A year makes a difference for Holmgren, Spurrier

Updated: November 8, 2003, 2:14 PM ET

LANDOVER, Md. -- Neither coach went home happy when the Seattle Seahawks played the Washington Redskins in early November a year ago.

"Horrible! Oh, goodness," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren recalled this week with a shudder in his voice. "I can't imagine any other game being any worse than that game."

Though the Redskins won 14-3, Washington coach Steve Spurrier also was downcast. A year later, he still makes it sound like a loss.

"They made a lot of yards and didn't score," Spurrier said. "We didn't do well offensively. Fourteen was a winner that day. Fourteen is usually a loser."

Holmgren's doldrums have dissipated in the 12 months that have passed, while Spurrier's fortunes have plummeted. The Seahawks, 2-6 after that Redskins game, are now 6-2 and sit in first place in the NFC West entering Sunday's game at Washington (3-4).

"Since that game, our team has gotten better and better," Holmgren said. "We finished last season on a good note. We won our last three. Matt Hasselbeck really established himself as the quarterback of the team, which was a big step. We've been fortunate this season to win some close games. It feels a whole lot better being 6-2 than 2-6."

By contrast, the dour Redskins mood following last year's 11-point victory now seems almost laughable. They've lost four straight; a sense of organizational chaos is setting in; a Spurrier Job Watch is underway; and the season is in danger of spiraling out of control.

"If we could take a half-point victory, we'll take that," left tackle Chris Samuels said. "We just want to win."

The Seahawks have been given a custom-made blueprint for beating the Redskins, courtesy of the teams that have played Washington over the past month.

On defense: Blitz, blitz and blitz some more against a team that has allowed an NFL-high 29 sacks. Patrick Ramsey twice had to leave last week's game with injuries.

"He's a young guy," Seattle safety Reggie Tongue said. "With young guys, you want to see what they're made of."

Added Spurrier: "They certainly will blitz us. We've proven we haven't handled it very well. Until we can handle the blitzes, that's what we're going to see."

On offense, Hasselbeck simply has to wait for his receivers to get open against a defense that over-pursues and generates little pass rush.

"We used to play a nice bend-but-don't-break type of defense," Washington cornerback Fred Smoot said. "For the last couple of weeks, we've been breaking."

This game could have more to do with intangibles. The Redskins must somehow reverse a momentum of negativity -- particularly concerning Spurrier's future -- that has grown too strong to ignore.

"If you have any pride, it affects you," Ramsey said.

The Seahawks need to prove they're as good as their record. The last four wins have been close ones, and they lost to Cincinnati two weeks ago. They are 5-0 at home but 1-2 on the road.

"We need to keep our intensity and our focus on the road," receiver Bobby Engram said. "When you're on the road, you only need one or two mistakes to get the home crowd riled up. We need to learn to control that situation."

And, should their egos get too large, all the Seahawks have to do is put in the tape of last year's Redskins game.

In fact, that's just what they did.

"It was terrible," Tongue said. "We really, really looked bad. I looked terrible. I didn't deserve to play after that. I wouldn't have been surprised if they benched me after that.

"It's amazing what a year does."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index