EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Becoming an instant NFL star was only the beginning for Robert Griffin III. Griffin will, in large part, be judged on how the Redskins fare against NFC East opponents throughout his career. He’s off to a heartbreaking start.
Despite his two turnovers, Griffin was mostly spectacular again Sunday while leading the Redskins to a late rally that put them in position for a road victory in their first division game. But the Redskins’ defense collapsed again as Eli Manning led the New York Giants to a 27-23 win.
Griffin silenced the MetLife Stadium crowd when he teamed with wide receiver Santana Moss on a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Redskins the lead with 1 minute 32 seconds showing on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, that was simply too much time with Manning working against their ineffective secondary.
Only seconds after Griffin’s second touchdown pass of the game to Moss, Giants wideout Victor Cruz sped past Redskins defensive backs and hauled in a 77-yard go-ahead touchdown from Manning. Griffin still had 1:13 left, and he was eager to add another game-winning drive to his résumé.
Facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4, Griffin made big plays on the Redskins’ final possession that helped the team win on a field goal. Griffin just didn’t have the ball long enough against the Giants.
Moss was stripped after Griffin completed a pass to him for 11 yards. The Giants recovered the ball with 39 seconds to play. Manning took the snap and kneeled once to run out the clock as the first-place Giants outlasted the Redskins, who suddenly have major problems on offense as well as defense.
In the first quarter, the Redskins absorbed another blow to their passing game when top tight end Fred Davis suffered a torn left Achilles’ tendon injury. He’s expected to be sidelined the remainder of the season. No. 1 wideout Pierre Garcon has missed four of the team’s seven games because of a foot injury. Although there is no timetable for Garcon’s return, people familiar with his situation believe he will need at least another month of rest. Without Davis and Garcon, the Redskins have few down-the-field playmakers. That only puts more pressure on Griffin to be phenomenal on every play.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan continued to draw up interesting formations Sunday to accentuate Griffin’s running skills. For the most part, Shanahan also has succeeded at masking the Redskins’ inability to challenge defenses with deep passes. However, there’s only so much he can continue to do with smoke and mirrors.
Of the remaining nine games on the Redskins’ schedule, five are against division opponents (one against the Giants and two apiece against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles). Those teams know the Redskins the best. The stakes rise during NFC East games, players acknowledge, because of the importance of winning the division title in achieving postseason goals. It appears the Redskins are now at their weakest on offense with their most important — and difficult — stretch of games ahead.