Saturday at home vs the Redskins the NFC West Champion Seahawks will look to advance to the divisional round with a victory at Qwest Field. They have not lost a home playoff game in three seasons, and will look to keep that streak alive Saturday. Below are five keys for the Hawks as they look to beat the Skins in Seattle this weekend:
1. Run the Ball With Success – This is a pretty obvious one, but for the Hawks, it’s been easier said than done so far in 2007. With Shaun Alexander looking like a shell of his former MVP days, the team has turned more to Maurice Morris, and have had more success rushing in the second half. Overall though the team will still insist on giving Alexander carries early, and if he and Morris can run the ball with purpose, it will open up the passing game.
2. Force The Redskins to Throw – By slowing down Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, this will put all the pressure on Skins QB Todd Collins, who despite having success the last three weeks will not have had to put up with the pressure of playing on the road in the playoffs. By making the Skins one-dimensional, it will allow linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson to make plays in the passing game and pressure Collins into some errors.
3. Play Better Special Teams – The Hawks last week allowed Atlanta 29.6 yards per return on kickoffs, and the Skins are pretty good in that department with Rock Cartwright and Antwaan Randel-El making plays. Washington can shorten the field with solid returns, and the Hawks cannot afford to give up big plays in this area if they are going to hold down the Redskins offense.
4. Stop Tight End Chris Cooley – He’s one of the most underated tight ends in the game, and Cooley does a great job creating space between he and linebackers and creating mismatches for opposing defenses. He’s the favorite target of Redskins QB’s and the 25-year-old this season has 66 catches for 786 yards and eight scores. While you in the end want the Skins to be forced to throw, he’s one big target you have to keep your eye on.
5. Hold the Redskins to Field Goals – Bottom line to keeping a visiting team from gaining confidence is to keep them from the end zone. If the Hawks are going to allow points, better to give up three than seven. As far as Shaun Suisham is concerned, he’s 29-35 on the season kicking field goals, and 10-for-13 in the 40-49 yard range. Qwest Field can be tough to kick in, so if you can force some long kicks, you may be able to get off the field without giving up any points at all.