Seahawks’ game with Washington evokes memories of Jan. 2013 playoff game at FedEx Field
Not all of the steps on Seattle’s climb up the championship ladder proved equal. Some were bigger and more memorable than others. The Seahawks will tell you one of the most critical came against Washington in the stadium they will return to Monday night — FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Seattle Times staff reporter
LANDOVER, Md. — Not all of the steps on Seattle’s climb up the championship ladder proved equal. Some, inevitably, were bigger and more memorable than others.
The Seahawks will tell you one of the most critical came against Washington in the stadium they will return to Monday night — FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
It was here on Jan. 6, 2013 that Seattle and Washington met in an NFC wild-card playoff game as two of the hottest teams in the NFL, led by rookie phenom quarterbacks — Washington and Robert Griffin III having won seven in a row and the Seahawks and Russell Wilson five straight.
When Washington broke out to a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, though, it looked like it was Griffin and Washington that was the team of now, and the Seahawks who required some more growing.
But even in the din of 84,325, Seattle’s confidence never wavered.
“Our thought was that we were still going to win the game,’’ recalled middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, also then a rookie. “I don’t think our mindset ever went to ‘we’re done.’ ”
And gradually, Seattle rallied, closing to 14-13 at halftime, taking the lead midway through the fourth quarter, then tacking on a game-clinching score after Griffin re-injured his knee.
Seattle was defeated the next week at Atlanta after rallying from three touchdowns down before losing 30-28. But the seeds of the 2013 Super Bowl title had been sown in that playoff run, many of those at FedExField, where the belief in what they could do and who they are grew even stronger.
“That was a big stepping stone for us as a team,’’ said linebacker K.J. Wright. “I remember the first quarter, how bright those lights were, how fast they were moving and it just felt like we were in slow motion. We just had to get calmed down and settled down.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll brought up that game to his team this week saying “I wanted to remind our guys how hard that game was. …. Just to respect it because it was a very difficult win for us. But it was a great win.”
They return now as reigning Super Bowl champs, and heavy favorites — 7 points on the road is a lot by NFL standards, anyway — against a Washington team whose fortunes have tilted the other way since that day.
While Seattle has gone 15-4 in regular season games, along with the run to the Super Bowl XLVIII title, Washington has won just four of 20 regular-season games since then.
Griffin’s inconsistency and health — he’s out for another month or so with a dislocated ankle suffered in Week 2 — has been as big of a factor as anything for Washington’s stumble. A 3-13 record last season led to the firing of Mike Shanahan, with Jay Gruden hired to try to turn things around.
Many key faces remain the same for Washington — 27 players on the 53-man roster were on the team in 2012.
That’s especially true on offense where eight starters return, including running back Alfred Morris, who leads an attack that has rushed for more yards than any team in the NFL — 5,365 — since 2012. Seattle, with 5,211, is fourth.
Filling in for Griffin is Kirk Cousins, taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft after being seriously considered by the Seahawks, who took Wilson in the third.
“We were really impressed with him,” said Carroll of Cousins, who while at Michigan State memorably beat a Wilson-led Wisconsin team in 2011 with a Hail Mary on the final play. “He’s a really cool kid, really great competitor, real bright, hardworking, kind of a squeaky-clean guy.’’
But Cousins also threw four interceptions in a 45-14 loss a week ago Thursday against the New York Giants, which dropped Washington to 1-3. And while the Seahawks will be happy to remember their last game at FedEx when kickoff arrives Monday night, Gruden is hoping Cousins will be able to forget his.
“The big thing with him now, he can’t be gun shy,” Gruden said. “That’s my big fear; when you throw four picks you feel like, ‘Oh God! I let the whole city of D.C. down and I let the whole team down and now I’m afraid to pull the trigger.’ I just got to hammer it in his head that it’s a new day; each play is its own entity and he just has to recover from it.’’
The Seahawks will hope that rehab takes at least another week. Seattle is 2-1 after having beaten Denver in their last game on Sept. 20, after which came before the Seahawks’ bye week. Monday night’s game starts a string of 13 games in 13 weeks to end the regular season. And with a win, Seattle would move back into a tie with Arizona for first place in the NFC West, another step on the road to what it hopes is another Super Bowl run.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.