For a moment, forget everything you know about Robert Griffin III’s knee. Forget that you have questions for Coach Mike Shanahan, who made the decision to keep Griffin and that ailing knee in the game. Think back to the first quarter, when everything in the Washington Redskins’ world seemed blissful, and the season seemed sure to be extended.
“We could’ve got anything we needed all night,” wide receiver Pierre Garcon said, and at the time, it seemed a reasonable assessment.
But the numbers are stark and stunning. The Redskins had the ball twice in the first quarter. They scored touchdowns on both possessions. They were equal parts power (running back Alfred Morris thundered for 49 yards on eight carries) and precision (Griffin hit six of his first nine passes and threw two touchdowns). They led 14-0, and FedEx Field rocked.
“We’re feeling good,” center Will Montgomery said.
“We just kind of stalled out there,” Montgomery said.
This wasn’t a sputter to a stop. This was a complete offensive shutdown. Griffin’s health is, of course, undeniably tied to the Redskins’ collapse in Sunday’s 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC playoff game. But put that aside for a minute, and the difference between those first two drives and the eight they had the rest of the game is still remarkable.
First two drives: 134 yards. Last eight drives: 68 yards.
“We knew we would eventually figure it out,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
On the Redskins’ first two drives, they gained nine first downs. On their next eight, they managed six — and never more than two in one possession. Those first two drives chewed up 5 minutes 3 seconds and 5:58, respectively — the first ending in Griffin’s four-yard touchdown pass to running back Evan Royster, the second in Griffin’s four-yard scoring pass to tight end Logan Paulsen.
Blink, and it’s 14-0.
“We came out and set the tone,” Morris said. “But it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
The Redskins’ long slog to a finish began with their first possession of the second quarter, when it became apparent their operation wasn’t as fluid. Griffin, by that point, was hobbled, having injured himself late in the second drive. That meant Morris, too, was suddenly less of a threat, because their success is so dependent on each other. And so the glorious results of the first two possessions were replaced with misery: punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, fumble, turnover on downs and turnover on downs.
“Those guys were not as great as [the media] made them out to be,” Garcon said of the Seattle defense. “We passed the ball; we ran the ball. Just guys got banged up, and we couldn’t finish our offense, or couldn’t finish what we needed to do. . . . We played great. Things happened. Guys got banged up.”
That’s one way to look at it — and indeed, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger re-injured his sprained ankle in the first quarter. But those chew-up-the-clock-like-an-appetizer possessions that opened the game became foreign. Only once in the remaining 45 minutes did the Redskins hold the ball for longer than 2:25.
“We just struggled to get it going in the run game and that’s what we needed to do,” Royster said. “We needed to control the clock and put some points on the board.”
Morris, though, had those eight carries in the first quarter — and then just eight more the rest of the way.
“No carries, 20 carries, it really doesn’t matter,” Morris said. “I’m always prepared for whatever the coaches plan.”
The final three quarters of offensive football weren’t part of any Washington plan. And those three quarters will color the Redskins’ offseason, which begins immediately.
More on the Redskins:
Summary: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14
Boswell: Seeing the NFL at its best, worst
Takeaway: No reason to hang their heads
Photos: Griffin’s injury
Photos: Scenes from the stadium