Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was hobbled from the outset, and the Seahawks made the most of coach Mike Shanahan's decision to stick with him too long.
LANDOVER, Md. — The limp was obvious even on video. In Seattle’s film room, on their iPads, Seahawks players saw Robert Griffin III hobbling in Washington’s final regular-season game against Dallas.
They had the feeling that the limp was a harbinger of Griffin’s future distress. The limp meant he couldn’t be dynamic. He couldn’t bust open for long gains. He couldn’t buy time with his legs. He couldn’t be himself.
Video doesn’t lie. For Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game, RGIII would be playing with only one healthy leg. And, as much as they appreciated the warrior in Griffin, the Seahawks withheld their sympathy and attacked his pain.
These are the playoffs — one team’s pain is another team’s ticket onward.
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“You never want to see a guy get hurt,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner after the Seahawks won their first road playoff game since the Reagan administration, 24-14 over the Washington Redskins. “He’s a good player, and you feel bad for him, but at the same time, it’s a game and injuries happen.”
These are the playoffs, and on the road to the Super Bowl you take the gifts and accept your good fortune, even if it comes in the form of a sensational rookie quarterback’s unstable and uncooperative right knee. You wish him well next September.
“In the playoffs, you don’t give anybody anything,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “It’s a 16-game season. Everybody’s banged up.”
The Russell Wilson vs. RGIII rookie playoff showdown never really happened. As afternoon turned into evening, Griffin’s limp became more pronounced and his pain became more obvious.
As Wilson settled into his first playoff game, Griffin never looked right, never looked comfortable. Even as he drove the Redskins to two early scores, he seemed as if he was hanging on a lip of destruction. There was a sense of inevitable loss in his garbled gait.
“We’re not here to feel sorry for nobody,” linebacker K.J. Wright said. “We’re out here trying to get the ‘W’ and make it to the Super Bowl.”
Washington coach Mike Shanahan should have pulled Griffin at the end of the first quarter when Washington was ahead 14-0. By keeping a barely ambulatory RGIII in the game, he was putting his quarterback’s career at risk and playing perfectly into the hands of the Seahawks’ defense.
“When we saw him running, we saw that this guy’s not 100 percent,” Wright said. “We made sure right then that we were going to start keying on their running back (Alfred Morris) and try to make him (Griffin) run.”
On first-and-goal on Washington’s second touchdown drive, Griffin rolled right and seemed to pull up in pain as he threw an incompletion. Two plays later, after he threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Logan Paulsen, Griffin walked slowly to the sideline, practically dragging his right leg.
By the second quarter, it was apparent he had lost confidence in his plant leg. Most of his throws were high. Late in the first half, ahead 14-10, he tried to throw long, but hung a pass intended for Pierre Garcon and Seahawks safety Earl Thomas intercepted it.
Griffin was 6 for 9 for 68 yards in the first quarter. He was 4 for 10 for 16 yards the rest of the game. Washington had nine first downs in the first quarter and six the final three.
“Throughout the whole game you could tell how hurt he was,” Sherman said. “But he has a lot of heart, and that’s my guy and I’ll talk him up until the sun comes home. You’ve got to respect the guy.
“His knee’s a lot worse than it seems, but he’s still out there battling for his guys. That kind of heart is something you respect — out of this world.”
Finally, trailing 21-14 in the fourth quarter, Griffin couldn’t field a shotgun snap that rolled back to him. He made a slight move to recover the fumble and his knee gruesomely buckled.
He crumpled on the grass as Seahawk defensive tackle Clinton McDonald recovered the ball at the Washington 5-yard line.
“You could see him hobbling today. He couldn’t really run the ball,” McDonald said. “He didn’t have that full stride like he usually has. We kind of knew what was going on.”
In the march toward the Super Bowl in New Orleans, you take whatever gifts the football gods distribute. You see the limp on the videos and you plan accordingly. These are the playoffs and winning teams are short on sympathy.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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