Posted January 06, 2013

First Down/Fourth Down: Mike Shanahan loses his RGIII gamble

First Down/Fourth Down, NFL Playoffs, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins
The entire crowd at FedEx Field went silent upon seeing Robert Griffin III's injury. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The entire crowd at FedEx Field went silent upon seeing Robert Griffin III’s injury. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

What was going through Mike Shanahan’s head as he watched his team’s trainers huddle around Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter Sunday?

Shanahan’s decision to stick with a clearly hobbled Griffin during his team’s wild-card round game against Seattle seemed a gamble — the Redskins’ future rides on Griffin’s ability to stay healthy, and he was far from it at the end of the season.

And so, when Griffin’s knee gave out as he tried to recover a fumble, Shanahan had to have at least a split-second where he wondered if he made a huge mistake.

Kirk Cousins, the QB who delivered a key road win in relief of Griffin during Week 15, was ready to go on the sidelines. Griffin, even before that heart-wrenching moment when he crumpled in front of a stunned stadium full of supporters, had been far off his game. Unable to run in his normal fashion or plant for throws, the Redskins’ QB struggled.

His team followed suit, as an early 14-0 lead disintegrated.

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In the end, everything that could go wrong for Washington did. The Redskins lost the game, 24-14, and Griffin spent the final few minutes seated on the bench, his head down, no doubt with further tests to come on his knee soon.

Griffin’s latest injury came just a few hours after news broke that the famed Dr. James Andrews had not cleared Griffin to reenter that Week 14 game, after a hit from Haloti Ngata drove the Redskins’ quarterback out briefly.

Now, all the Redskins can do is cross their fingers and hope that Griffin’s Sunday setback does not linger or cause long-term damage. Even if that’s not the case (and everyone is hopeful that it’s not), Shanahan deserves to be criticized for putting his quarterback at risk.

Some more cheers and jeers from Seattle’s 24-14 win …

First Down: Marshawn Lynch.

Is it fair to say that Lynch, with more than 6,000 yards rushing in his six-year career, is an underrated star? The Seahawks’ bruising, athletic running back keeps making big plays for his team, and Sunday was no different.

Lynch carried the ball 20 times for a hard-fought 132 yards (6.6 yards-per-carry average), then gave Seattle its first lead on a dazzling 27-yard scamper — with QB Russell Wilson blocking downfield. That TD came on a 3rd-and-5 and required Lynch to sidestep a tackle shy of the first-down marker, before he burst forth into the secondary.

Fourth Down: Will Montgomery.

It is unfair to Montgomery to pin Griffin’s latest injury woe on the Washington center. And yet, not only did Montgomery’s botched snap result in Griffin hurting himself, it handed the ball over to Seattle, deep in Washington territory.

That miscue really drove the final nail into the Redskins’ coffin — Steven Hauschka drilled a field goal moments later to put the Seahawks up 10. Making matters worse, Montgomery spiked another snap on Washington’s next possession, forcing Kirk Cousins to take a sack.

The RGIII injury was bad luck (and, as explained above, a little negligent coaching), but Montgomery at least deserves the blame for a critical turnover.

First Down: Alan Branch.

Part of the reason Montgomery suddenly got a case of the yips in the fourth quarter was that the Seahawks began generating a ton of pressure up the middle. Branch was instrumental in that turn — he finished with five tackles and a sack of Griffin deep in Washington territory. That sack matched Branch’s total from the regular season.

Fourth Down: The FedEx Field … uh … field.

Here’s what Pierre Garcon had to say about Washington’s embarrassing home turf, almost exactly one month ago following a win over the Giants:

“It is something to worry about. It is tough … It’s pretty nasty out there.”

The Redskins’ grass surface certainly has not improved since then, and it looked particularly worn down Sunday. The space between the hash marks had the look of a dirt horse racing track by the fourth quarter, and it was in one of those areas that Griffin’s spike appeared to catch right as his knee buckled.

First Down: Reed Doughty.

Washington’s safety finished the regular season with all of one sack. He had two Sunday against elusive Seattle QB Russell Wilson.

Give some of the credit there to Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who dialed up an aggressive, blitz-heavy strategy against Wilson. When that approach was working (i.e. up until about the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter), Doughty was one of its most disruptive forces.

Fourth Down: Washington’s play calling.

Alfred Morris had 11 carries for 60 yards during a promising first half, and he was particularly effective early on tosses right.

In the second half? Morris had just five carries, despite playing alongside a hobbled QB and his team having the lead. Given Griffin’s inability to throw, it is hard to figure why Morris did not see more work down the stretch.

First Down: Russell Wilson.

