RENTON — It’s safe to say that Seattle Seahawks defensive end Alan Branch isn’t too concerned about the improving health of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Washington’s rookie quarterback has been the Redskins’ offensive catalyst this season, but he has been slowed by a sprained right knee suffered against Baltimore on Dec. 9 that caused Griffin to miss the following game at Cleveland.
“I don’t feel like it affects the game plan at all,” Branch said. “If he’s slowed down at all, he’ll still outrun my big butt. So it doesn’t matter to me. We’ve just got to get him on the ground. That’s our job.”
The Seahawks have done a good job of getting explosive running quarterbacks on the ground so far this season.
At Carolina on Oct. 7, Seattle held Cam Newton to 141 passing yards and a 56.8 passer rating. Newton ran seven times for 42 yards in Seattle’s 16-12 victory.
And at home against San Francisco, the Seahawks kept speedy 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in check. The University of Nevada product finished with 244 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception, posting a 72.0 passer rating. He also ran seven times for 31 yards in Seattle’s convincing 42-13 victory on Dec. 23 at CenturyLink Field.
“It helps a lot,” Seattle outside linebacker Leroy Hill said about having already faced Newton and Kaepernick, quarterbacks who have similarities to Griffin. “We sort of have a basis and a game plan that we can go back to and see exactly what they did. The read option is the read option, you know what I’m saying? The Pistol is a little different, but San Francisco did it a little bit three weeks ago with Kaepernick. So we have a basis to go off of, with just a couple modifications.
“But it’s going to be a tough test. (The read option) always pokes at the discipline of the defense. I think that’s the biggest thing. This is another game where we have to be disciplined, tackle well and be assignment correct.”
Added Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright: “They do the same stuff. They’re all very fast, have strong arms and run that option stuff. So we’re going to come out with the same plan that we did, and we should be able to handle that real well.”
However, Griffin is playing at a much higher level than Newton and Kaepernick. He has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. His 102.4 passer rating is No. 3 in the league among starting quarterbacks.
Also, he has rushed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns, tops in the league for quarterbacks.
Griffin said he has a lot of respect for the way Seattle’s defense is playing.
“The defense is tough and physical,” he said. “They play fast. They play with a lot of energy. And they play with a chip on their shoulder, so they are something we’ve got to be ready for.
“They have a really good secondary, a really good defensive line, and good linebackers. That’s how it is when you get to the playoffs in the NFL. Every team you’re going to face is going to be loaded in one area or all three.”
Washington, on a seven-game winning streak, is riding a wave of momentum into Sunday’s game. After slumping to 3-6, Griffin said his team started playing with more urgency because players realized their chance for a postseason berth was slipping out of reach.
“We knew sitting at 3-6, we couldn’t afford to lose any more games, so everyone’s mindset changed and every game was a playoff game for us,” Griffin said. “This will be our eighth straight playoff game, and we’re looking forward to going out and approaching it the same way that we have these other games – that we have nothing to lose. We’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder, and we just have to go out there and win.”
Hill said the Seahawks will have to play with a similar urgency if they want to contain Griffin and the rest of Washington’s offensive playmakers on Sunday.
“We know they’re a good offense and we have to be prepared,” Hill said. “But at this point of the season, everybody’s good. There’s only 12 teams left. Every week, if we advance, it’s going to get tougher. So we’re up for it. We know we’re in the playoffs, and we’ve got to come and play.”