Seahawks dispatch injury-hit Redskins in crunch play-off


Robert Griffin III lay on the fiveyard line, the ball and the Washington Redskins’ season just inches from him. But the quarterback did not reach to get it; he couldn’t. He did not want to let go of his right knee.

So Griffin held on, rolling ever so slightly in the chewed-up grass. His team-mate Trent Williams screamed for team trainers to hurry on to the field, and minutes later Griffin finally rose, slowly and gingerly, before limping off to nervous cheers.

That scary sequence, as linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called it, served as a difficult coda for the Redskins fans at FedEx Field on Sunday who endured a doubly brutal finish: their team’s surprising season ended with a 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, while their wunderkind quarterback’s future was thrown into doubt because of another knee injury with about six minutes left in the game. Adding to the emotion was that many will question whether Griffin should have even been in the game.

One would understand, of course, if the fans around here were especially exasperated. This latest fall came with an especially cruel twist, coming just months after the Washington Nationals opted to shut down their sparkling young pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, because he was recovering from elbow surgery. With Strasburg idle, the Nationals – who won their division, just like the Redskins – lost in the first round of the play-offs also.

Not himself

But this time, even as the Redskins seemed to take the opposite approach – pushing Griffin, despite an obviously impaired leg – the plan backfired anyway. He was clearly not himself and the Seahawks sprinted past the Redskins. Seattle, and its young star quarterback Russell Wilson, will face Atlanta in a divisional round game on Sunday.

What comes next for Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan, however, is far murkier. Griffin, who first strained the lateral collateral ligament in the knee on December 9th, had tests yesterday but conceded after the game that he did not know how seriously he was injured and probably “did put myself at more risk by being out there”.

He added, though, that he never considered coming out of the game earlier because “I’m the best option for this team and that’s why I’m the starter”.

Shanahan essentially agreed with that sentiment, saying that he was in constant communication with Griffin during the game about whether the quarterback’s knee – which he appeared to aggravate late in the first quarter – had become too limiting.

According to Shanahan, Griffin drew a distinction between being hurt and being injured, with the former being a condition that would allow him to keep playing and the latter likely being “only if he can’t walk,” said tight-end Logan Paulsen.

That sort of feeling was shared by several of Griffin’s other team-mates, who praised his fortitude. But Shanahan will face questions about whether he should have overruled Griffin, particularly as it became apparent he was hindered.

Griffin finished the game just 10-of-19 passing for 84 yards, throwing two touchdown passes and an interception. He was sacked twice and rushed only five times for 21 yards, about 30 yards fewer than his season average.

Mobile quarterbacks

“I think everyone could see after the first quarter that he wasn’t exactly the same,” said Shanahan. “I still thought he could go in there and make the plays he was capable of making. I’ll probably second-guess myself.”

Griffin’s injury took much of the drama out of the much-anticipated battle between Griffin and Wilson. Comparisons between the two are inevitable if only because, at the most basic level, both are mobile quarterbacks who showed unusual aplomb in leading their teams to unlikely surges during their rookie seasons.

Wilson finished the season with a passer rating of 100, which would have set a record for rookies in the NFL – except that Griffin finished with a 102.4. Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for touchdown passes with 26, with Griffin right behind at 20.

This was not a fair fight.

Wilson, who finished the game 15-of-26 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown, had one more healthy knee than Griffin and he took full advantage, whizzing around the field for 67 rushing yards.

New York Times

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