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This Time, Will Seattle Bring the Heat?




The last time the Seattle Seahawks visited FedExField, on Nov. 9, 2003, they did so in a game that featured so many subplots it was difficult to stay focused on the result. At the end of the day, it was a 27-20 come-from-behind Redskins win.

For that Week 10 game two seasons ago, Seattle jumped out ahead 14-3 in the early going and it would have been much worse for the Redskins had it not been for wide receiver Laveranues Coles.

Coles stripped the ball from Damien Robinson after the Seattle safety intercepted Patrick Ramsey at the Redskins 28-yard line and came within inches of making it 21-3.

Further, that Nov. 9, 2003 matchup saw the Redskins' Lennie Friedman make his first NFL start at center and Hue Jackson take over play-calling duties for Steve Spurrier, who had asked Denver's Mike Shanahan for advice on sprucing up the Redskins' offense.

And eventually, it was a game decided with 5:13 left, with Rod Gardner throwing a 10-yard TD pass to Trung Canidate.

The big mystery surrounding that matchup, though, was this: Why didn't Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, the Redskins' defensive coordinator under Norv Turner in 2000, make a commitment to blitz Patrick Ramsey?

The week before, at Dallas, the Cowboys sent nine defenders at Ramsey on some of their defensive calls. That strategy produced four sacks in a 21-14 Dallas win.

So, the next week, Redskin offensive linemen were prepared for Rhodes to have the Seahawks coming at Ramsey from all angles. But that wasn't the case. Instead, the Redskins were the ones to apply pressure, getting sacks from Regan Upshaw, Lional Dalton and Bruce Smith.

You have to wonder if that will be part of the story on Sunday. In other words, this time, will Rhodes have Seattle getting after Mark Brunell after having chosen against that strategy in the 2003 Redskins-Seahawks game?

Now in his third season as defensive coordinator for Mike Holmgren in Seattle, Rhodes has his players performing at a high level. Sacks and pressuring the quarterback are a key part of the scheme.

The Seahawks, who lost at Jacksonville (26-14) in their opener before beating both Atlanta (21-18) and Arizona (37-12), have come up with three sacks in each of their first three games.

Leading the way with three sacks is defensive end Bryce Fisher, the 6-3, 268-pound fifth-year player out of the Air Force Academy. He will line up against the Redskins' Jon Jansen.

The Redskins, by contrast, have three sacks through two games, one each by Cornelius Griffin, Demetric Evans and Phillip Daniels.

"We're playing better," Holmgren said. "We've been pretty consistent. Offensively, we've gotten good balance between the run and the pass. Other than the first game, when we turned the ball over a whole bunch, we've been relatively free of turnovers. That's a good indicator."

Running back Shaun Alexander, who scored four times and rushed for 140 yards in Seattle's win over the Cardinals last week, says he thinks his team's defense will be much-improved this year.

Added Alexander, who rushed 22 times for 94 yards and a TD in the 2003 game at FedExField: "In the seven years I've been here, it's been a struggle on defense, to be honest with you.

"We're very young on defense, but we're pretty fast and we have some talent over there. We play pretty good team defense, so no one cares who gets the credit, which is a good thing."

Hoping to go 3-0 for the first time since their last Super Bowl season (1991), the Redskins should anticipate the possibility that the defensive scheme Seattle employs Sunday won't be anything like the one they used two seasons ago at FedExField.

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