As Robert Griffin III planted his right foot in pursuit of an errant snap late in the fourth quarter Sunday, what little remained of the Tifway Bermuda grass exploded around him.
By then, FedEx Field’s playing surface looked like the aftermath of a monster truck rally. A gash of brown dirt dotted by the token shred of grass stretched from end zone to end zone. The logo at midfield was too blurred to recognize. Hunks of turf went missing in the sections fortunate to retain any green.
Griffin’s right foot slid. A shower of dirt and clumps of turf kicked up. The quarterback’s knee wrenched in a grotesque, unnatural way that even the bulky black brace he wore couldn’t stop. A small cloud of dust followed his right foot as he tumbled to the ground.
The quarterback didn’t return to the game, leaving questions about the health of his re-injured knee — no diagnosis was immediately forthcoming — and the FedEx Field playing surface that has long been an object of derision.
“That’s just part of our home-field advantage,” Griffin said after the Washington Redskins’ 24-14 wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Did that ‘home-field advantage’ cost the Redskins the rookie quarterback they’ve constructed their franchise around? No one in the locker room pointed fingers at the surface. Not quite. But Redskins players made clear this is an issue they’ve faced for an extended period of time and one that continued during their first postseason game since 2008.
“It’s actually better today,” receiver Pierre Garcon said with a knowing grin. “Some days it’ll be wet or slick. Today it was just all dirt. It was actually not as bad as previous times.”
But the wince-inducing frame-by-frame of Griffin’s injury tells a different story. Turf flies everywhere. His ankle moves like it’s on an ice rink. Then the knee buckles, he crashes to the dirt and the stadium falls silent.
Even after backup quarterback Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin, dirt spiraled off the football on one of his throws.
This was normal, and that might have been the scariest part.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been dealing with for the last eight weeks at home,” fullback Darrel Young said.
“Nothing different than what it has been,” running back Alfred Morris said.
Added guard Kory Lichtensteiger: “I wouldn’t go and throw anybody under the bus like that. It could be better, I guess. But both teams are playing on the same thing.”
The field quickly unraveled from the green surface that greeted the national television audience. Players slipped and slid. Griffin’s jersey was covered with chalk and dirt and green paint that used to cover the field after his second drive of the day.
There wasn’t rain or snow to blame. And there weren’t other games here earlier in the week, as is often the case at the high-traffic stadium.