Russell Wilson raced ahead to throw the final block on Marshawn Lynch's fourth-quarter, go-ahead touchdown run, doing just enough to get in the way of the Washington Redskins safety near the goal line.
Less than a minute later, Robert Griffin III's knee buckled as he tried to field a bad shotgun snap, the pain so bad that he didn't even try to recover the ball.
The last rookie quarterback standing in the NFL playoffs is Wilson — the third-round pick who teamed with Lynch on Sunday to lead the Seattle Seahawks to a 24-14 victory over Griffin and the Redskins.
"Marshawn always tells me, 'Russ, I got your back, no matter what,'" Wilson said. "So I just try to help him out every once in a while."
And the latest debate over the wisdom of keeping an injured franchise player on the field — when he's obviously nowhere near his best — starts with coach Mike Shanahan, who let Griffin keep going until the QB could absolutely go no more.
"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."
Lynch ran for 132 yards, and Wilson completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards and ran eight times for 67 yards as Seahawks overcame a 14-0 first-quarter hole — their biggest deficit of the season — and will visit the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
Meanwhile, Griffin was headed for an MRI exam to determine the extent of the damage on his re-injured right knee. He was already playing with a big black brace, having sprained the lateral collateral ligament about a month ago against the Baltimore Ravens. He hadn't looked his usual self in the two games he had played since, and he was obviously hobbled after falling awkwardly while throwing an incomplete pass in the first quarter Sunday.
In the fourth quarter, Griffin labored on a 9-yard run that made him look 32 years old instead of 22.
"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. He has the entire offseason to do so. And, whatever the injury, Griffin at least has time to recover.
Wilson, on the other hand, will carry on. The day began with three rookie quarterbacks in the playoffs, but No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck was eliminated when Indianapolis lost to Baltimore.
Seattle is riding a six-game winning streak, having left behind any doubts that the team can hold its own outside the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks were 3-5 on the road in the regular season and had lost eight straight road playoff games, the last win coming in 1983 against the Miami Dolphins.
"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 and what is going on," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It's not about how you start but how you finish."
Seattle's defense shut down the Redskins after a rough start. 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."
The numbers were reversed for the Seahawks, who rediscovered Lynch in the second quarter and put together 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. Wilson fumbled on the TD drive, but the ball was fortuitously scooped up by Lynch, who ran for a 19-yard gain.
The Seahawks controlled the second half, but then it was Lynch's turn to fumble — at Washington's 1-yard line. The Redskins recovered this one, and the Seahawks had another drive get to Washington's 28 before a sack forced a punt — rather than a long field goal attempt by an injured kicker.
But the Seahawks kept coming. Wilson led the way for two big change-of-direction runs by Lynch in the game, the second one a 27-yard scoring run with 7:08 remaining.
A 2-point conversion gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead, and then came the moment that essentially put the outcome to rest.
On the second play of the Redskins' next possession, Griffin's knee bent the wrong way on a second-and-22 at the Washington 12. He lay on the ground as the Seahawks pounced on the ball.
Griffin walked off the field under his own power, but he was done for the night. By the end of the game, he was sitting alone on the white sideline bench, his brace discarded on a bench next to him.
With good field position, the Seahawks kicked a short field goal to give them the insurance they needed. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, subbing for Griffin, was unable to rally the Redskins in the final minutes.
"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."