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.
As Robert Griffin III Learned Sunday, Practice Makes Perfect
ASHBURN – Robert Griffin III waited to hear Kyle Shanahan’s voice through the headset in his helmet. He waited for the playcall, looked to the sideline – and nothing.
The radio in his helmet had gone out, and with roughly 1:30 remaining and the Washington Redskins trailing by a point Sunday at Tampa Bay, the rookie quarterback wasn’t about to panic. He scanned the Buccaneers’ defense, took note of the linebackers and safeties showing blitz and thought about his previous experience in late-game drives.
“It was just back to muscle memory,” Griffin said. “You got to realize that once you move the ball to a certain point on the field, [you know] what defenses are going to try to do.”
Griffin used his understanding of the situation to his advantage. The Buccaneers brought seven – two linebackers and a safety – and he compensated, finding wide-open tight end Fred Davis on a quick dump-off to the right.
Davis caught the ball at approximately the Redskins’ 40-yard line and weaved his way upfield, torn between trying to gain yards and get out of bounds to stop the clock. He entered Tampa Bay territory, finally brought down by cornerback Aqib Talib for a 20-yard gain.
It was one of just six plays the Redskins’ offense needed to run before Billy Cundiff made a 41-yard field goal with two seconds remaining for Washington’s 24-22 victory.
“I mean, the only thing that might be surprising to you all is that he’s young, and that happened to him,” receiver Santana Moss said. “That’s why we prepare in practice. We run a two-minute drill every week in our week of practice, and that’s something he has to do – call the plays. I think when you put in a game-time situation, that critical, game on the line, it makes it a little more ‘Wow,’ but other than that, as a player, you know that’s what he’s there for.”
The self-control required to handle such a difficult situation has only added to Griffin’s legend during his first four games with the Redskins – as if he actually needed it. Though the Redskins are just 2-2, Griffin nearly led game-winning drives against St. Louis and Cincinnati in the previous two weeks, and it’s because of his performances that Washington’s offense is amongst the top five highest-scoring and most productive in the league.
“Robert does a great job of putting our offense in the best situation depending on the formation we’re in,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s got a good feel and plays with a lot of poise.”
The quarterback finished the drive with alarming composure, given his frequent interaction with Kyle Shanahan on the sideline. After finding Davis with a minute remaining, Griffin rushed to the sideline for the next play, which resulted in a four-yard gain on a checkdown by Evan Royster. With 38 seconds remaining and his receivers covered, Griffin then scrambled for a 15-yard gain, hurried to the line of scrimmage again and spiked the ball to stop the clock.
A false start on left guard Kory Lichtensteiger backed the Redskins up to Tampa Bay’s 31-yard line with 18 seconds remaining, and Griffin found Moss on the next play – a seven-yard seam route that centered the ball for Cundiff.
“We’ve been having one of those drives it seems like every week right now,” Moss said. “Just to have something like that this week shows you our progress. We can definitely build from it.”
Mike Shanahan called the game the best of Griffin’s young career. The quarterback agreed; he completed 26 of 35 passes for 323 yards and ran seven more times for 43 yards and a touchdown.
“Everybody was doing their job, and that helps me be able to go out and execute as a quarterback and lead the offense,” Griffin said. “I think it was definitely my best game.”