Sunday, January 6, 2013
Halftime thoughts: Can RG III hold up?
By Dan Graziano
LANDOVER, Md. -- The first quarter of Sunday's playoff game could not have gone better for the Washington Redskins -- with one very significant exception. As Washington was rolling down the field on two impressive touchdown drives that resulted in an early 14-0 lead, possessing the ball for 11 of the first quarter's 15 minutes, and the Redskins fans at FedEx Field were roaring their enthralled disbelief, Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III got hurt.
The Redskins have made no announcement about Griffin's injury, since he has not yet missed a play. But we are left to assume it has something to do with the right knee ligament he injured in Week 14. Between drives, he was taken to some sort of enclosed structure behind the Redskins' bench and checked out by team's medical personnel, but he went back into the game as soon as Washington got the ball back. The problem is, the injury appears to have completely changed the ability of Washington's offense to move the ball. Griffin looks nearly immobile, in the pocket as well as outside of it, and he underthrew a pass toward the end of the second quarter that was intercepted by Seattle safety Earl Thomas. The fluidity of an offense that Seattle could not stop in the first quarter has evaporated, and it simply has to have something to do with the health of Griffin's leg.
Seattle, a very good team that entered the playoffs on a five-game winning streak, is taking advantage. After being outgained 129 yards to 9 in the first quarter, the Seahawks outgained the Redskins 168-11 in the second and cut the lead to 14-13 at halftime. Seattle will also get the ball back to begin the second half.
The question is, whenever the Redskins get the ball back in the second half, what will they do about quarterback? They're either going to have to adjust the offense around an obviously limited Griffin or think about replacing him with backup Kirk Cousins, who finished the Week 14 game and won the Week 15 game in Cleveland with Griffin sitting out due to the knee injury. It would be a tough decision to switch to the backup quarterback in the second half of a playoff game, but the Redskins must make an honest assessment of Griffin's ability to perform at the level at which they need him, or they risk seeing their season end today.
All of this happens amid a controversy resulting from a USA Today report in which Dr. James Andrews, who's working for the Redskins this year as part of their oversight of Griffin's health (short-term and long-term), contradicted Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's account of the way Griffin's injury was handled when it happened in Week 14. Andrews is on the Redskins' sideline today and presumably monitoring Griffin's health as the game progresses, and he'll surely be involved in whatever decision they make.
The Redskins could theoretically go run-heavy behind Alfred Morris, but the problem with that is that Seattle can simply stack the box and take away the run, daring Griffin and his bad leg to beat them. The way the second quarter went not only showed that to be a poor solution, it made it a more difficult one to employ. Would have been easier to grind out yards and clock with Morris if they were up 14 than it is up only one.
One other note that could have an impact on the game: Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka has an ankle injury, the team announced during the second quarter. He limped out to kick a 29-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, but it remains to be seen to what extent Seattle will be able to count on him if it needs a big kick made late in this game. This could affect their offensive strategy.