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