You didn’t think we would get all the way through this without a little love for Seattle’s QB, did you? Andrew Luck and Griffin, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in last year’s draft, respectively, will be home next weekend, while Wilson and his teammates will head to Atlanta for a divisional round game.

Even though the Seahawks did not really break through until the fourth quarter and Wilson took five sacks, this was a performance pretty representative of Wilson’s rookie year. He stayed remarkably calm and composed, despite all that Washington pressure, en route to 250-plus total yards.

He also hit Michael Robinson for a big touchdown in the second quarter, then rifled in a two-pointer to Zach Miller in the fourth. That Miller conversion came after Lynch’s 27-yard TD run, which was set up by a huge 3rd-and-10 completion from Wilson to Miller.

Fourth Down: Richard Sherman and Trent Williams.

In case you missed it, those two engaged in a brief skirmish following Seattle’s win. As the teams were out saying their congratulations and whatnot, Sherman, always the trash-talker, said something that rubbed Williams the wrong way. Williams responded by shoving a hand into Sherman’s face — a move that may cost him some money or lead to a suspension for 2013.

These two teams don’t really like each other, and there always is a little more venom during the playoffs. That’s fine.

But there’s no need for Sherman to stir things up after the final whistle, and even less defense for Williams reacting the way he did.

33 comments
KevinBannister
KevinBannister

If RGIII was pulled and the Hawks still beat the Redskins, which they would have, Shannahan would have been blamed for pulling RGIII out too early.  Yes I would have pulled him early 2nd Qtr but I'm not the coach.  As for Atlanta, it will be a tough game no doubt but I like the Hawks chance, they match up very well.  Hawks Offense with Wilson, Lynch and Company will simply have long TD drives to keep Ryan and Company off the field, then when they do take over on Offense, Hawks Defense will shut them down.  Best Secondary in the NFL.  Hawks will have to find a way to replace Clemons who is lost for the season with a knee injury but like what Chuck Knox once said "You play the hand your dealt".  Expecting another exciting game, but not with the Falcons jumping out to a 14-0 score. 

JayMadisonHamilton
JayMadisonHamilton

This is going to sound like major hindsight, but maybe it is time for NFL coaches to seriously consider playing two QBs in the same game.  When the Skins got up 14-0 and RGIII was starting to limp, you put in Cousins to play until RGIII is needed later, if at all.  It's not like Cousins is Joe Webb or John Skelton or whoever is Cutler's back up.  Cousins played well this year when he was in there and one more Skin touchdown could have been enough to win the game.

Time to think outside the box, especially if you are going to let your QB run ten times a game.

deanrobert99
deanrobert99

I hear that the Redskins are an elite NFL team, one of the big iconic clubs like the Cowboys and Steelers, worth hundreds of millions of dollars... well you sure wouldn't know it from the condition of that field.  What an absolute disgrace.  IMO the field has lead to injuries, including RGIII's.  How can you consider yourself a class organization, spend millions on players and then let them compete on such a crap mess??  They painted much of the 'grass' green... most of it looked like a baseball infield.  I don't get it.  I'm out West in BC and follow the Seahawks so I'll need some Redskin fans to tell me what the deal is with that field.  Brutal.

I love my Seahawks but I love the NFL football even more... and seeing RGIII hobbling and then go down awkwardly was gut wrenching.  Looked like he was doing a Theisman impersonation.  I truly hope he's okay.

I see some criticism of RW here.  He's playing his 17th NFL game, first playoff game, in a loud and enthusiastic stadium where everything was going the Redskins way and nothing right for the Seahawks early.  The defence starts to pick it up and then the offence gets in gear.  Lots of yards and first downs but not many points.  RW stayed calm and stayed focused.  No desperation, nothing stupid, just kept firing away.  Criticize his numbers if you want to but I'm thrilled with RW's ability to stay calm and stay focused.  As a Hawk fan I thought most of the game was frustrating to watch, I couldn't imagine playing.  Much good play but little reward, still losing after 3 quarters... but here's the thing.  Scoreboard.  Wilson got it done... again.... late in a game... driving the team down field for the victory... blocking downfield for Lynch!  Damn I'm glad he's a Seahawk.  He's a special player and we'll take our chances with the Falcons.  The statistic that matters, WIN = Seattle.  Go Hawks!

Don21
Don21

I have never seen such a lack of regard for a players well being and I'm old. Shanahan did a terrible thing and I hope the kid's life isn't ruined.

drl
drl

Fourth down - idiot pundits who think 15/26 187 yds is a great performance. Both of these vaunted QBs sucked against slow and stupid secondaries who were constantly out of position. The Falcons will destroy the Seahawks next week. Let's see how the rook handles a Mike Nolan defense with all hands finally on deck.

