Seahawks Will Stick With the Pass

Seahawks Will Stick With the Pass

The Washington Redskins have the fourth-best run defense in the NFL, and because the Seattle Seahawks might have their full contingent of wide receivers, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he is sticking with a pass-first mentality in Saturday's first-round playoff game.

This despite the fact that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck banged up his wrist in Sunday's loss to Atlanta.

"At this point, we're going to do the things that work for us," Holmgren said. "So we're not going to change that much. And I think how far we go will be dependent on how well we do those."

The Seahawks' running game has produced season highs in back-to-back weeks, going for 167 yards against the Hawks, something that in this poor season constitutes improvement. But Holmgren was quick to point out that Baltimore was playing without Ray Lewis and Atlanta has struggled against the run all season, suggesting that he is not entirely convinced the running game is fully healed.

And so he keeps with the strength of the team, Hasselbeck, even though Hasselbeck was nicked up on Sunday. He has had full participation in practice this week, and quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn said after Hasselbeck's initial throws on Tuesday that he had no concerns left. "Matt would worry if he had a hangnail. You want to feel good," Zorn said. "But when you come out to practice and go, 'OK, it's no big deal,' then you just go ahead and go."

The Seahawks are hoping the passing game is even stronger this week with the return of Deion Branch, who missed the team's last game with a calf injury. Branch and split end D.J. Hackett have played together in only 1 1/2 games this year, both injured at one time or another throughout the season. In the six quarters in which they have played together, they have totaled 22 catches, 300 yards and two touchdowns.

"Players like to play and they have been bitten by the injury bug a little too much this season," Holmgren said. "When we have them, and we can put them all out there, we have a chance to put some pressure on the defense. The matchups work to our advantage a little bit. And when we don't have them all, we're not quite as experienced."

Branch has not participated in two practices this week but Holmgren said he believes he will be ready for the game on Saturday. "It would give us flexibility," Zorn said. "Having the full core of receivers will allow us to not have to design and/or close in our offense, make it less dimensional than it is.

SERIES HISTORY: 15th meeting. Redskins lead series, 9-5, including the last four regular-season meetings. However, the Seahawks won the last meeting, 20-10, a postseason game in the 2005 divisional playoffs the year the Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl.

NOTES, QUOTES

--With DE Baraka Atkins being placed on injured reserve, DT Ellis Wyms will play both positions against the Redskins. "It's no big deal," Wyms said. "I have played both in the past. The only difference is one is closer to the football."

--In the meeting in 2005, Shaun Alexander suffered a first-quarter concussion and did not return. "I remember everyone making fun of me," Alexander said. "Someone on our team scored. I was jumping up and down and I remember everyone making fun of me about that. Besides that, I don't remember too much about the game."

--Seahawks rookie Josh Wilson grew up just outside Washington D.C., though unlike his family, he wasn't a Redskins fan. He rooted for the Detroit Lions because of Barry Sanders. He once held a job at FedEx Field selling concessions. His family, however, is Redskins fans and rooting against him.

--Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck came to Tuesday's practice wearing a mustache. It was gone on Wednesday. "It was really bad," Hasselbeck said. "My two-year-old son, he was trying to rip it off. He thought it was fake."

--Because there is not a lot of film on Redskins QB Todd Collins, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said his defense will prepare more for the scheme. "You're really playing not so much against the man," Holmgren said. "You're playing against what you see on film and the system. I think that's how you prepare because there isn't a lot of film on him."

--Holmgren said that when Joe Gibbs was coaching in Washington the first time around, Holmgren was supposed to fly there for a job interview after Bill Walsh left San Francisco. However, Walsh's replacement, George Seifert, offered Holmgren a job and Holmgren never interviewed with Gibbs.

--The Redskins have four former Seahawks players: Randall Godfrey, Shawn Springs, Pete Kendall and Phillip Daniels.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33,586 -- Numbers of miles the Seahawks have flown to away games this season, second most in the league only to San Francisco.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a little bit of 'be careful what you wish for' because if you want more responsibility, you have to do a lot more work and you're a lot more accountable as well." -- Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, when Mike Holmgren made him the focus of the offense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

If flanker Deion Branch is able to recover from a calf strain and start, it will be only the third game this season that Branch and split end D.J. Hackett have played together. That would make Bobby Engram, the team's leading receiver, the third receiver in the slot, though the Seahawks have used that more since throwing more passes.

DT Rocky Bernard should return from a two-game absence, meaning Craig Terrill will come back off the bench. Ellis Wyms will get time at both tackle and end since DE Baraka Atkins was placed on IR. His time will be limited, however.

OT Walter Jones will play, sending Floyd Womack back to the bench, though Womack may see time at OG.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Deion Branch did not practice on Wednesday because of a calf strain. He is questionable for Saturday's game.
--LB Niko Koutouvides did not practice because of a knee injury. He is doubtful for the game against Washington.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck, who jammed his wrist on Sunday, went through his second full day of practice and will play on Saturday.
--RB Shaun Alexander, suffering from a wrist injury all season and who had a minor rib injury, practiced on Wednesday and will play on Saturday.
--OT Walter Jones, who missed the team's last game, practiced on Wednesday and will play on Saturday.

GAME PLAN: With Washington possessing the league's fourth-ranked run defense, and an inexperienced secondary that is partially the result of the death of Sean Taylor, the Seahawks once again will take to the air behind the arm of QB Matt Hasselbeck. Defensively, the Seahawks must stop the running attack of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts and watch for the deep play-action passes by Todd Collins.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks WRs, who could be fully together for only the third time this season, vs. Redskins Ss LaRon Landry, a rookie, and Reed Doughty, with two years' experience.
Redskins RB Clinton Portis, who amassed 1,262 yards this season, vs. Seahawks defensive line, which is ranked 12th against the run and gets back Rocky Bernard.

INJURY IMPACT: Hasselbeck banged his wrist in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, but has practiced both times this week. He is not likely to be 100 percent but is in good enough shape to start.

OT Walter Jones has sore shoulders, but he has had them all season and it should not affect his performance.

Bernard has a sore groin, but he has rested it for two games and should be ready to go against the Redskins.

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