Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No Quit In Redskins, Robert Griffin III In Late Loss To Bengals
LANDOVER, Md. – The situation seemed implausible, yet somehow so perfect.
It was the first home game for Robert Griffin III, the sensational rookie quarterback, and only 98 yards and 1:47 remaining separated him from taking the first steps toward living up to his premature reputation as the savior of a franchise.
Griffin dazzled all afternoon as he had for the Washington Redskins in their first two games – throwing long, running far, bouncing back. He was the catalyst for a 90-yard touchdown drive two minutes earlier, one that led his teammates to within seven points, and in an afternoon of comebacks, what was one more to a fanbase so used to giving up much earlier?
“What do you do when things aren’t working?” Griffin said. “You keep going after it.”
Washington’s final attempt at tying the score ended spectacularly, but for the wrong reasons. The Cincinnati Bengals emerged with a 38-31 victory Sunday at FedEx Field after the Redskins failed to convert on an unwieldy third-and-50 on the final play of the game.
Griffin, under pressure by Cincinnati defenders the entire afternoon, led the offense to a first down at the Bengals’ 19-yard line with roughly 30 seconds remaining.
He was sacked for a 15-yard loss before Fred Davis was called for a false start with seven seconds to play. Assuming the penalty would lead to a 10-second runoff on the clock, therefore ending the game, Cincinnati players and coaches walked onto the field.
But there was no runoff because Griffin spiked the ball before Davis’ false start. Officials were then sluggish in resuming play, upsetting several on the Redskins’ sideline – including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who argued with head linesman Toney Brasuell.
The argument apparently was the cause for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but the officials never revealed who it was on. They also penalized the Redskins 20 yards, instead of the standard 15, and Griffin’s heave from the Redskins’ own 41-yard line was batted down in front of Joshua Morgan roughly 10 yards in front of the goal line.
“At the end of the game, there were two officials on the sideline that said the game was over and we saw both their coaches and players on the field,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. “They threw the flag at us, and then we saw their football team on the field, so I was disappointed at that.”
The possibility of tying the score in the final seconds loomed only because the Redskins (1-2) were able to rebound earlier in the game. Down 24-7 late in the first half, Washington scored 17 points and was tied with the Bengals as the fourth quarter began.
Andy Dalton then threw two touchdown passes – one to Jermaine Gresham, one to Andrew Hawkins – in the first six minutes of the quarter to boost Cincinnati (2-1). Washington answered when Griffin ran two yards for a touchdown with 3:35 remaining, capping the 90-yard drive, and then threatened again.
“We went out there and got a rhythm going and it got our confidence back, because we’re definitely an explosive offense,” said running back Alfred Morris, who ran for 78 yards and a touchdown. “We definitely can make plays, and we definitely can put points on the board.”
The Redskins emerged from halftime with a greater focus on the running game – and specifically by running the option play. With Griffin, Morris and Brandon Banks in the backfield, Cincinnati struggled to figure out which running threat to take away.
It was through extensive use of the option that Washington completed a drive early in the third quarter with a three-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Santana Moss.
“We had to adjust a little bit on the fly,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “I thought defensive players did a good job setting up and understanding that.”
Griffin finished with 85 rushing yards on 12 attempts and completed 21 of 34 passes for 221 yards and the touchdown. Rob Jackson, starting in place of the injured Brian Orakpo at outside linebacker, intercepted a pass in the end zone in the first quarter to score Washington’s first points, and Billy Cundiff made a 36-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Dalton finished 19-for-27 for 328 yards, and while he threw for three touchdowns, it was rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu who found A.J. Green for a 73-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game.
The Redskins have scored more than 28 points in all three games this season after reaching that total just once a year ago.
“We came out in the second half and we responded,” Griffin said. “We came out when we were down [34-28] and we responded. What are we going to do when we have two straight losses? We’re going to respond, and I promise that.”