LANDOVER, Md. – As coach Pete Carroll always says, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
That was indeed the case for the Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch on Sunday night at FedExField. The Seahawks fell behind the Washington Redskins 13-0 in the first quarter and Lynch fumbled away a chance for them to take the lead in the third quarter when he lost the ball at the 2-yard line.
But in the end, Lynch scored on a 27-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the Seahawks a 24-14 victory – and also give them their first playoff win on the road since 1983.
The rare road playoff victory sends them to Atlanta next Sunday to face the Falcons, the NFC’s top seed, in the divisional round. Before Sunday, the last time the Seahawks had won on the road in the playoffs – the only time they had won on the road in the playoffs – was at Miami against the Dolphins on Dec. 31, 1983.
As the No. 5 seed, the Seahawks are facing the Falcons because the win by the No. 3-seed Green Bay Packers over the No. 6-seed Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night sends them to San Francisco to play the No. 2-seed 49ers on Saturday.
The win over the Redskins also was the Seahawks’ fourth in the row in the Wild Card round. They beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints in 2010, the Redskins in 2007 and the Dallas Cowboys in 2006 – all in Seattle. They are 2-5 in the divisional round, including a 1-5 record on the road.
Lynch rushed for more than 100 yards, but the Seahawks finished the game without sack-leader Chris Clemons, who injured his knee in the third quarter; and had Steven Hauschka only for field goal duty after the kicker injured an ankle in the second quarter.
The Seahawks took the lead with 7:08 left in the game on Lynch’s 27-yarder to cap an eight-play, 79-yard drive. Lynch also had an 18-yarder, while Russell Wilson passed 22 yards to tight end Zach Miller on a third-and-10 play. The Seahawks went for two on the PAT and Wilson passed to Miller again for a seven-point lead.
The Seahawks then got the ball right back – at the Redskins’ 5-yard line – as Robert Griffin III dropped the center's snap and Seahawks defensive tackle Clinton McDonald recovered. Hauschka kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 24-14 with 5:32 to play.
The first half was a tale of two quarters, as the Redskins won the first 14-0 and the Seahawks the second 13-0.
The Redskins took the opening kickoff and drove quickly – and impressively – to Robert Griffin III’s 4-yard TD pass to Evan Royster on a third-and-goal play that capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive. RGIII was 3 of 4 for 43 yards, while Alfred Morris carried four times for 34 yards. After the Seahawks’ first possession ended on a third-down sack, the Redskins drove 54 yards in 11 plays to another 4-yard TD pass – this one from RGIII to tight end Logan Paulsen. RGIII was 3 of 5 for 25 yards and also ran twice for 9 yards.
Despite limping on a couple of occasions because of his injured right knee, the Redskins’ rookie QB not only got the best of Wilson, he did it by playing keep away. And completing passes. And throwing two TD passes. And running the ball.
After going down 14-0 in the first quarter, the Seahawks outscored the Redskins 13-0 in the second quarter. They got on the board with Steven Hauschka’s 32-yard field goal that capped a 12-play, 66-yard drive that started in the first quarter. Russell Wilson hit his first three passes for 48 yards and ran once for 19 yards, but his third-down pass to Sidney Rice hit the crossbar to force the Seahawks to settle for a field goal.
The Seahawks’ defense then forced a three-and-out, and Wilson led an eight-play, 73-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard TD pass to Michael Robinson – who also had a 19-yard reception. Marshawn Lynch ran 20 yards with a Wilson fumble on the drive.
On the Redskins’ second play of the next series, Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas intercepted Robert Griffin III’s pass that was intended for Pierre Garcon, giving the Seahawks the ball at the Seattle 26. The Seahawks then drove 63 yards in 10 plays to a 29-yarder by Hauschka, who had left the game with a sprained ankle but returned to get the Seahawks within one as time expired. Wilson and Doug Baldwin hooked up twice on the drive for 39 yards.
The third quarter was scoreless, because the Seahawks took the kickoff to open the second half and drove to the Redskins’ 1-yard line, only to have Redskins linebacker London Fletcher force Marshawn Lynch to fumble and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins recovered. Lynch had carried for 26 yards on the first play of the half and for 15 to the Redskins’ 2.
But the defense held, forcing the Redskins to punt after they had gained 23 yards on eight plays, as Richard Sherman tipped a third-down pass incomplete.