The inspiration for these renewed Redskins remains so real, so poignant and so far beyond a mere intangible.
Washington's resolve since the team attended the funeral of defensive back Sean Taylor has propelled it to four consecutive must-have wins and into Saturday's NFC wild-card playoff game at Seattle.
"The team just came together," running back Clinton Portis said. "I think everybody got their appreciation of football again."
Now, the Redskins' Hall of Fame coach is wondering how far this inspiration can last. Through Seattle, which is 7-1 at home this season and 34-7 since 2002? Through top-seeded Dallas, which Washington thrashed last weekend? Through the Super Bowl?
"It was just kind of a tragic thing for us. I think everybody here is still kind of dealing with it. And I don't know how to put that in words," Joe Gibbs said of Taylor's slaying six weeks ago during a robbery in his Miami-area home.
"Can we stay at a high level? I think that's going to be a real challenge for our guys."
Reminders of Taylor will be everywhere again Saturday. Black "21" decals will be on the back of both team's helmets and the front of Redskins' jerseys, to represent the former safety's uniform number. And Santana Moss will again be honoring his former fellow Miami Hurricane.
Washington's top receiver, who with Portis have provided huge plays during the Redskins' surge, often remembers Taylor by holding up his index, middle and pinkie fingers &
his way of spelling "21."
"I really believe he's playing with us," Moss said.
Yes, Seattle's unnoticed and mostly unknown team tucked into the nation's upper, outer corner is suddenly the bad guy in the NFL's feel-good story of the postseason.
"I don't think anyone wants to play the Washington Redskins right now," Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.
"Yeah, absolutely," Seahawks Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu added. "They are a tough team to begin with. Now they are playing even harder, for Sean and his memory.
"At the end of the day, it's just another game. ... Emotions will be running really high, but you've just got to do what you do best."
Or at least better, in Seattle's case.
The starting defense played most of last weekend's 44-41 loss to a woeful Atlanta team that could barely score during practices this season. Tatupu won't even discuss the embarrassment of missed tackles and assignments, which came after the defense largely carried Seattle to five straight wins and its fourth consecutive NFC West title.
Portis will provide the proving ground for whether the Seahawks have corrected their problems. His 1,262 yards rushing this season were third-most in the NFC, and his 11 touchdowns rushing were second-most. He is often part of a seven-man protection scheme Washington uses to help an offensive line that lost veterans Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen on the right side to injuries, before rookie Stephon Heyer and free-agent castoff Jason Fabini filled in effectively.
Quarterback Todd Collins has taken advantage of the vanguard during his first four starts in 10 years. He has completed 64 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Seattle defensive coordinator John Marshall noted Collins has been sacked just seven times in 112 pass plays.
"It's going to be a challenge this week," Kerney said of a Seattle defense that has often paired him and fellow Pro Bowl pass rusher Julian Peterson over offenses' right sides to produce 40 sacks in its 10 wins.
Seattle has just five sacks in its six losses.
It's been a challenge all season for Seattle's scuffling, shuffling offensive line.
Washington has blitzed throughout consecutive wins over Chicago, the New York Giants, Minnesota and Dallas. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will likely send every Redskins player except Hall of Fame linebacker Sam Huff from the team's broadcast booth after Hasselbeck.
A probable pressure point will be up the middle.
Seattle right guard Chris Gray is 37 and may be playing his final weeks. At left guard, veteran Floyd Womack alternates series with second-year man Rob Sims. When Womack replaced resting Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones last week, the Falcons became the latest foe to batter Hasselbeck.
During his record-setting season, Seattle's most indispensable player in a pass-happy offense has had bruised ribs, a strained oblique muscle, a strained quadriceps and now a sore throwing wrist from landing on his right arm in Atlanta.
"They come right after you," Holmgren said of the Redskins. "We have to be right on with who you are supposed to block."
Washington has limited big plays with pressing coverage from veteran cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs. Plus, Seattle may be down a top receiver. Former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch must prove to Holmgren during pregame warmups that the right calf he strained Dec. 26 is better.
Meanwhile, Washington must prove they can continue the NFC's hottest, most-inspired run since Taylor's death.
"Obviously, that took a lot out of us," Gibbs said. "How can we play (Saturday)?"
Can 'Skins stay inspired?