Down 14-0 and seemingly on the verge of getting run out of FedEx Field in Landover, MD., the Seahawks staged a remarkable comeback and defeated the Washington Redskins 24-14 Sunday for their first road playoff victory in 30 years (Dec. 31, 1983 at Miami). Aided by a knee injury that compromised Robert Griffin III’s ability to operate at peak efficiency, the Seahawks will play in Atlanta Sunday against the Falcons, the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Griffin staked Washington to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter — the Redskins’ first two drives were absurdly easy — with a pair of touchdown passes, racking up 129 total yards to a -4 for Seattle. In the first quarter, the Redskins scored two TDs and Seattle answered with a pair of three-and-outs.
But the Seahawks started to get traction in the second quarter and eventually scored 24 unanswered points, a tribute not only to Seattle’s offense, but its defense.
“At the start of the game, they were really going fast and we weren’t,” said
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “They ran right at us and right over us, and then they didn’t. I thought we did a great job of hanging on to the game plan. At the beginning, the speed of the game was ahead of us, but we hung tough and fought through it. We feel fortunate to come out of here with a win.”
The victory for Seattle might not have happened if Griffin had been healthy and fully operational. But the former Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor clearly could not play at peak form, hampered as he was with a bad knee suffered Dec. 9 that required a brace. After the two scoring drives, Griffin was a non-factor — he completed just 10 of 19 passes for 84 yards — until he left late in the fourth quarter after re-injuring his knee on a botched snap.
After the Redskins accumulated 129 yards in the first quarter, they had 74 the rest of the way.
“It was hard to watch RG3,” said Carroll. “He was gallant to play like he did under the circumstances.”
On the other hand, Seattle might have won big if it had been able to convert two major scoring opportunities. In the third quarter, trailing 14-13, the Seahawks missed an almost-certain touchdown opportunity when Marshawn Lynch fumbled at the Washington one-yard line while attempting to score what would have been the go-ahead touchdown.
Later in the third quarter, after the Seahawks had mounted another successful drive, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson overthrew a wide open Doug Baldwin in the end zone.
One of the key plays came in the second quarter when Seattle, trailing 14-3, avoided a calamity. Wilson and Lynch mishandled a handoff and the ball squirted loose. But Lynch picked up the ball and gained 18 yards, which helped set up Wilson’s four-yard TD pass to fullback Michael Robinson and brought the Seahawks to within 14-13 at halftime.
“That was an extraordinary play,” Carroll said of Lynch’s recovered fumble and 18-yard gain. “It happened so fast you could hardly believe what (Lynch) did.”
Wilson, in leading the Seahawks to their sixth straight victory, completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 92.9 in his first playoff game. His running was almost as important. Against the NFL’s No. 5 rushing defense, Wilson scrambled for 67 yards on eight carries, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.
Lynch, who ran for just five yards in the first quarter, finished with 132 on 20 carries, his 10th 100-yard game of the season.
In snapping Washington’s seven-game winning streak, the Seahawks rolled up 380 yards to the Redskins’ 203.
“It was a battle,” said Wilson. “Both teams really fought hard. We are fortunate to come out with a win. We’re excited by our opportunities.”
While Griffin struggled with his knee injury, so did Washington RB Alfred Morris — after the first quarter. He gained 36 yards in the opening period, but finished with just 80 on 16 carries after blowing through Dallas for 200 yards and three touchdowns a week ago.
The victory gave Seattle its first playoff win since defeating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at the end of the 2010 season, and improved the Seahawks’ playoff record against Washington to 3-0.
The Seahawks had one major injury, DE Chris Clemons leaving the game in the second half when his knee apparently buckled. His availability for the Atlanta game isn’t known. Clemons will have an MRI Monday. PK Steven Hauschka also strained his calf that limited his play.
How The Game Unfolded
Washington took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in nine plays, Griffin ending the drive with a four-yard TD pass to Evan Royster and a 7-0 lead. The key play was a 30-yard play-action pass from Griffin to Royster. Morris ran for 36 yards with a long gain of 18. The Seahawks allowed a TD on the opening drive for just the third time this season.
Seattle went three-and-out on its first possession and Griffin, despite showing the effects of a sprained knee, promptly took the Redskins on another scoring drive. His four-yard TD pass to Logan Paulsen gave Washington a 14-0 lead and handed Seattle its largest deficit of the season.
But the Seahawks finally got untracked offensively to start the second period when Wilson led a 12-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Hauschka. The big play was Wilson’s 27-yard completion to Sidney Rice that set up the Seahawks on Washington’s 12-yard line.
The Seahawks scored again on their next possession after Seattle avoided a disaster when Lynch picked up a fumble and turned the busted play into an 18-yard gain. After Wilson scrambled for 12 yards, he threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Robinson, which sliced Washington’s lead to 14-10.
After Earl Thomas intercepted Griffin, who fluttered up an ill-advised long ball, Wilson again led the Seahawks on a scoring march, his big throw in the drive a 33-yard completion to Baldwin that set up Hauschka’s 29-yard field goal.
The Seahawks blew an opportunity on their first possession of the second half. Wilson directed a drive to the Washington one-yard line, but Lynch fumbled going for the touchdown and Washington recovered.
The Sehawks had another scoring opportunity following a season-long 28-yard run by Wilson, who then overthrew a wide-open Baldwin in the end zone. A subsequent a nine-yard sack on Wilson took the Seahawks out of scoring range.
The Seahawks picked up a huge first down when, on third down and 10, Wilson hit TE Zach Miller for 12 yards. Then Lynch burst 27 yards for a touchdown. After Wilson completed a two-point conversion pass to Miller, the Seahawks moved out to a 21-14 lead with 7:20 to play.
Following a sack on Griffin, Seattle recovered a Griffin fumble after snap at the Washington five-yard line. Griffin’s injured knee was twisted in the wrong direction as he tried to recover. After a couple of minutes on the ground, he walked off on his own but his game and season were over.
The Seahawks had Hauschka kick a 24-yard field goal, then played keep-away for the final minutes.
Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest will have a column on the game shortly.