Sharon Ellis was playing with her iPhone and sipping iced tea Sunday when she glanced up at the television. She suddenly jumped up out of her chair, pulled both of her hands to her wide-open mouth and slowly shook her dreads in disbelief as groans echoed around her inside the Buffalo Wild Wings in Largo.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was down motionless on the field. Ellis had been telling herself for weeks that, with the number of vicious hits he’d already absorbed, it was only a matter of time before he would take the shot that would eventually knock him out of the game. But no matter how prepared for the moment she thought she was, it still took Ellis’ breath away. The broken rookie quarterback tried to peel himself off the ground but collapsed, motionless, and Ellis could only look on in horror.
“He can’t go through all the games and get attacked like that and don’t get hurt,” Ellis, 33, said. “It was bound to happen.”
Griffin III left the game during the third quarter of the Falcons’ 24-17 victory over the Redskins at soggy FedEx Field and did not return. Backup Kirk Cousins finished the game for Washington. The rookie from Michigan State completed 5 of 9 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. But he threw a pair of costly interceptions during the final two minutes that helped send the Redskins (2-3) to their eighth straight home loss, the longest streak in the NFL.
With about six minutes left in the third quarter, Griffin III scrambled right and was hit in the head by Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. The quarterback suffered a mild concussion, according to Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan.
Right after the hit, trainers stuck their hands in RG3’s mouth as they examined him. They took him into the bowels of FedEx Field for more testing.
Redskins fans watching on any of the 56 screens inside Buffalo Wild Wings looked on with worry.
“I thought he was gone,” Ellis, a cosmetologist at Crown Royal hair salon in District Heights, said. “I feel like there’s a contract out on my man. They’re trying to tear him up.”
Before Sunday, Griffin III had been knocked to the ground 63 times. The Heisman trophy winner took a particularly severe beating during the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati when he was sacked five times.
But the protection around RG3 looked much improved on Sunday—until that brutal third-quarter hit sent the 6-foot-2, 212-pound quarterback out of the game, the momentum away from the Redskins and the joy from Redskins fans inside Buffalo Wild Wings.
“We need to get better [at] protecting our quarterback,” Michelle Chandler of Greenbelt said with two minutes left to play. “If RG wasn’t hurt he’s hurt now watching this.”
It is Griffin III’s mobility that thrills fans, that has sparked the Redskins to the fourth-most prolific scoring offense in the league. The NFL Rookie of the Week entered Sunday’s contest with four rushing touchdowns this season, tied with Joe Theismann and Eddie LeBaron for the franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season.
But what Griffin III does with his legs also is a significant contributor to the violent hits he takes during games. On Sunday, it ruined him.
Said Griffin III after Washington’s Week 3 loss to the Bengals: “One thing I won’t do personally is quit or play scared. It doesn’t mater how many times they hit me, I’m going to continue to get back up. Even if they have to cart me off the field, I’m going to get off that cart and walk away.”
Griffin III did walk away from the field under his own power Sunday. He just didn’t return.
James Johnson, an avid Redskins fan who wore a black Sean Taylor jersey and black cap to Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday, thought one of the keys to protecting RG3 was a better effort from the defense. Entering Sunday, the Redskins had surrendered a league-high 13 passing touchdowns.
So Johnson and his four friends were ecstatic when the Redskins took a 7-0 lead over the Falcons (5-0) in the second quarter, on an exciting defensive play no less. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan tipped and intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and returned it 28 yards for the score.
“They got a cushion,” Johnson barked. “That way they can relax a little bit on the offense and with the play calling by the offensive coordinator. That helps RG3 out a lot.”
In the fourth quarter, with RG3 already out of the game and the Redskins trailing, 17-14, Kirk Cousins ignited the listless crowd by tossing a 77-yard touchdown pass to wide-open receiver Santana Moss. Temple Hills resident Carl Webster unfolded his arms in response and put a fist in the air as he tapdanced in celebration.
“That surprised me,” Webster said. “Give credit where credit is due. It was a big play, a hell of a throw.”
But in case they had forgotten, fans were quickly reminded that they were watching the Redskins, a team that has routinely found ways during the second half to implode. Washington surrendered 17 fourth-quarter points to Atlanta and only managed seven of its own. After Cousins’ first interception, the realization that both the contest and the team’s No. 2 overall draft pick in Griffin III were lost started to seep in and it left fans feeling sick.
“Typical Redskins, man,” sighed a resigned Ron Penn of Waldorf.
Added Chandler: “You know how you scream so loud and you get that tension headache? My head really hurts now.”
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