MikeC65
MikeC65

I hope RGIII recovers from his coach's irresponsible old school attitude. The knee looked pretty torn up at the end. Hopefully, RGIII will be fully recovered by next season, if not, Shanahan should go.

Tala
Tala

shanahan should be fired

JohnHudson1
JohnHudson1

I remember watching Wilson in the preseason playing my Broncos. I was really impressed then. To get him in the 3rd round (I believe) thus far is easily the steal of the last draft (no offese Alfred Morris).

patsweep
patsweep

This could have been a good game if RGlll had been healthy but he was not. Cousin should have playing  when they beat Dallas but Shananhan wanted his star ouarterback instead letting him get healthy. His DR said he never released him to play so to me that is putting the game before your player.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I was going to criticize Shanahan for leaving RG in so long, but then I remembered I how criticized the Nationals management for NOT letting Steven Strasburg pitch in the MLB playoffs. So I'm not sure if I'm being consistent. But at heart, it does seem they let the QB in too long. 

bbc
bbc

I missed the Sherman shenanigans after the match. I thought the author made a mistake and was calling out Browner for being chippy during the game. Trash talking after the win (or a loss) once the game is over, is not something very nice and will lead to Sherman getting the same kind of reputation which Suh currently enjoys within NFL.

DBSlave
DBSlave

Richard Sherman = Loser.  Hope he gets his ass kicked by Julio Jones and Roddy White

jj55
jj55

Sheer idiocy playing a one-legged RG III in the second half.  Wilson was impressive, and now might even warrant a mention or two from the clueless East Coast media.

bbc
bbc

Russell Wilson - rookie of the year ahead of RG3 and Luck! All hail Seahwaks and Russell Wilson!!!

drl
drl

 @JayMadisonHamilton Football isn't a box to be thought outside of. What a bad idea. You put your best QB out there and that's that. The only successful QB platoon in NFL history was Waterfield-van Brocklin in the early 50s.

 

I say it right now, RGIII believes his own hype but can't play with pain. I am quite sure that he'll be just another has-been, and another failed creation of the media hype machine, within three years. He just doesn't have the durability to play NFL ball. And he practically takes soccer dives if someone breathes on him hard.

MichaelDuerre
MichaelDuerre

 @drl Dude, seriously?  Seattle had the number 1 scoring defense in the NFL during the regular season.  They were #10 against the run, allowing just over 100 yards. They were #6 against the pass, allowing just over 200 a game.  Atlanta in those categories?  #5 scoring defense, #21 against the rush, allowing 123 per game, and #23 against the pass, allowing 242 a game.  Seattle also has the #3 rushing offense--161 a game--while Atlanta has the #29--87 a game!  The ONLY stat that Atlanta leads Seattle in is passing offense.  But in the last 6 games of the season, Russell Wilson has averaged 215 a game, and that is including 3 blowout games where he didn't play the entire game and/or the lopsided score resulted in more running plays during garbage time.  In fact, in the Arizona game, he was out early in the 3rd.  During that same stretch, Matt Ryan, with not much running game to help out, passed for an average of 274 a game--not significantly more than Wilson.  In fact, Wilson finished the regular season just ahead of Matt Ryan in overall QB ranking.  Seattle also bests Atlanta in kick return average, has a higher field goal percentage, and is tied with Atlanta on turnover differential.  So, according to your logic, then Atlanta must suck pretty bad, since they're behind Seattle in nearly every major statistical category!  Can't wait to see how Matt Ryan handles a Gus Bradley defense that has shut down opponents to the tune of 15 points per game!!  Pretty freakin' easy to talk $hit when you don't bother to look at the numbers, huh?

drl
drl

 @MikeC65 The knee wasn't torn up - RGIII is clearly unable to play "nicked" as Trent Dilfer said. Ask Billy Kilmer about playing with pain. Griffin surprised me with his soccer-style dives.

Weber600
Weber600

 @bbc Sherman didn't talk trash after the game.  Trent Williams tapped him on the shoulder and said, "I'm gonna swing at you."  Sherman replied, "Swing then."  Sherman was shaking hands with players and being respectable.  Trent Williams even apologized for the indecent afterwards.  This was the result of Trent Williams frustration, not Richard Sherman's actions. 

JayOne
JayOne

Sherman helped RGIII up after a play. Suh would have done his best to stomp on his ankle or kick him in the groin. There's an enormous difference between a chatty player and a dirty one.

lancervi.mje
lancervi.mje

 @DBSlave Loser??? Why??? Cause he get's in the opponents head and get's them to react negatively during the game. De'angelo Hall is one of the biggest smack talkers around. It wasn't Sherm trying to punch people at the end of the game now was it? That would be T Williams.

