One year ago, the first NFL playoff game with rookie quarterbacks starting for both teams was staged.
The second such matchup figures to be much more highly anticipated.
Sunday’s matchup features record-setting rookies who have electrified their respective cities. The Redskins (10-6) have won seven straight since Griffin was named a team captain to capture the NFC East title, while the Seahawks (11-5) have won five in a row to earn a wild-card spot.
Griffin’s 102.4 passer rating is the highest ever by a rookie and the third-best in the NFL this year. He threw 20 touchdowns to five interceptions and set a rookie record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 815.
“The one thing our coaches did was they didn’t baby me, they weren’t going to make it baby steps, they made me learn on the fly, they were really hard on me in OTAs and training camp and it’s paid off,” Griffin said.
While Griffin was the No. 2 pick in the draft, Wilson was a third-round selection by Seattle - and the sixth quarterback taken - before he beat out Matt Flynn for the starting job. Wilson has tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and he had 16 touchdowns to two interceptions during Seattle’s 7-1 finish to the regular season.
“Did Peyton go to the playoffs his first year? No,” Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. “OK. Then you know who I think is better.”
Wilson, who threw for 3,118 yards, finished with a 100.0 passer rating that would have been a rookie record if not for Griffin.
“I really like Russell, he’s really got a lot of the intangibles you look for in a quarterback,” said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who interacted with Wilson while coaching at last year’s Senior Bowl. “Really a class act, really handled himself extremely well, really a fun guy to talk to.”
Both quarterbacks are aided by top rushing attacks that feature zone blocking schemes.
The Redskins finished with a league-high 2,709 yards on the ground, with rookie Alfred Morris second in the NFL with 1,613. Morris rushed for 200 yards and three scores in last Sunday night’s 28-18 division-clinching win over Dallas.
Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch gained 1,590 yards to finish third behind Morris as he spearheaded a Seattle rushing attack that was third in the league with 2,579 yards.
“I think everybody’s got a little bit different scheme,” Shanahan said. “We do have a lot of similarities with the zone blocking scheme and they’re running a bit of the zone read as well.”
While the offenses are very similar, the Seahawks have a decided edge on defense. Seattle yielded an average of 321.6 yards for the league’s fourth-best mark while Washington allowed an average of 390.8 for the NFL’s fourth-worst.
It promises to be a festive atmosphere at FedEx Field. The only playoff game to take place there was Washington’s 27-13 victory over Detroit after the 1999 season.
The Redskins figure to have the advantage with a 5-3 home mark. While Seattle was unbeaten at home, it went 3-5 on the road.
“If you want to be a good team you definitely got to be able to win on the road,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. “You never get a scenario exactly how you want it unless you fortunate enough to be like (No. 1 seed) Atlanta.”
The Seahawks could be happy about the late kickoff time Sunday so their normal routine of traveling two days before an Eastern time zone game won’t change. Former Seattle cornerback Josh Wilson who is now with Washington, thinks this is the case.
“This game being at 4:30 actually may help them a little bit,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely tough when you have that 1 o’clock game. It feels like about 10 o’clock to you. You wake up three hours before the game, so it’s about 7 o’clock in your mind.”
The Redskins have won six straight regular-season meetings over the Seahawks, but things have changed drastically since Rex Grossman led them to a 23-17 win over a Tarvaris Jackson Seattle team last season.
Washington’s last two postseasons ended with road losses to Seattle following the 2005 and 2007 seasons.
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