Among the more fascinating factoids to come out of the Seahawks’ 24-14 victory over the Washington Redskins Sunday is this one: Russell Wilson is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game after his team trailed by as many as 14 points. The largest previous comeback win engineered by a rookie quarterback occurred Jan. 15, 2000, when Shaun King of Tampa Bay rallied the Buccaneers from a 13-0 deficit to a 14-13 victory over — unbelievably — the Washington Redskins.
“As much momentum as they had, it is a marvelous statement,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We were getting our butt kicked, there was no doubt about that.”
The butt-kicking might have continued if Robert Griffin III hadn’t aggravated a knee injury in the first quarter. But he did, turning him into an ordinary quarterback, which removed a tremendous amount of pressure from Seattle’s defense. Once the Seahawks recognized that Griffin couldn’t beat them with his legs, they could focus on coverage.
That accounted for a huge flip-flop in the statistics. The Redskins held a 129-9 lead in yardage through one quarter. But Griffin completed only 5 of 11 passes for 20 yards after aggravating the injury, enabling Seattle to outgain the Redskins by a 371-84 margin over the final three quarters.
Marshawn Lynch, who nearly became the first player since John Elway in the 1990 AFC title game to lose a fumble on a rushing play at the opponents’ one-yard line, had 53 of those yards in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning, 27-yard, freight train of a TD run with 7:08 remaining.
The three main negatives from Seattle’s first road playoff win since Dec. 31, 1983; the knee injury suffered by DE Chris Clemons, which will require an MRI Monday, the five sacks the Redskins planted on Wilson, and the fact that Seattle’s wide receivers never gained separation, the main reason TE Zach Miller led the club with four catches for 48 yards.
The Seahawks fear that Clemons has torn his ACL. If that’s the case, it would be a significant blow to a defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL by allowing just 15.3 points per game. Clemons had 11.5 sacks during the regular season, tied for ninth-most in the league.
Wilson has been sacked 11 times in the last two games. During Seattle’s four-game winning from Dec. 2-23, Wilson was sacked six times.
The Seahawks, the NFC’s No. 5 seed, travel to Atlanta Sunday to face the Falcons, the No. 1 seed. Since playoff seeding began following the 1990 season, just one No. 5 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed, in the 2007 divisional playoffs when Eli Manning led the New York Giants to a 21-17 upset of No. 1-seeded Dallas.
Those Giants weren’t through. They defeated No. 2-seeded Green Bay 23-20 (OT) in the NFC Championship game and the AFC’s No. 1-seed, New England, 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.
Trying to duplicate New York’s formidable feat somehow seems much more manageable with a history maker such as Wilson unleashed.