At last, the hour approaches.
In just two days, the red-hot Seahawks will take the field against the surging Washington Redskins in the final game of Wild Card Weekend 2013.
There's a lot to be excited about for fans of both teams here. Both have running backs who finished in the top three in rushing yards (Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris). Both have similar records (11-5, 10-6). Both have top-ten run defenses (5th, 10th).
But of course, the most glaring comparison between these two teams are their rookie quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Neither of them have looked much like rookies this season, and their success has had a large role in why each team has reached this point.
Wilson and RGIII have both made heavy use of the read option. The Seahawks and Redskins are two of five teams to run 30+ option plays on the year. Interestingly, though, the Seahawks only ran option rushes five times through Week 1-12, but turned it up to 50 option rushes from Week 13 forward.
For those keeping track at home, Week 13 was when the Seahawks caught fire and haven't looked back since.
It was the game in Chicago, when the Seahawks beat the Bears in overtime on their own field for the third straight season. That was undeniably the turning point for this team.
Since then, the read option has been used on 30 percent of the Seahawks' offensive plays, helping the team average a whopping 211.8 rushing yards and 38.6 points per game in its five-game winning streak that closed out the season. Coincidence? Not one bit.
The Redskins, meanwhile, have also used a heavy dose of the option during the season, though in a slightly modified version of it. Whereas the Seahawks have leaned heavily on the option in the second half of the season, the 'Skins have run option plays 128 times in 2012. In those plays, we've seen that RGIII is a mobile, dangerous quarterback who can hurt defenses with his legs just as effectively as he can with his arm. He finished the regular season with 815 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
But, this should sound familiar to Seahawk fans.
Russell Wilson is every bit as dangerous -- if not even more so -- than RGIII. And though the two are incredibly similar in their mobility, mechanics and execution, they have very different defenses playing on the other side of the ball.
The Redskins rank 30th in pass defense coming into the playoffs, and besides being an utter jackass in almost every conceivable way, CB DeAngelo Hall ranked out as the worst starting DB in the league, according to ProFootballFocus. Starting CB Brandon Meriweather is also on injured reserve, leaving former Seahawk Josh Wilson starting opposite Hall. Wilson is no slouch, but was released by the Seahawks in favor of guys who aren't 5-foot-9. If you want to see how bad the Redskins' defense has been at times, just take a look at this first-half summary of a December game against the 4-12 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, graded out as the fifth-best defense in the league, ranking sixth against the pass and third against the run. Richard Sherman has been Beast Mode on defense, totaling eight interceptions and knocking away an improbable 24 passes altogether. Brandon Browner comes back from his four-game suspension this week, and standing at 6'4", we all know how much his mere presence will do to the psyche of any receiver.
It's been said that defense wins championships. While some teams can get away with a flawed defense by way of a lights-out offense, it's the teams that have a true balance of both that rise to the next level. I'd defy anyone to show me a better, more physical defense in the NFL right now than the one playing in Seattle, and I fully expect them to give RGIII and the Redskins four quarters of hell come Sunday.
Hey Mike--nice article. Everybody looks for things that may motivate a team to play better. One little factoid that may have some influence is that the Redskins last two trips to the playoffs ended in Seattle (I attended both of those games). That may add to the motivation the Redskins have because now the Hawks are playing on their field.
I think the difference will be the superior defense the Hawks have.
Hey Kyle. Even though the game will be played in D.C., the youngsters on the Redskins team will also be nervous. I would look for the F-ups to be evenly divided between the two teams. It will still be a hard fought, close game. Hawks by 4.
@LouisLouis Thanks Louie. Mike Robinson also went on to comment about the coin-toss scuffle that erupted last year when the Redskins came out here. He said he's "looking forward" to seeing DeAngelo Hall back on the field again. Remember what happened with that?
I'm all over the place with this game. Super confident... very nervous. I see a lot of our young guys getting the jitters, at least a few of the key ones should be OK (Wilson, Beast, Rice, Sherman, Unger, Thomas) but several of the young guys might be a little nervous. I think Wilson, with his insane prep, will be calm... I've never seen him look rattled. The vets should be fine too.
I wonder how the Skins will feel.... they just got done with a big game... maybe there's an emotional let down? Maybe they already have felt the heat and won't be nervous... I don't know. All I know is I'm very excited and can't wait to see how our boys do. Go Hawks!