The inspired-by-tragedy Redskins were no match. Next nationally hyped playoff opponent: Green Bay.
National Football League playoffs pose an American melodrama with plenty of scenarists available as volunteer playwrights, writers' strike or not. Not one plot line I heard or read the past week had anything to do with Marcus Trufant, whose interception and 78-yard sprint for a touchdown with five-plus minutes left gave the Seattle Seahawks a 14-point lead and eventually the game, 35-14, against National Conference rival Washington at Qwest Field Saturday, Jan. 5.
You wouldn't have imagined the final score by peeking back earlier in the fourth quarter, when the Washington Various-colored Skins had a chance to put up their 21st point and threaten to put away the game. But a late Matt Hasselbeck touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett and a pair of picks (Jordan Babineaux had the last one during garbage time) dispatched what had seemed to be America's sentimental faves.
The national-media story prior to Seattle's fan-satisfying victory was equal parts tragedy and comedy. The tragic part had to do with the departed: Sean Taylor, a gifted Washington defender gunned down in November by would-be burglars. His passing was supposed to provide teammates with the greatest win-one inspiration since Ronald "The Gipper" Reagan died in the arms of Knute Rockne, aka Pat O'Brien.
The national laugh track was provided by the improbable 'Skins quarterback, Todd Collins. The flaky veteran National Football League clipboard-holder, who didn't start a game between Dec. 14, 1997, and Dec. 16, 2007, is said by many to be the most hilarious new celeb since the equally improbable Mike Yuckabee.
The Seahawks, of course, usually are left out of the national scene-setting, forgotten by all but the local scribes even when they play in the Super Bowl. The same will be the case next week when Seattle travels to Brett Favre, Wis., to play the Brett Favres at Favre Field (Saturday, Jan. 12, 1:30 Seattle time).
Anyway, Collins must've been particularly zany at field level, judging from the smiles lighting up the faces of Hawk defenders, who rattled the world's oldest de facto rookie and blanked Washington through the first 45 minutes. But the fourth quarter brought a pair of quick scores by the visitors and the Hawks didn't reclaim the lead until a two-point conversion left it at 21-14 Seattle, with six minutes left.
"It was back and forth in the second half," Hawks coach Mike Holmgren later said. He actually meant the fourth quarter, when the lead changed twice.
"We've talked all along about how emotion plays a role in this game," he noted in reference to Washington's gutty four-win run to end the season, despite losing the team's best player. But the coach added that it's important the Hawks won without Hasselbeck "playing his best game."
The quarterback, erratic during the second half, seemed to acknowledge the same, adding that he drew strength from his Hawk homies: "I got a lot of pep talks from my teammates."
"We get to play another game," Holmgren concluded.
That's the bottom line. It's a hell of a lot more entertaining a story line than the one the Washington partisans - and so many national scribes and other scenarists - are left with.