They’ve been the focal point of heated debates over who should win this season’s offensive rookie of the year award.
Now the two dynamic quarterbacks will face off in the opening round of the NFC playoffs, with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks traveling to the nation’s capital to face Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins at 1:30 p.m. (PST) Sunday in the NFC Wild-Card playoff game.
The Redskins punched their postseason ticket as the No. 4 seed by winning the NFC East division for the first time since 1999, defeating the Dallas Cowboys at home, 28-18, in a nationally televised game Sunday night.
The Seahawks clinched a postseason berth and the No. 5 seed last week.
But after winning their previous three games by a combined score of 150 to 30, the Seahawks, in their season finale, got back to their early season form of hotly contested games against NFC West rival St. Louis.
And although they look disjointed at times offensively, with the Rams sacking Wilson a season-high six times, Seattle prevailed 20-13 at CenturyLink Field.
The win assured the Seahawks of an undefeated season at home for the first time since the franchise’s 2005 Super Bowl season.
“We didn’t want to end the season on a bad note,” said Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson. “We wanted to go into the playoffs on a winning note, stay undefeated at home and send a message to the rest of the league to know that we’re a team to be dealt with.”
The Seahawks head into the NFC playoffs riding a five-game winning streak. Seattle finished 11-5, the third-best record in franchise history (13-3 in 2005 and 12-4 in 1984), and Pete Carroll’s best record in his seven-year NFL coaching career.
“That’s a big season when you’re coaching in the NFL and playing in the NFL,” Carroll said. “John (Seahawks general manager Schneider) has done so many things to position us to get this done. To do it with him, I’m proud.”
The Seahawks are 8-11 all-time in the playoffs. The team’s last postseason appearance was in 2010, when the Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record.
The Seahawks won the NFC West at 7-9, defeated New Orleans 41-36 in the NFC Wild-Card game and lost on the road at Chicago, 35-24, in the NFC divisional round.
Wilson completed a sparkling second-half of the season by completing 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Robinson to tie Peyton Manning for the rookie touchdown record. Wilson finished with 26 passing touchdowns, the same number Manning totaled in his rookie season of 1998.
Wilson actually had a shot at breaking the record, but scrambled in from a yard out for the winning score with 1:39 remaining.
“I was about to throw it to Zach (Miller) to break the record,” Wilson said. “But I realized that’s not me. I wasn’t worried about that. The only thing was to win the game.”
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 100 yards on 18 carries, becoming the third player in team history to rush for 1,500 yards in a season. Lynch (1,590) joins Chris Warren (1,545 in 1994) and Shaun Alexander (1,696 in 2004 and 1,880 in 2005).
The Seahawks took the lead for good on an 10-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:39 to play.
Seattle receiver Golden Tate kept the drive alive by recovering a Lynch fumble at the St. Louis 22. Two plays later, Wilson found Tate for a 44-yard pass play down the right sideline, putting the Seahawks in scoring position at the Rams’ 29.
Tate finished with three receptions for 105 yards.
Wilson scored four plays later.
Richard Sherman picked off his team-leading eight interception on a fourth-and-10 play from Seattle’s 29 with 40 seconds remaining to seal the triumph.
“We’re just in position where we set out to be at the beginning of the season,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “It’s a new season now, and we’re just going to take it one game at a time and see what happens.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams