NFC East: 2012 Wild Card Rapid Reaction
January, 6, 2013
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' injury-marred, season-ending playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at FedEx Field.
What it means: Unfortunately for the Redskins, it could mean much more than simply a playoff loss and the end of their season. Franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III collapsed in pain as his injured right knee gave in underneath him while he was chasing a bad snap with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter. He'd been playing in obvious pain since the first quarter, but this looked much more serious, even though he was able to walk off the field on his own power a few moments later. The fumble that resulted from the play gave the Seahawks the ball on the 5-yard line and set up the field goal that put away the game, which was obviously part of the story. But Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will face questions about why he allowed his obviously injured quarterback to keep playing all day. Not only did it hinder the Redskins' chances of winning the game, it put in jeopardy the long-term health of a player for whom the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick in this year's draft.
RG III and the knee: The Redskins started the game as though no one was going to touch them, marching right down the field twice against a team that allowed just 15.3 points per game during the regular season and taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. But along the way, Griffin appeared to re-injure the right knee he injured in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, and after that second touchdown drive the offense couldn't do much of anything. Seattle outgained the Redskins 168 yards to 11 in the second quarter as the Seahawks cut the lead to 14-13 by halftime, and they outgained them 99 yards to 27 in the third quarter though they were unable to convert the yardage into points. Griffin looked immobile. He appeared to be in serious pain when he did run. And it was reasonable to wonder why the Redskins wouldn't just put in backup Kirk Cousins, who rallied them to victory in Week 14 after Griffin got hurt and won the Week 15 game in Cleveland with Griffin sitting out. The threat of Griffin as a runner was clearly gone, so it's hard to see what they'd have been risking by putting Cousins in. But Griffin stayed in until the knee finally buckled, and the offense remained stagnant.
Doing his Doughty: The Redskins' defense looked helpless at times against Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who runs around the way Griffin used to before he got hurt. Wilson looked a bit lost in that first quarter but quickly settled in and operated the offense well. When the Redskins blitzed and did not get to him, he was able to complete the pass. But the Redskins very often did get to him, particularly with safety Reed Doughty, who came up with two of Washington's five sacks and also tackled Wilson at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-quarter run attempt. Surprisingly, Doughty showed the speed to stay with Wilson and disrupt him, which was a big reason the Redskins' defense was able to do so much bending without breaking for the middle part of the game.
Unstoppable: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch looked like one of the day's goats when he fumbled at the goal line at the end of a 69-yard third-quarter drive and the Redskins recovered the ball. But he became the force Washington couldn't stop in the fourth quarter, beating the Redskins repeatedly with sharp cuts at the line in both directions. His 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-5 with 7:08 left in the game -- with Wilson as the lead blocker! -- gave the Seahawks their first lead of the day.
Key stat: It was only the third game this year in which the Redskins turned the ball over more than once. They lost the previous two, as well -- to the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants.
What's next: The Redskins head into the offseason obviously disappointed, but assuming Griffin isn't injured too badly, they do so with more hope for their future than they've had in a long time. Griffin's emergence and the seven-game win streak they rode into the playoffs provided a lot of thrills for a fan base that had gone a long time without much to cheer. They have pieces to add, especially on defense, and they don't have a first-round pick. But the way this year went prior to Sunday offered a glimpse of a bright future in Washington.