 

As for an ass kicking next week?? I predict two Sherman picks.

drl
drl

 @jj55 Wilson was 15/26 for less than 200 yards. That's mediocre. He did have a couple of scampers through the disorganized Washington defense. The Redskins were clearly overhyped and failed to play their positions with discipline - nevertheless Wilson kept sailing passes over the heads of open receivers, and only the strong running of Lynch and the Redskin's pathetic offense allowed him to get away with it.

bbc
bbc

I meant *Seahawks

paul25
paul25

 @drl  @JayMadisonHamilton

 After the second series in the first quarter Kirk Cousins WAS the best QB. The problem is that Shanahan kept him on the sidelines.

MikeC65
MikeC65

 @drl  @JayMadisonHamilton "Can't play with pain"? RGIII could barely walk, no less run. The issue isn't pain and durability, it is the team using a game plan that exposes him to being wrecked. He and his team need to look at Michael Vick to see what the future could be for RGIII.

drl
drl

 @MichaelDuerre See ya next week! Ryan is so going to shred this team I may have to avert my eyes. Your numbers mean nothing. You played a season-full of corpses on offense. You're defense is physical but slow. Jones and White will have their heads spinning so fast they'll need a visit from the Exorcist.

 

We Atlantans are completely fed up with hipster sports media and unicorn football league "experts" and former NFL criminals (Irvin) dissing us. This team is ready, healthy, and pi$$ed. I feel sorry for Seattle and Wilson, I really do.

MikeC65
MikeC65

 @drl Try bending your knee like that and find out whether it tears or not.

MichaelDuerre
MichaelDuerre

 @drl  @jj55 drl: With 200 yards on the ground, 67 by Wilson alone, he didn't need to pass more than he did.  Fact is Russell Wilson is a ROY candidate.  Period.  You can hate all you want, but the guy has a 100 QBR and is #10 overall in the NFL.  Not to mention that he tied Payton Manning's rookie passing TD record.  He torched SF for 4 TDs, put up 250 on a very good Rams D, threw for nearly 300 against the Bears in Chicago, and manged 150 against the Cardinals in one half.  The kid is legit whether you want to admit it or not.  What's pathetic is not the Redskins offense, it's your total inability to understand football!

PhocasSurf
PhocasSurf

 @MichaelDuerre  @drl 

Wow, Didn't even notice how incredibly easy the falcons schedule was.... They will learn really quick what its like to play a good NFL team next week.

PhocasSurf
PhocasSurf

 @drl  

 

Ignoring facts and spouting emotional rhetoric is fun! Atlanta is well known for "blowing it" in the playoffs. Even Vegas believes the Hawks are better than the falcons. Washington is better than the falcons.

MichaelDuerre
MichaelDuerre

 @drl By the way, how many of the teams that Atlanta faced during the regular season are still playing?  Answer: 1 (Dallas).  How many teams that Seattle played are still playing?  Answer:  3 (Green Bay, New England, San Fran--all were in the top 10 in points per game).  Again, not to belittle the Falcons, because they are a good team, but this stat pretty much shoots your theory down that Seattle has played a bunch of offensive corpses. 

MichaelDuerre
MichaelDuerre

 @drl  @MichaelDuerre   Numbers mean nothing, eh?  Guess that's because you don't bother to look at them.  You just rely on making baseless claims.  Seattle played a season full of corpses on offense?  Seattle played New England, Detroit, Dallas, Green Bay, and San Francisco, all of which are in the top half of the league in yards per game.  They beat New England and Dallas, split with San Fran, "beat" Green Bay (even if you don't factor that win, they still took them to the wall), and lost to the Lions by less than a TD.  Detroit, Dallas, New England, and Green Bay were all top-10 in passing yards.  Minnesota, San Fran, New England, Washington, Buffalo, Carolina, and Chicago were all top-10 in rushing.  Seattle beat every one of them! 

 

Who did Atlanta play?  The Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Eagles?  All were in the bottom 10 in points per game.  The teams that Atlanta played that were in the top 10 in yards per game?  New Orleans, Detroit, Denver, Washington, Dallas, Tampa Bay.  The teams they played in the top 10 in passing yards--New Orleans, Detroit, Dallas, Denver, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.  Looks pretty impressive until you look at how many top-10 rushing teams they faced--Washington, Carolina, and Kansas City.  Three.  That's it.

 

I'd say that this is a pretty even match-up.  Unlike you, I'm going to give your team credit.  The Falcons are a good team and I'm legitimately worried about next week.  Do I think that my 'Hawks can beat your Falcons?  Absolutely.  Do I think it's a sure thing?  No.  But, unlike you, I'm not willing to blather a bunch of nonsense so that I can convince myself that next week's win is a sure thing.  Come on, man!  Give credit where credit is due!