to St. Louis, Washington expected the Edward Jones Dome to be a loud and boisterous place. A strange thing happened that day, though, as the Redskins grounded "The Greatest Show on Turf" by a 24-9 count.

The 65,701 Rams fans inside the St. Louis dome that day were about as quiet as an NFL crowd that size can be.

On Saturday at Seattle, noise once again is an expected factor that the Redskins will have to overcome. This time, the expectations are heightened in preparation for the 2,746-mile trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle is unbeaten at home this season (8-0) and the noise inside Qwest Field certainly gives the Seahawks a home field edge. Just ask Tom Coughlin.

When Seattle edged the Giants 24-21 on Nov. 27, Qwest Field represented a supportive "12th Man" for the Seahawks. No less than 11 times, Giants offensive linemen jumped offside.

That intangible is something Joe Bugel has to be concerned about as the Redskins try to prevent Seattle from earning its first postseason win since all the way back in 1984.

On top of that, the Redskins have to find a way to contain a West Coast-style offense and Shaun Alexander, the most valuable player in the league for 2005. Alexander produced 28 touchdowns and 1,880 yards rushing the ball this season.

When the Redskins beat Seattle 20-17 in overtime on Week 4, Alexander was held in check most of the game. He finished with 98 yards on 20 carries. His best output was a 34-yard burst in the third quarter.

Lemar Marshall led the Redskins' defense with seven tackles and a sack in that Oct. 2 game at FedExField. Nick Novak, who has since joined the Arizona Cardinals, won it with a 39-yard field goal in overtime.

Joe Gibbs says Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren has been looking for the right mix of players for three or four seasons and that Holmgren has gathered a first-rate group in 2005.

"I think they have everything together there that they need," Gibbs said. "Mike has been searching for the people that fit the different parts and I think they have them. They have the parts to be a heck of an offense. That showed that this year."

In addition to Alexander, Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck can count on wide receivers Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson and Joe Jurevicius along with tight end Jerramy Stevens. Tackle Walter Jones and guard Steve Hutchinson are a solid one-two punch on the left side and fullback Mack Strong has been a punishing blocker for 13 NFL seasons.

On the best way to handle the West Coast-style offense that Seattle uses, Gibbs said: "Basically, they put a lot of pressure on you because they put a lot of receivers out on each and every play and they challenge you. Obviously we practice against our style offense, so it makes it a little harder for our defense to get ready.

"It's a challenge not only because it's a good scheme, but also because the people they have in the scheme make it go. The quarterback is a timing guy, gets rid of the ball quickly and doesn't hold it. Once again, it's is a real challenge for us."

Safety Ryan Clark believes the Redskins' defense must be physical against Seattle's finesse offense, whether it's in the ground game or passing attack.

"Being physical is going to be the biggest key for us," Clark said. "They are going to take those short passes, the two-yard passes and five-yard passes, but we need to hit the receiver in the mouth. [Receivers] don't like that.

"That will make a receiver go back to the quarterback and say, 'Hey, if you see No. 53 or No. 21 around me, you might not want to throw it right there.' That is going to be the biggest thing."

Speaking of No. 53, Marcus Washington hopes to disrupt the Seahawks' passing offense by getting Hasselbeck and his receivers out of rhythm.

"The West Coast offense is based on timing," Washington said. "They are quick in and out of the huddle. They get to the line and have a lot of time still left on the clock so that they see what the defense has going on. I really think we just have to throw their timing off."

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