Rex Grossman leads the 'Skins to victory (Mike Nelson- US Presswire)
SEATTLE -- It wasn't supposed to happen like this, a couple of times over.
To begin with, the Washington Redskins had flown coast-to-coast with six straight defeats in their craw, the most recent the second gut-wrencher of the year against the archrival Dallas Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks had won consecutive games, including an upset of the powerful Baltimore Ravens two weeks earlier in their last game at always tough on visitors Century Link Field.
But then the Redskins marched 80 yards in 14 plays to score on their opening drive for the first time all season. And when the defense throttled the Seahawks early, it seemed Washington's longest losing streak in 13 years and the worst skid of coach Mike Shanahan's career was about to be history.
However, the Redskins, being the Redskins, they couldn't stand prosperity. Quarterback Rex Grossman, who had started red-hot, threw his usual couple of interceptions. Kicker Graham Gano had yet another field goal try blocked. Cornerback Josh Wilson, a former Seahawk, dropped a sure pick and committed a 44-yard pass interference penalty that set up Seattle's go-ahead score.
By the time the Seahawks expanded their margin to 10 points in the fourth quarter, it seemed the Redskins were not only in for yet another unhappy flight home, but that they were staring at a double-digit downturn what with the winning troika of the New York Jets, New England Patriots and New York Giants on tap the next three weeks.
Roy Helu's 28-yard touchdown jaunt en route to his first 100-yard day narrowed the deficit to 17-14 and showed why Shanahan should have been starting the rookie running back ahead of the woeful Ryan Torain the past few weeks.
But when Grossman's intentional grounding penalty left Washington facing third-and-19 at midfield with just 6:51 remaining, a completed comeback seemed pretty hopeless.
And yet that's when the magic began. Grossman stepped up in the pocket and hurled a perfect touchdown pass to Anthony Armstrong, who emerged from years of obscurity to rank third in the NFL in yards per catch in 2010 only to return to near-invisibility this season.
The defense, which hadn't forced a turnover or recorded a sack all afternoon, got a third-down stop, a series-ending sack on the same kind of bring the house blitz that had killed the Redskins in Week 3 in Dallas - and after Gano's 25-yard field goal that made it 23-17 - a victory-sealing interception by cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the goat of last week's loss to the Cowboys.
"When the chips were down, guys stepped up and made plays," Shanahan said.
Especially a guy who had been all but forgotten as rookies and receivers signed off the street made plays instead of him.
"It's been a long, stressful kinda season, especially losing and not being able to get on track (personally)," said Armstrong, who gained three more yards on his touchdown that he had on his five previous catches this season. "Just to be able to make a play is huge. When they called the play, I knew they were going to throw it to me. ... Rex has trust in me, regardless of how things have been going (as Grossman confirmed shortly thereafter). He threw me a great ball, gave me an opportunity to make a play on it."
Go figure, but then go figure Washington's entire late comeback.
"No one was thinking we can't lose seven (straight)," said a grinning Hall, who a week earlier said he should be cut for being beaten for 26 yards to set up the Cowboys' winning field goal in overtime. "We just had to get a win."
And that's what they did, the hard way, in the same spot where both of their playoff seasons in this century ended and on the fourth anniversary of the tragic day that they lost 24-year-old star safety Sean Taylor in a burglary turned murder.
"Finishing strong like that is the key to wins and losses," said nose tackle Barry Cofield. "Last week we had some opportunities and we didn't get it done. The only thing that can get that taste out of your mouth is going out there and doing it and that's what we did. It was a great way to finish the game and hopefully we can carry it on for the rest of the season."
WUSA-9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."