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Trufant's touchdown caps strong effort by Seattle's defense

SEATTLE -- Santana Moss thought the play was dead. Then he saw Marcus Trufant haul in the floated pass and head the other direction.

"It's like he knew what was coming," Moss said.

Trufant's 78-yard interception return for a score midway through the fourth quarter capped a strong performance by Seattle's defense in its 35-14 win over the Washington Redskins in the NFC wild-card playoffs Saturday.

Seattle will play in the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season, off to Green Bay next Saturday to face the idle Packers.

The Seahawks are moving on following a defensive effort that was airtight for three quarters, then came up with a pair of big plays and one huge defensive stand in the final 15 minutes.

"It's the playoffs, you've got to play all the way through," Trufant said. "The game is going to be back and forth, but the fourth quarter is where you go out and earn your money. ... In the fourth quarter, we made it happen."

Trufant's touchdown finally broke the Redskins' spirit. His second touchdown return of the season came less than 30 seconds after Seattle had taken a 21-14 lead on Matt Hasselbeck's 20-yard TD pass to D.J. Hackett and ensuing 2-point conversion pass to Marcus Pollard.

Suddenly it was 28-14, and Jordan Babineaux added a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute.

Babineaux's was simply a capper. Trufant's was the backbreaker.

"He's pretty much made all the right decisions all year," Seattle safety Brian Russell said of Trufant. "He's phenomenal and playing awesome right now."

While Trufant's interception of Todd Collins will get many of the headlines, it was Seattle's defensive stand early in the fourth quarter, with Washington carrying a wave of momentum, that likely saved its season.

Collins had just hit Moss for a 30-yard touchdown to give Washington a 14-13 lead. Seattle's Nate Burleson and Josh Wilson then misplayed the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by hustling Redskins reserve receiver Anthony Mix at the Seahawks 14.

Quickly, the Seahawks defense was back on the field.

"There definitely wasn't a panic button pushed," said linebacker Leroy Hill, who finished with a career-high 13 tackles. "We just came out, said calm down and turn it around pretty fast. We made some plays and turned it around."

Collins threw a pair of incompletions and Clinton Portis was stopped for a 2-yard gain. Washington's Shaun Suisham then missed a 30-yard field goal wide left.

"That miss fed us a great deal of energy and emotion," Seattle defensive end Patrick Kerney said. "From that point on, we seemed to respond well and took control."

It's already been a season of firsts for Trufant. He intercepted a career-best three passes against Arizona on Dec. 9, returning one of those 84-yards for his first career touchdown.

His second TD came when Moss was unable to find Collins' throw. Trufant never lost sight of the pass, cradled Collins' first interception in a decade and scampered for the score, raising one finger in the air the final few yards.

"That was truly the nail, I think," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said.

Aside from Trufant's interception, which sent Qwest Field into a frenzy, Seattle's defense recorded three sacks and 13 hits on Collins, and for three quarters, allowed just 193 total yards.

Kerney, who was second in the NFL with 14½ sacks in the regular season, didn't record a sack Saturday but was in Collins' face all day. Kerney finished with seven tackles and hit Collins another four times. Julian Peterson also had four hits on Collins, to go along with a sack and 10 tackles.

But it was Hill, often overshadowed by fellow linebackers Peterson and Lofa Tatupu, who was another Redskins' terror. Hill had a career-high 13 tackles and a highlight-worthy sack in the first half, smashing running back Ladell Betts backward, then pulling Collins down with one hand. Hill was all over the field, often running down Portis as he tried to find running lanes in the defense.

"We've got one of the best trios in the league," Peterson said. "It's tough to get all three guys in the Pro Bowl, but that's our goal."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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