LANDOVER, Md. — Either way, a rookie quarterback was going to make it to the second round of the playoffs. The losing team would go home disappointed, but with the knowledge that its rookie did more than enough to prove that bright days are ahead.
If it only it were that tidy.
The first part still holds. Russell Wilson is indeed the last rookie QB standing in the NFL's postseason, having led the Seattle Seahawks to a 24-14 win Sunday over the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins, however, won't be completely at ease until they've learned the full extent of Robert Griffin III's latest knee injury. He kept playing hurt until he finally went down for good in the fourth quarter, and his teammates can only hope it's something that can heal completely in the offseason and not prevent RG3 from being his old self next fall.
"You know he is such a huge player in our offense," Washington Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. "And for him not to be 100 percent healthy kind of hurt us."
Griffin was scheduled for an MRI, while Wilson and his teammates will be back on the East Coast next Sunday for a game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks have a five-game winning streak and their first road playoff win since December 1983, while the Redskins ended a seven-game winning run that gave them their first division title since 1999.
"I'm done referring to Russell as a rookie," Seattle receiver Golden Tate said. "He's not playing like a rookie, doesn't act like a rookie. We're 17 games in, he's not a rookie no more."
The Redskins feel the same about Griffin, to the point that coach Mike Shanahan gave the quarterback plenty of leeway to keep playing even when it was clear all was not well. Griffin had already been hindered in two games since spraining the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee about a month ago, and he looked especially gimpy after falling awkwardly while throwing an incomplete pass in the first quarter Sunday.
"He said, 'Hey, trust me. I want to be in there, and I deserve to be in there,'" Shanahan said. "I couldn't disagree with him."
Shanahan said he'll probably second-guess himself over his decision. It was certainly open to question after Griffin's knee buckled while he was trying to field a bad shotgun snap in the fourth quarter. Griffin was in such pain he didn't even try to recover the loose ball. It was his last snap of the season.
"I think I did put myself at more risk," Griffin said. "But every time you get on the field, you're putting yourself on the line."
Even if Shanahan had tried to pull Griffin before that, the quarterback says he would have rebelled.
"I probably would have been right back out there on the field," Griffin said. "You respect authority, and I respect coach Shanahan. But at the same time, you have to step up and be a man, sometimes. There was no way I was coming out of that game."
The injury essentially clinched the outcome. The Seahawks had just taken a 21-14 lead on a 27-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch and a 2-point conversion with 7:08 remaining. It was Griffin's turn to try to drive for a tie. Instead, the fumble gave the ball right back to Seattle and set up an easy insurance field goal.
Lynch finished with 132 yards on 20 carries, and Wilson completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards and ran eight times for 67 yards. The defense recovered after digging a 14-0 first-quarter hole — Seattle's biggest deficit of the season — and held the Redskins scoreless the rest of the way.
"It was only two touchdowns, but it's still a big comeback and, in this setting and the crowd, it's a marvelous statement about the guys' resolve," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
The day began with three rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs, but Andrew Luck was eliminated when Indianapolis lost to Baltimore.
A significant concern for the Seahawks is defensive Chris Clemons, their best pass rusher, who hurt his left knee in the third quarter and did not return. He also was scheduled for an MRI.
"We're concerned about it," Carroll said.
The Seahawks started their rally with three consecutive scoring drives to pull within a point, 14-13, at halftime. Steven Hauschka, who injured his left calf during the first half and had to relinquish kickoff duties, nevertheless sandwiched field goals of 32 and 29 yards around a 4-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Michael Robinson.
The Seahawks controlled the second half, but one drive came up empty when Lynch fumbled at Washington's 1-yard line and another ended in a punt deep in Redskins territory rather than a long field goal attempt by an injured kicker.
Lynch finally produced the go-ahead score, however, and the Seahawks will carry on with their third-round rookie QB.
"Despite the fact that we have a 'nobody' team," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said, "a team not full of first-rounders and things like that, we have a lot of guys that play at a high level."
NOTES: Washington had 129 yards in the first quarter and 74 for the rest of the game. Griffin was 6 for 9 for 68 yards and two touchdowns after 15 minutes; he was 4 for 10 for 16 yards with one interception the rest of the way. "It was hard to watch RG3 tonight," Carroll said. "It was hard on him. He was freaking gallant." ... Redskins LG Kory Lichtensteiger re-injured his sprained left ankle in the first quarter. ... Redskins LT Trent Williams shoved Sherman in the face as the teams met on the field after the final whistle. "It was a dirty move by Trent Williams," Sherman said. Williams took responsibility and said he acted in an "immature manner." Later, Sherman tweeted that he received "a very classy text" message from Williams and there's "no ill will either way."