LANDOVER, Md. - The amazing thing was that more than 84,000 fans jammed into a stadium shaped like a cereal bowl were collectively silent.
It had been nearly a minute since Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III dropped to the turf at FedEx Field after his previously injured right knee twisted awkwardly and buckled in the fourth quarter of the Redskins' 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card game Sunday.
With his team trailing, 21-14, Griffin reached down in an attempt to pick up a low shotgun snap. No one was around him when the knee, already being supported by a heavy brace, crumbled.
A few fans broke the silence by chanting "RGIII." Then the replay was shown on the giant screen in the end zone, and after a sickening groan, the stadium again went silent.
The good news was that Griffin limped off the field and into the locker room without assistance. The scarier thought is that it might not mean much because an MRI could reveal a serious issue.
Of even more concern is that the injury is in the same knee in which Griffin suffered a Grade 1 sprain to the lateral collateral ligament. That injury, incurred on Dec. 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, forced Griffin to miss a start before he returned to action 2 weeks ago against the Eagles.
"Honestly, it's up in the air for me right now," Griffin said after the game. "I know coming off the field I thought it was just the same thing . We'll see what it is. No matter what it is, our season is over and I've just got to work to make sure I get back healthy no matter what the injury is."
Griffin's take was simpler than things actually are. If he does have a major injury, especially if it is a reinjury to the ACL, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is going to spend a lot of time explaining why he put the Pro Bowl rookie quarterback back in the game after he tweaked the knee in the first quarter. After a drive on which Washington took a 14-0 lead, Griffin came up limping and was checked by the medical staff.
Shanahan conceded after the game that, "I think everyone could see after the first quarter that [Griffin] was not the same."
Shanahan said he talked to Griffin after the first-quarter incident and the quarterback told him he could and wanted to keep playing.
"We always check to see how serious it is," Shanahan said. "I talked to Robert and he said, 'Coach, there is a difference between being injured and being hurt.' He said, 'I'm hurt right now but give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee you I'm not injured.'
"That was enough for me. I thought he did enough this year to have that opportunity to stay in the football game. He said, 'Trust me, I want to be in there, I deserve to be in there.' I couldn't disagree with him."
Shanahan said there were several times during the next 2 1/2 quarters when he thought about pulling Griffin because the quarterback did not look right moving around.
Before being replaced by fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, Griffin was 10-for-19 for just 84 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He ran 5 times for 21 yards.
Meanwhile, Seattle rookie counterpart Russell Wilson was 15-for-26 for 187 yards and one TD, with a 92.9 passer rating. Marshawn Lynch ran 20 times for 132 yards and a bruising touchdown, and the Seahawks' defense completely shut down the Redskins after the first quarter.
"It's a tough decision and you have to go with your gut," Shanahan said. "I'm not saying my gut is always right, but I've been there before. I will probably second-guess myself when you take a look at it different. In the second half, should I have taken him out earlier? I think you always do that, especially after you don't win."
That might not fly so well at NFL headquarters, which has been under siege about the league's perceived lack of concern about player injury.
A recent story in USA Today quoted Dr. James Andrews as saying he never cleared Griffin to go back into the game in Baltimore on Dec. 9.
Andrews' recent statement was in contradiction to what Shanahan had said immediately after that game when he was asked why he put Griffin back in the game.
Shanahan said Andrews was one of the doctors who evaluated Griffin on Sunday.
"We would not have played Robert if we thought there was a risk of him further injuring the LCL,'' Shanahan said. "We wouldn't play him unless the medical staff said he was fine. Other than that, you talk to the quarterback or any player to see if they can go. Then you do what is in the best interest of the football team."
Griffin said he and Shanahan agreed on that fine line between being hurt and being injured.
"Had he taken me I out I would have went right back out there," Griffin said. "I do respect authority and I respect coach Shanahan, but sometimes you have to step up, be a man and go back out there.
"I wasn't lying to him. I was able to go back out there and play. Had he pulled me, I would have been highly upset.