What have we learned from wildcard weekend? First off, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and the Washington organization as a whole, will be facing many tough questions after Robert Griffin III injured his knee — again. The build-up to the Redskins-Seattle Seahawks game on Sunday centered around whether Griffin, who first hurt his knee in a game on Dec. 9, would be fully fit to face a ferocious Seahawks. But before the road team had even had a chance to see how healthy he really was, the Redskins had jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But RG3 never looked truly comfortable and when Seattle settled down, they managed 24 unanswered points to not only cap their biggest comeback win of the season but their largest in their playoff history, which now includes a first road win in nearly 30 years.
As for Griffin, he couldn’t manage to stay in the entire game when, during the fourth quarter, while trying to salvage a sub-par shotgun snap on Washington’s shoddy turf field, his right knee (which was fitted with a heavy brace), buckled with Seattle recovering the fumble.
Did the Redskins put RG3’s long-term health at risk by even playing him in the first place? This question is even more relevant now, after USA Today revealed that famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews did not clear Griffin to return to the Dec. 9 game, even though Shanahan said he had (Griffin eventually left that game) Further, Andrews said he was concerned about Griffin’s return to the field for the end of the regular season, and the post-season. “I’ve been a nervous wreck letting him come back as quick as he has,” Andrews told USA Today. “He’s doing better this week, but he’s still recovering and I’m holding my breath because of it.
“He passed all the tests and all the functional things we do, but it’s been a trying moment for me, to be honest with you.”
In his post-game press conference, Shanahan said that Griffin told him he could keep playing. He also said the medical staff cleared him. Griffin will get an MRI this week: if he’s seriously injured, the team’s decisions will taint an otherwise successful season.
As for the Seahawks, nobody will fancy facing them in the conference championship game if rookie quarterback Russell Wilson can win at number top-seeded Atlanta this Sunday, to make it two road wins in quick succession. Why wouldn’t Wilson and the Seahawks like their chances of going all the way to the Big Easy?
On Saturday in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers had reason to hold a grudge — lest we forget, the blown call by the replacement refs in week three in Seattle is one of the main reasons the Packers didn’t get a bye this past weekend. They took it out on the Minnesota Vikings, who secured their place in the playoffs by beating the Packers at home on the last day of the regular season. At Lambeau Field, after giving up an early field goal, the home team reeled off 24 answered points to cruise to victory.
It truly was a game of two quarterbacks. While Aaron Rodgers (23/33, 274 yards, 1 touchdown) had so many weapons at his disposal that he was able to complete passes to an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers, his opposite number, Joe Webb, only playing because of Christian Ponder’s triceps injury, became the first QB since Buffalo’s Frank Reich in 1993 to start a playoff game after not starting one during the season. He looked more than rusty, with his his line of 11/33, 180 yards, 1 TD and an interception.
The San Francisco 49ers, who host Green Bay next week in the divisional round, should be concerned about Green Bay’s defense. The Packers are healthier now, and held Adrian Peterson to just 99 yards, which was only the second time in the last 11 games that he hasn’t managed to run for more than 100 yards.
Over in the AFC, Houston took care of Cincinnati, 19-13, in a fairly pedestrian game: the Texans will surely need more offensive firepower at New England next week. The third ridiculously talented quarterback playing this weekend, Andrew Luck of the Colts, was desperate for his team to travel to Denver to reintroduce his teammates to a certain Peyton Manning, who served them with such distinction over the years. That matchup would be delicious. But first he had to win a road game at the consistently inconsistent Baltimore Ravens.
It wasn’t to be as his opposite number, Joe Flacco, maintained his remarkable record of winning at least one playoff game in the five seasons he’s played in the NFL. Luck didn’t have a particularly bad game, but Flacco had a better one, especially when Anquan Bolden set a franchise record of 145 receiving yards (and they all came in the second half).
Baltimore’s 24-9 win means that iconic Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis gets to delay his retirement for a minimum of one more week. He even lined up at fullback for the last kneel-down in what will be his last home game of a wonderful 17-year career. But we were also reminded that some things are bigger than sports as losing coach Chuck Pagano was able to do his job in person after missing 12 weeks of the season while undergoing treatment for leukemia. May he enjoy the rest of the post-season in comfort and continued good health.