The morning after their 24-22 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins players raved about their rookie quarterback, who turned in yet another impressive performance – and possibly his best yet.
Robert Griffin III completed 26 of 35 passes for a career-high 323 yards Sunday. He also carried the ball seven times for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Griffin was at his best in the final minute and 42 seconds of play, when he marched the Redskins 56 yards in six plays, completing four of four pass attempts and scrambling for 15 yards on another play. He put Washington in position for Billy Cundiff to kick a game-winning 41-yard field goal.
He did it while calling his own plays, because the headset in his helmet (through which he receives play calls from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) had malfunctioned.
“That kid is special. He is the real deal. He’s stepped up, and I’ve never had so much confidence in a two-minute drive,” said cornerback Josh Wilson, who watched from the sidelines as Griffin & Co. went to work after Tampa Bay took a 22-21 lead on a 47-yard field goal. “Let’s just leave some time on the clock. It doesn’t matter if they get this field goal or not, we know he’s going to get this ball down there and put us in position to win.”
On the first play of the drive, Griffin completed a 15-yard pass to Santana Moss in the middle of the field. Then, going no-huddle, Griffin completed a pass to tight end Fred Davis, who turned a short gain into a 20-yard pickup. Griffin then completed a four-yard pass to running back Evan Royster. On second-and-six from the Tampa Bay 41-yard line, Griffin rolled to his right and, seeing the field open up before him, tucked the ball and ran 15 yards, putting the ball at the Tampa Bay 26 with 18 seconds left.
Griffin spiked the ball to stop the clock, before guard Kory Lichtensteiger was flagged for a false start, which backed the Redskins up five yards.
But Griffin completed a seven-yard pass to Moss to put the ball at the 31-yard line, where Cundiff made the winning kick.
“I wouldn’t want to play against him,” Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “This is his rookie year, him playing like this, he never gets flustered. He really plays better under pressure. The sky’s the limit for him. This is only the fourth game of the season. So he’s only going to get better.”
Like his teammates, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander came away impressed with Griffin. One of the longest-tenured players on the team, Alexander said he had never had such confidence in Washington’s offense as he did on that game-winning drive.
“No,” he said bluntly. “We haven’t had anybody of his caliber. I respect all those other quarterbacks, but just athletically, nobody can come close to it.”
Alexander said Griffin’s poise and immediate impact has been surprising. He was well aware of the athleticism that the rookie boasted. But the smooth transition that he appears to have made is a result to Griffin’s drive, and the job Washington’s coaches have done, Alexander said.
“I thought he would have more mistakes at this point, but he’s picked it up and has really impressed me,” Alexander said. “I think a lot of it is a testament of how hard he works and not being complacent over being drafted No. 2 overall, coming in here like he’s the man, and always working hard and not being complacent even when he’s had success: out-dueling Drew Brees, having 300-plus-yard games. He’s still in the film room, working hard. He’s one of the first guys in here in the morning, and you really don’t see that out of a lot of young guys. And I think that’s really putting him over the hump. And then you add his athletic ability to it, you’ve got to gameplan for a lot of stuff.”