Friday, January 4, 2013
Final Word: Seahawks at Redskins
By Dan Graziano
Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Seahawks-Redskins wild-card playoff game at FedEx Field:
Robert Griffin III is one of six rookie or second-year quarterbacks starting in the playoffs this season.
Fresh faces:Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks are two of the three rookie quarterbacks starting for teams in this year's playoffs. It's the first season in history that as many as three of the NFL's playoff teams had rookie starters at quarterback. (Andrew Luck of Indianapolis is the other.) And when you add in second-year quarterbacks Christian Ponder of Minnesota, Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco and Andy Dalton of Cincinnati (who started a playoff game last year as a rookie), that means six of the 12 playoff teams are starting first- or second-year players at quarterback. The folks at ESPN Stats & Information report that that's a record. The 2000 playoffs featured four first- or second-year quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb of the Eagles, Daunte Culpepper of the Vikings, Aaron Brooks of the Saints and Shaun King of the Buccaneers.
Home cooking: The Seahawks were 8-0 at home this season and just 3-5 on the road, so it's a good thing for the Redskins that they get to play this game at home. Home teams went 4-0 in this round of the playoffs last season, though at least two road teams won games in the wild-card round in each of the four seasons before last year. The Redskins are 13-3 all-time in home playoff games. The Seahawks are 1-8 all-time in road playoff games and have lost eight in a row dating to 1983.
To blitz or not to blitz? ESPN Stats & Info tells us that 12 of the Redskins' 21 interceptions this year have come on plays on which they rushed five or more defenders. Wilson has not thrown an interception against that kind of pressure since Week 7 against the 49ers. Wilson saw an extra pass-rusher on 69.1 percent of his drop backs this year, but he showed drastic improvement against blitz pressure as the season went along. In his first eight games, in which the Seahawks were 4-4, Wilson had a 50.0 completion percentage, 5.2 yards per attempt, no touchdowns and two interceptions against five or more pass-rushers. In his past eight games, in which the Seahawks were 7-1, Wilson had a 67.9 completion percentage, 9.2 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns and no interceptions against such pressure. So the Redskins will have to be judicious and creative with their blitzes, because they can't assume blitzing in and of itself will rattle Wilson.
The running backs: Washington's Alfred Morris and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch finished second and third in the NFL in rushing yards this year, behind the inhuman Adrian Peterson. Morris had 55 rush plays that gained at least 10 yards, which was second only to Peterson's 61 and the third-highest single-season total since 2001. He rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's division-clinching victory over Dallas. Lynch has four straight games with at least 100 rushing yards and has reached 100 in eight of his past 10. His 16 games with at least 100 rush yards are the most in the NFL over the past two seasons. No other team in the NFL called a higher percentage of run plays this season than did these two. Seattle called designed runs on 49.8 percent of it offensive snaps this year and Washington called them on 47.9 percent.
Disparity: The Redskins finished 28th in the league in total defense. The Seahawks finished fourth. That would seem to indicate something of a mismatch. What the Redskins are hanging their hopes on is the fact that last season's Super Bowl teams ranked 27th and 31st in total defense during the 2011 regular season, so it's not crazy to think you can give up a ton of yards in the regular season and then win playoff games.