LANDOVER, Md. — Russell Wilson raced ahead to throw the final block on Marshawn Lynch’s go-ahead touchdown run, and the Seattle Seahawks finally had a victorious road show.
Robert Griffin III’s knee buckled as he tried to field a bad shotgun snap, leaving the Washington Redskins an off-season to worry about their franchise player’s health.
The last rookie quarterback standing in the NFL playoffs is Wilson — the third-round pick who teamed with Lynch on Sunday to lead the Seahawks to a 24-14 victory over the Griffin and the Redskins.
Lynch ran for 131 yards, and Wilson completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards and ran eight times for 67 yards for the Seahawks, who overcame a 14-0 first-quarter hole — their biggest deficit of the season — and will visit the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
“It was only two touchdowns, but it’s still a big comeback and in this setting and the crowd, it’s a marvelous statement about the guys resolve and what is going on,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s not about how you start but how you finish.”
Seattle will be riding a six-game winning streak, having left behind any doubts that the team can hold its own outside the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks were 3-5 on the road in the regular season and had lost eight straight road playoff games, the last win coming in December 1983 against the Miami Dolphins.
The day began with three rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs, but No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck was eliminated when the Indianapolis Colts lost 24-9 to the Baltimore Ravens earlier in the day.
Lynch’s change-of-direction, 27-yard touchdown run — with Wilson leading the way with a block on safety Madieu Williams near the goal line — and a 2-point conversion gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead with 7:08 remaining.
“Marhsawn always tells me, ’Russ, I got your back, no matter what,”’ Wilson said. “So I just try to help him out every cone in a while when he gets downfield.”
Then came the play that essentially put the outcome to rest.
On the second play of the Redskins’ next possession, Griffin’s heavily braced right knee buckled badly as he tried to field a bad shotgun snap on a second-and-22 at Washington’s 12-yard line. He lay on the ground, unable to recover the ball as the Seahawks pounced on it.
Griffin walked off the field under his own power, but the Redskins announced he would not return. After a few minutes, Griffin walked back to the sideline and watched the end of the game. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.
Griffin was playing in his third game since spraining his right knee about a month ago against the Baltimore Ravens, and he had been looking gimpy since tumbling backward following an ill-advised sidearm throw in the first quarter.
Nevertheless, he stayed in the game. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he didn’t pull Griffin because the quarterback wanted to continue.
“I think I did put myself at more risk,” Griffin said. “But every time you get on the field, you’re putting yourself on the line.”
Griffin was scheduled for an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.
Having recovered the fumble, the Seahawks kicked a short field goal to give them the insurance they needed. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, subbing for Griffin, was unable to rally the Redskins in the final minutes.
Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner who set several rookie quarterback record this year, finished 10 for 19 for 84 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also had five carries for 21 yards, including a labouring 9-yard run that made him look 32 years old instead of 22.
The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the Redskins, who recovered from a 3-6 start to win the NFC East.
The Redskins opened the game threatening to make a mockery of the NFL’s top scoring defence. Simple toss-to-the-right stretch plays netted 8, 9 and 18 yards for Alfred Morris in an 80-yard drive, and tight end Logan Paulsen barrelled into linebacker Malcolm Smith after a catch to highlight a 54-yard drive.
Both possessions ended with 4-yard touchdown passes: one to Evan Royster for his first NFL TD catch and the other to Paulsen. The Redskins led 14-0 in the first quarter against a team that allowed a season-low 15.3 per game in the regular season, but Griffin had tweaked the knee on that second drive.
The Seahawks responded by getting Lynch involved more and scoring on three consecutive drives to pulled within a point at halftime. Steven Hauschka, who injured his left ankle during the first half and had to relinquish kickoff duties, nevertheless sandwiched field goals of 32 and 29 yards around a 4-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Michael Robinson.
The Seahawks were poised to take the lead on the opening drive of the second half, moving the ball to 1-yard line with a pair of nice runs by Lynch and a leaping catch by Golden Tate.
But Lynch fumbled on second-and-goal from the 1, the ball popped loose and was recovered by defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. Then, on their next drive, the Seahawks drove to Washington’s 28 before a sack forced a punt — rather than a long field goal attempt by an injured kicker.
With the Redskins’ offence struggling, however, the Seahawks had more chances to take the lead — and finally did on the 79-yard drive capped by Lynch’s touchdown run.
The playoff meeting between the two teams was the third, but first outside Seattle. The Seahawks won 20-10 in January 2006, and 35-14 in January 2008. Those were the last two post-season games played by the Redskins.
Seattle had outscored opponents 193-60 in its final five games of the regular season. But they were 3-5 on the road and had lost eight straight road playoff games. Their only road playoff win came in their first post-season road game, Dec. 31, 1983, at Miami.