Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan finally had no choice Sunday but to remove his battered starting quarterback when Robert Griffin III lay prone on the FedExField turf with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter of a 24-14 wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Griffin had just chased after a low snap from center Will Montgomery on second-and-22 from the Washington 12-yard line. Griffin's right knee, which he sprained Dec. 9 against the Baltimore Ravens and aggravated during a first-quarter scramble Sunday, buckled grotesquely.
The rookie crumpled to the grass and lay there writhing in pain. The Redskins' Super Bowl XLVII hopes went with him when he got up after a few scary minutes. He had to be helped off the field by the team's medical staff.
"We knew he had to be really hurt, because he normally pops back up. But his knee had to be really hurting, because he was grabbing his teammates' legs," Seahawks rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "I wasn't surprised he stayed out there that long in a big-time game like this. Big-time players like him want to keep playing."
Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense made it a point of emphasis to stop rookie running back Alfred Morris and pound Griffin into submission.
The plan didn't work early, as Griffin threw for a pair of 4-yard first-quarter touchdowns to put Washington up 14-0. But after Griffin's knee buckled when he threw an incompletion during a scramble two plays before his second scoring pass, the feeding frenzy was on.
"He hasn't been 100% for a few weeks," Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner said. "We wanted to attack him as much as possible."
Fellow cornerback Richard Sherman said Griffin earned his ultimate respect as he tried to lead his team to victory on pure guts.
"Hats off to a guy who shows that kind of heart, that kind of dedication to his team, that kind of will to win," Sherman said. "That goes down in playoff legend.
"That guy limping out there might have sparked his team to show more resilience. I think that's what Shanahan was thinking."
Sherman had a postgame exchange with Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, who shoved and threw a jab at Sherman afterward. But he made a point of telling Griffin how proud he was of the 22-year-old dynamic star.
"He's handled every interview, everything he's done with maturity and class," Sherman said.
But then Sherman lobbied for his own quarterback, Russell Wilson, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards with a 4-yard touchdown to Michael Robinson.
"RGIII is great, too. But our guy has showed up and come through whenever we needed him."
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said Shanahan erred by not removing Griffin.
"The kid was putting himself at risk to further injury; that's what I didn't like about it," Moon said.
"I don't know how much pain Robert was dealing with. But it was just so obvious that he couldn't perform at the type of level he needed to in this game. That's why you have a backup quarterback."
(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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