It's easy to get burned by the run from rookie quarterbacks
Magicians call it a "burn." They distract the audience into staring at their hands by making dramatic movements and quick manipulations; elsewhere, the illusion is taking place in much more routine yet out-of-sight fashion. It's a distraction, a way to get the eyes averted from what's really going on.
Two rookie quarterbacks who have excited and electrified the NFL for the past four months will take the field against each other Sunday in an NFC wild-card playoff game at FedEx Field. Their dynamic play has made Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III household names and highlight-reel mainstays.
But they're the burn.
If you can take your eyes off them -- as difficult as it may be -- the trick that got the No. 4 Redskins (10-6) and No. 5 Seahawks (11-5) into the playoffs this season has nothing to do with innovations and evolutions of the quarterback position. It's actually a more traditional identity. It's these teams' ability to run.
In an era of 5,000-yard passers and franchise quarterbacks, the Seahawks and Redskins are two of the three most run-prone teams in the NFL. No one has rushed more times this season than the Seahawks (536) and only one other team has done so more than the Redskins (519). The one team that is sandwiched between them in carries: the Patriots with 523 and a bye this week.
The game also features the second- and third-leading rushers in the NFL in Alfred Morris and Marshawn Lynch, who have 1,613 and 1,590 yards, respectively.
"A lot of teams have been very successful the last five, six years not having a great running game, but usually good enough," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "It's always been my philosophy to have a balanced offense. When bad weather occurs, you're able to have a little more balance."
That's not to say the quarterbacks aren't part of the running mentality. Griffin ran for 815 yards, more than any other quarterback this season. Wilson had 489. Both can use that skill to embarrass defenders with knee-buckling moves and buy time for plays to develop.
The Redskins run more dedicated runs for their quarterback in the read-option offense. But both players can tuck it and sprint for the end zone.
And if a defense is too busy watching the burn, they're likely to get toasted.