Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField:
For the second week in a row, the Redskins played the final NFL game on the schedule, and provided some of the best action seen all weekend. It was the first NFL playoff game played in the Nation's Capital in 13 years and featured two of the hottest teams in the second half of the season.
The Redskins won the opening coin toss and got the scoring started with consecutive touchdown drives to open the action. The Seahawks responded early in the second quarter, setting up a battle worthy of the playoffs.
On the second Redskins' drive of the day, Robert Griffin III tweaked his knee, setting up a difficult day for No. 10 and the Redskins' offensive attack. The play happened on first-and-goal from the Seahawks 4-yard line, as Griffin III threw for Pierre Garcon in the corner, incomplete. After unleashing the pass, he stumbled backward and came up limping. It was not until the fourth quarter that Griffin III was too injured to keep playing, but the damage began on the second drive.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Redskins' play of the game occurred midway through the third quarter, as Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was denied on three tries at the end zone, all within the 5-yard line. Lynch is one of the most physical running backs in the NFL, and could not penetrate the gang tackles that met him at the 1-yard line. On a pivotal third-down play, Redskins' nose tackle Barry Cofield burst through the middle of the line and put his helmet on the football, popping it out into the Seahawks backfield. Lineback London Fletcher was there to wrap up Lynch away from the football and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins recovered the loose football, putting the offense back on the field.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Capping off a tremendous rookie season, Redskins running back Alfred Morris did not disappoint tonight, rushing 18 times for 80 yards, including an 18-yard burst on the opening drive. The score did not dictate many second-half opportunities for the running game, but Morris did his part, averaging five yards per carry on the day. He is an exciting part of this offense, and plays a role that should grow in the future.
Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield has been an overlooked force in the middle of the Redskins' defense, key to the top-five defense against the rush, and proving more than capable of applying pressure to the pocket. He had a clutch play near the goal line in the third quarter, bursting through the line to cause a Marshawn Lynch fumble. This play turned the tide back in the Redskins' direction, as Cofield provided yet another big stop in the middle of the defensive line.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins won the opening coin toss and showed that they meant business in the early-going. Marching 80 yards on nine plays, the Redskins faced only one third-down, and converted with a four-yard touchdown pass to running back Evan Royster. It was a special moment for the Redskins, who have played 196 regular and postseason games since their last playoff contest at home.
--Among others, the Redskins used strong safety Reed Doughty as a quarterback spy for Russell Wilson the whole game. With the exception of one long run up the middle, Doughty was able to keep Wilson contained, and finished the night with two sacks. Doughty has never had a multi-sack game in his career, and last had two sacks in a season in 2009. His career sack numbers went from 3.5 to 5.5 this afternoon.
--The Redskins' offense was clicking early, as the unit began the day four-for-four on third downs before finally punting midway through the second quarter. Prior to that, the Redskins tallied 137 yards on offense and two touchdowns for the 14-3 lead. The Redskins were also running a balanced attack, with 69 of those yards coming on the ground and 68 through the air.
--Running back Alfred Morris's success rushing outside of the tackles is thanks, in no small part, to his receivers sealing the edge and opening up lanes down the field. The Redskins added two gritty receivers this offseason in Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan, and the two have instilled a sense of pride for their fellow receivers to block downfield. There are no stats for downfield blocks, but when the Redskins are moving the ball, it creates more opportunities for everyone.
--Right guard Chris Chester doesn't get mentioned very often, but deserves credit as a stabilizing force on the Redskins' offensive line. Since coming over from Baltimore before last season, Chester has never missed a start, playing in his 33rd game as a Redskins on Sunday. Not only has he protected the Redskins' quarterbacks and opened up holes in the running game, but his heads-up fumble recovery in the second quarter may have averted an early momentum swing.
--The Redskins' pass rush has been outstanding against rookie quarterbacks all season, registering nine sacks in three contests against rookie starters. That deluge continued tonight, as the Redskins tallied four sacks against Russell Wilson, and limited him to 63 yards on the ground.
--The Redskins defense intercepted three passes on the day, two in the first half, quickly securing the team's seventh multi-interception game of the season. This is the most by the Redskins since 1999, the last time the Redskins hosted a home playoff game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--After silencing the Seahawks in the first quarter (nine yards), Seattle let loose in the second frame, tallying 172 yards and 13-unanswered points. The Redskins' pass rush relented after two first quarter sacks, and Russell Wilson had time to find open receivers all over the field. Especially after Robert Griffin III was hobbled by injury, the defense was unable to keep the Redskins afloat.
--The Redskins' defense has done well against the run this season, averaging just 95.8 yards per game, good for fifth in the NFL. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch is very talented and won the battle tonight, rushing for 132 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.
--The injury bug is an inescapable part of football, but the Redskins were bitten several times tonight, losing top receiver Pierre Garçon on two separate occasions, the second for an extended period of time. The bigger loss was midway through the fourth quarter, when Robert Griffin III was knocked out of the game with another knee injury.
--For the third time this year, Redskins rookie backup quarterback Kirk Cousins entered a game in relief of Robert Griffin III, but was all out of fourth quarter magic. Cousins performed well, but the Seahawks' momentum and score were too much to overcome. The Redskins lost for the first time in more than two months, and that is how their season ends.
With the opening drive touchdown pass to running back Evan Royster, the Redskins caught their first receiving touchdown in the playoffs at FedExField since receiver Albert Connell caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson. That scoring drive was the fifth of the day for the 1999 Redskins, as they jumped out to a 27-0 lead over the visiting Detroit Lions.
The offseason, complete with Senior Bowl, NFL free agency, the 2013 NFL Draft and offseason training activities.
The disappointment triggered by tonight's loss cannot overshadow the magic of the 2012 season and the foundation laid by this squad. In just three offseasons, head coach Mike Shanahan and the front office were able to build a winner in Washington, with pieces that should be able to contribute for many years to come.
Without question, the talent on this team carried the Redskins to 10 victories. But it is the conviction of character that held this team together after beginning the season 3-6, riding a three-game losing streak into the bye week. It is the leadership in the locker room that held this team together and focused on the very real possibility of a playoff run.
Shanahan has credited the character and leadership of his squad throughout the season, and understands that these are the fundamental building blocks of a consistent contender. With a season under the belts of Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, this is a team that looks to be on the rise for years to come.