Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins: 5 Keys to the Game for the Redskins
For the first time since 1999, the Washington Redskins are hosting a playoff game within the confines of FedEx Field.
And for the first time since 2005, the Redskins are looking to move to the divisional round of the playoffs, a season in which they were ousted by the Seattle Seahawks. Then it was almost a mirror image two years later as the Redskins were again booted from the postseason.
The Redskins may be on the longest winning streak in the NFC currently (seven), but the Seahawks are right behind them with five wins in a row. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have been playing stride-for-stride with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris for the better part of a month.
Moving to the next round of the playoffs won't be easy, it never is. But if the Redskins plan on playing in either San Francisco or Atlanta next weekend, there are some key points they will have to follow.
Take Advantage of the Home Game
With that said, it should be as quiet as a church mouse when Robert Griffin III and the Redskins are on offense, and louder than a jet engine when London Fletcher and the defense are on the field.
It hasn't always gone that way, but if last Sunday's game against the Cowboys was any indication of how good a Redskins home crowd can be when there is actually a meaningful game unfolding before their eyes, then it should be a huge advantage for the Redskins.
Washington has split their record down the middle in terms of road and home contests, going 5-3 in each docket. However, with the schedule that they have faced at home, that's pretty good. The only three losses in Landover were against the Falcons (No. 1 seed in the NFC), Bengals (No. 6 seed in the AFC) and Panthers (alright, that loss wasn't so good).
Seattle on the other hand has managed to go 8-0 at home, but have only a 3-5 mark away from CenturyLink Field. Those three road wins? Those were against Carolina, Chicago and Buffalo. All three missing out on the playoffs (but just barely in Chicago's case).
Unfortunately for the Redskins, this game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Eastern time instead of the usual 1:00 p.m. tilt at home. That works in the Seahawks' favor as they are accustomed to playing at that time.
If the NFL had done Washington a favor and scheduled the game at 1:00 p.m. local time, it would have been a huge advantage to have the Seahawks playing at 10:00 a.m. Pacific.
Still, the fact that FedEx Field is the battleground for the first postseason game is an advantage that the Redskins need to jump on early and often. Get control of the crowd and make sure they are on their feet the entire game.
Fans: Don't let the Seahawks get comfortable.
Keep the Alfred Morris Train Rolling
Robert Griffin III's knee continues to be a question mark for the Redskins as he has continued to wear his knee brace (although that may be coming to an end next week). It was clear that he was not at full speed last Sunday against Dallas.
He still did manage to make some nice runs through it all, but the Redskins leaned heavily on fellow rookie Alfred Morris.
And when I say heavily, I'm not joking.
He holstered the ball 33 times on the ground (and added two catches) for the Redskins, totalling 200 rushing yards on the dot. That averaged out to a cool 6.1 yards-per-carry, which is an impressive tally over 15 carries, let alone 33.
With RGIII expected to be at his healthiest since Week 13, the Redskins won't have to rely on Morris as much, but it doesn't mean they should let up on their use of him. Even if they get down on the scoreboard early.
Morris has heated up over the past month, and is a premiere workhorse that has been so rare in the NFL in this modern era we now live in. If they keep pounding the rock with Morris, control the clock and keep the ball out of Seattle's hands, then this game may end up like the last one...with a win.
Play Mental Games with Russell Wilson
In the de facto NFC East title game against the Cowboys, the Redskins played with Tony Romo's brain for the better part of three hours. They will have to do the same against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
Jim Haslett and the Washington defense played a brilliant game against Dallas. The Redskins defense isn't the most talented in the league, but if you can create organized chaos with bluff packages, then you can at least create turnovers for yourself.
That's how Tony Romo was forced into throwing three interceptions, and ultimately cost Dallas any shot of winning.
Haslett has to show blitz when they drop into zone coverage, show man coverage when they blitz, maybe even line up for a field goal block on 2nd-and-3, who knows?
The point is, when the quarterback has no earthly idea what the opposition is doing, it's a huge advantage for the defense. It becomes a guessing game, and will really test the mental makeup of Russell Wilson, who like RGIII, is a rookie.
The way Seattle plays is almost identical to the Redskins, they like to run a lot of read option plays that open up the defense, so it may come down to which defensive coordinator is having the better day.
Or in the Redskins case, it may come down to how well London Fletcher can read Wilson, since he does make the play changes at the line.
Take Advantage of Good Drives
Many Redskins fans were concerned in the first quarter last Sunday against Dallas when the Redskins came away with no points on their second and third drives that reached the Dallas 19 and 44-yard lines, respectively.
Thoughts of "here we go again" were probably traveling through the minds of most of the people in the crowd, or "this is where we blow it" but it was all for naught as the Redskins came away with the victory.
Against Seattle, though, and especially in the playoffs, coming up with a goose egg on the scoreboard after two trips into enemy territory won't be acceptable.
Granted, one of those possessions ended in a missed field goal by Kai Forbath (from 36 yards), but you can't rely on the kicker for all of your points, no matter how good he has been.
It is vital in the playoffs to come away with touchdowns, not field goals or turnovers, when reaching the red zone. The Redskins have been exceptional with that, finishing No. 4 in the NFL in touchdown percentage (60.38 percent) when going inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
If they can keep that up, then it will be hard to keep up with the Redskins on the scoreboard as obtaining a lead on the Seahawks could effectively take a stud running back like Marshawn Lynch out of the equation in the second half.
Contain Kickoff Returns
Few things are as frustrating as watching your favorite team lose due to poor special teams play, despite owning the game the rest of the way.
For the regular season, the Seahawks ranked No. 2 in the NFL in terms of average yards per kickoff return with 27.1. Nothing deflates a team more than having a long and educated drive down the field for a touchdown, only to have it be wiped out by a huge kickoff return.
It's like smashing a solo home run in the top of an inning, then having it erased in the bottom frame by a single and a three-base error. It just doesn't seem fair.
However, it still is part of the game, and the Seahawks are among the best at it. For Washington to win, they will want to keep Leon Washington inside of his own 30-yard line on a consistent basis.
It may be asking too much for the Redskins to control all facets of the game, but if they can take advantage of all of these key factors, we may see them in the divisional round next weekend.