The game features Rookie of the Year candidates Griffin and Russell Wilson. Both quarterbacks are excellent passers and can run the ball exceptionally well.
Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record with 26 touchdown passes. Griffin had a touchdown to interception ratio of 20 to five. Griffin and Wilson ranked third and fourth in the NFL in passer rating, respectively, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Manning.
More importantly, Griffin led the Redskins from a 3-6 start to a 10-6 finish, while Wilson led Seattle to a four-game improvement from 2011.
Griffin is getting a lot of publicity from the media and love from fans, and rightfully so. Griffin has led the Redskins to five more wins than they had last year, with help from rookie running back Alfred Morris, receiver Pierre Garçon and a host of veterans. Morris rushed for a Redskins record 1,613 yards in his rookie campaign. He also ran for 13 touchdowns, a Redskins rookie record.
The Redskins’ 28th-ranked defense will have to contend with not only Russell but running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But lost in the excitement of the Redskins making the playoffs for just the fourth time in the last two decades is the fact that Griffin didn’t have a great game in the Redskins’ 28-18 win against Dallas last week. Griffin was less accurate than usual, finishing just 9 of 18 for 100 yards and no touchdown passes, though he did run one in for a score in the huge win that got the Redskins into the playoffs.
For Washington to beat Seattle, Griffin will have to play better than he did against Dallas. A key matchup will be Washington’s passing offense against Seattle’s defense. The Redskins boast the fourth-ranked scoring offense in the NFL at 27.3 points per game, while the Seahawks gave up the fewest points in the NFL in 2012, surrendering just 15.3 points per game.
The rookie Heisman-winner from Baylor was off on several passes against the Cowboys, possibly because he was still recovering from his right knee sprain or because of nerves. A look back at the game shows a number of uncharacteristically inaccurate throws for a player whose season completion percentage was 65.6 percent. Most of Griffin’s bad throws, however, came in the first quarter, showing he may have been overexcited.
- 1st quarter, 1st and 10 from Redskins’ 26-yard line: Griffin throws a pass over Josh Morgan’s head, though judging by Griffin’s reaction, Morgan may not have run the route as expected.
- 1st quarter, 1st and 10 from Redskins’ 38: Griffin throws a pass off his back foot, too low for Garçon to grab.
- 1st quarter, 2nd and 6 from the Cowboys’ 44: Griffin throws a pass off his back foot toward the sideline that was almost intercepted. Griffin may have been trying to throw the ball away but the pass didn’t have much on it.
- 1st quarter, 3rd and 6 from the Cowboys’ 44: Griffin throws a pass toward Moss on the right side that was short.
- 2nd quarter, 1st and 10 from Redskins’ 32: Griffin throws a pass into the dirt, short of Morgan.
- 4th quarter, 3rd and 8 from Redskins’ 27: Griffin overthrows Morgan deep along the left side although coverage was good.
With Griffin wearing a heavy brace on his sprained right knee, which has not been 100 percent the last couple of games, the Redskins should throw short passes against Seattle’s excellent pass defense. Griffin’s knee may have hampered him against Dallas, as he threw off his back foot a number of times, and moved gingerly.
To accomplish this, Washington could get some pass targets for backup running back Evan Royster and shake the cobwebs off of tight end Chris Cooley. Last season, Royster averaged 5.9 yards per carry, gaining 328 yards rushing in six games. Though his receiving numbers are pedestrian (15 catches for 109 yards), Royster’s rushing numbers from last year show he has the quickness to gain yards on passes out of the backfield.
Cooley caught 77 passes as recently as two seasons ago. The three-time Pro Bowl tight end was cut before the season, but was resigned in October when Fred Davis got hurt. However, Cooley only has one catch on the season.
With time to rest, Cooley’s injuries should be mostly healed, and he could be a reliable pass-catcher to help move the chains. Second-string tight end Niles Paul only has eight catches on the season, so Cooley may be more effective in the short-passing game. Cooley has also played some fullback in recent seasons.
Fullback Darrel Young rarely gets receptions (eight on the season), but when he does he averages 13.6 yards. Griffin could throw screen passes to Young a couple of times.
The Shanahans could mix up formations, getting more time for Royster and Cooley, and enabling Griffin to throw more safe, short passes, while mixing in a few bombs. All of these changes could catch the Seahawks’ fourth-ranked defense off guard, and short passes could open up the deep passing game.
Seattle has one of the best and biggest cornerback tandems in the league, Richard Sherman (6-3, 195 pounds), and Brandon Browner (6-4, 221), who will be returning Sunday from a four-game drug suspension.
Seattle’s third cornerback is a rookie, Jeremy Lane, so the Redskins could throw short passes in the slot to Santana Moss while Garçon and Morgan keep Sherman and Browner occupied.
The Redskins are on a seven-game winning streak, but only two of those wins came against teams that finished the season with winning records. Seattle is also hot, having won five games in a row. The Seahawks had a streak at the end of the season in which they scored 58, 50, and 42 points before scoring just 20 in the season finale.
Seattle knocked Washington out of the playoffs after both the 2005 and 2007 seasons. Seattle may have an edge in talent, but the Seahawks are 3-5 on the road this season. For the Redskins to advance past the Seahawks, RGIII will have to be sharper than he was against Dallas, and the short passing game may help Washington accomplish that.