After Five Games, It Seems Robert Griffin III Is Back
The performance by the quarterback in the Redskins’ victory over the Bears on Sunday, especially late, was very reminiscent of the plays he made while fully healthy a year ago.
BY ZAC BOYER
ASHBURN – It wasn’t as if Robert Griffin III woke up the morning of the Redskins’ game against the Cowboys and decided he would start running the ball. There was no stroke of insight, no flash of clarity.
“That didn’t happen,” Griffin said Wednesday. “I think everyone wants to have that story and say, ‘It clicked mentally for him and his knee was fine at this moment,’ and I don’t think that’s what it was. I just think it’s presented itself the past two games.”
Griffin had carried the ball 18 times for 72 yards in the Redskins’ first four games, but when he returned from the bye, his legs had returned. He gained 77 yards on nine carries against the Cowboys on Oct. 13, then gained another 84 yards on 11 carries in the 45-41 victory over the Bears on Sunday.
Accordingly, his passing attempts were down in that game, and his completion percentage and his passer rating improved. And, as the offense took the field for the eventual game-winning drive with 3:57 to play, there was a certain electricity in the crowd at FedEx Field – one that chanted his initials late, confident Griffin would be able to lead the team to a victory.
It seems, finally, as if the Griffin of old has returned.
“He was running well, running great,” receiver Pierre Garçon said. “He was doing a lot of great things, scoring a lot of points, so yeah, it kind of did feel like last year, I guess.”
That confidence and assurance will be important this coming Sunday, when the Redskins face their toughest test of the year in a road game against the Broncos.
Facing an offense that has averaged a league-high 42.6 points per game – a mark that would shatter the previous record of 36.8 points set by the Patriots in 2007 – the offense will likely need a similar performance to stay competitive.
“Obviously, we don’t want them scoring every time we score,” Griffin said. “We want our defense to go out there and shut them down, but we’ve got to be ready for everything. That’s what we said at the beginning of the year – you’ve got to be ready to win every kind of game, whether it’s a shootout or it’s a tough, hard-fought defensive battle. You’ve got to be ready to win either of those. If they score, we score, they score, we score, we hope we’re the last ones to score.”
The alternative was seen in the first two weeks of the season, when in losses to the Eagles and the Packers, the Redskins trailed early by a great margin, couldn’t flow through their game plan and never recovered.
Those were the games in which Griffin needed to throw the ball 49 and 40 times, respectively, to try to close that deficit. Considering the need to preserve the clock, running the ball wasn’t an option, either with Griffin or running back Alfred Morris, making the offense one-dimensional.
Of course, Griffin was still fresh in his return from right knee surgery, which dampened his ability to not only run the ball but even move the pocket. Those are the types of things that, regardless of the defense, haven’t been much of an issue as of late.
“Robert is feeling more comfortable with himself,” Mike Shanahan said. “We feel like we can do some things we couldn’t have done a little bit earlier. Then you get a game like that, they did take away Alfred the whole game, which gave Robert some opportunities to run the football. Next week might be just the opposite – they’ll take Robert away and Alfred will be carrying the ball.”
The Broncos have the league’s best run defense, allowing only 77.1 yards a game, but that’s a product of its inability to stop the pass. They’ve allowed a league-worst 319.9 yards through the air – which, combined with the turmoil in the Redskins’ secondary, leads to the strong possibility of yet another shootout.
“You don’t want to sit there and be stressing about trying to score just because who you’re playing against,” receiver Santana Moss said. “You don’t know what they gonna do. You don’t know how their game is gonna be this week. … You just have to go out there and play your game and if you play your game on both sides, all three phases, then you give yourself a chance.”
➤ A version of this story appears in Thursday’s edition of The Free Lance-Star.