The Seattle Seahawks won their first road playoff game since Dec. 31, 1983, and they did it in a fashion that was both ignominious and spectacular in a 24-14 win over the Washington Redskins. They became the third team in NFL history to win a playoff game despite being down by 14 points to start, adding their mark to those of the 1957 Detroit Lions and 2003 Philadelphia Eagles.
It's not often that a team should be happy about a one-point deficit at halftime of a game, but the Seahawks went into the visitors' locker room at Washington D.C.'s FedEx Field down 14-13, and undoubtedly happy to be in the game at all. The Redskins, led by the brutal rushing attack of Alfred Morris and two touchdown passes thrown by Robert Griffin III, were up 14-0 with 2:31 left in the first half.
"It was a battle," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said after the game. "Both teams fought really hard, and it was a tremendous game, We're fortunate to come out with a win, and we're excited about the opportunities."
It looked like a blowout, especially to a Seahawks defense that had been stout all season, but bled early and often against Washington's multi-tiered attack. At the 14-0 point, Washington had held the ball over 11 minutes to Seattle's 1:33, and far outgained the Seahawks in yardage. But two plays switched the game. Griffin re-injured the knee on which he's worn a brace for the last three games, and his rushing prowess was limited from then on. Then, in Seattle's second drive of the second quarter, Wilson fumbled an option handoff look to running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch recovered the fumble at the Seattle 44-yard line, and trucked 20 yards to the Washington 36. Five plays later, Wilson threw a touchdown pass to fullback Michael Robinson, and the Seahawks were back in the game.
Seattle safety Earl Thomas intercepted a Griffin pass to receiver Pierre Garcon in the next drive, and the Seahawks drove back down the field late in the first half. Steven Haushcka kicked a 29-yard field goal as time ran out in the half -- his second field goal of the day -- and the Seahawks had somehow recovered from that early deficit to make the game competitive.
Griffin finished the first half with six completions in 11 attempts for 68 yards, two touchdowns, and that one interceptions. Wilson went 9 of 14 for 123 yards and that one score. Morris ran for 60 yards on 11 carries, while Lynch gained 33 yards on eight carries. At the end of the half, Wilson was actually the team's leading rusher with 35 yards on four carries.
The second half opened with more trouble for the Seahawks. They started the second half on their own 30-yard line, got all the way down to the Redskins' 1-yard line in eight plays, but Lynch ended that drive with a fumble recovered by defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. However, that's then Seattle's defense started to put it together, helped as they were by Griffin's knee issues and his inability to get things going on the ground. Griffin completed just four passes for 16 yards in the second half, and Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan will be seriously questioned for leaving Griffin in the game as long as he did. With 6:25 left in the game, Griffin fumbled on a play in which he was tackled, his already-injured knee bent as a gruesome angle, and backup Kirk Cousins came in after that.
By then, Seattle had things in hand, mostly on the efforts of Wilson, Lynch, and tight end Zach Miller, who caught some drive-extending passes as the Seahawks started to turn things around. The play that really decided it for Seattle, besides Griffin's fumble and injury, was Lynch's 27-yard touchdown run on the drive before Griffin was hurt. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the touchdown was the fact that Wilson, all 5-foot-10 5/8 of him, was screaming downfield to clock for his running back. Wilson's done it before, but never in a more crucial moment.
Wilson finished the day with 15 completions in 26 attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown pass, and he added 67 yards rushing on eight carries. Lynch ended his day with 132 yards on 20 carries, outpacing Morris, who amassed 80 yards on 16 carries.
"That wasn't part of the play, but Marshawn always tells me, 'Russ, I got your back,' and I let him know that I always have his back, too," Wilson said of the key block on the touchdown run. "He's doing a great job for us, and he's a tremendous runner, and I'm just trying to help him out."
The Seahawks will help each other out all the way to Atlanta, where they'll play the Falcons in the divisional round next weekend.
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