Coming off a performance that his coach described as his best game of the season, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will try to carry that success over into Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. If he can do that, he could lead his team to its first two-game win streak of the season.
Griffin admitted Sunday that the performance against San Diego will boost his confidence, but he said he will not put unnecessary pressure on himself to play the hero role. Instead, Griffin said his success will hinge on his teammates’ play.
“I think it takes everybody,” Griffin said. “The offensive line did a great job of keeping me upright all game, giving me passing lanes. The receivers were where they needed to be, making big-time catches. Pierre [Garcon] bailed me out a couple times on some throws, and then there were times when I had to really be on the money and make plays. I just think it takes everybody and getting into that flow of the game. We got into that. We ran the ball — set up the run to help us in the pass. And then, on third downs, that’s where you have to stay on the field, and everybody stayed on top of it.”
A team effort certainly is required, but Griffin more times than not serves as a catalyst for Washington’s offensive success or failures.
Thus far, Griffin he has yet to string together strong performances in back-to-back games. As a result, Washington hasn’t won back-to-back games all year.
Three weeks ago in a 45-41 win against the Bears, Griffin had his best game of the season, completing 62 percent of his passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns, plus 84 yards rushing. But against the Broncos, it was a challenging day: a 15-for-30, two-interception, two-fumble performance.
This past week, the quarterback rebounded in a win over the Chargers. Griffin completed a season-best 71.9 percent of his passes (23 for 32) for 291 yards. Griffin threw an interception when a batted pass was picked off in the end zone by a defensive lineman for a touchdown. But he and his teammates managed to overcome that by posting a 71 percent success rate on third downs and by pulling off a game-winning drive in overtime.
Now Griffin faces the challenge of building on that. He says he must throw with accuracy, make quick decisions and put his teammates in position to make plays. He also said he’ll need his receivers to make tough catches and for his line to provide strong protection.
If Griffin can do that on Thursday night, it will serve as an indication of maturity and development as an NFL quarterback.
“It’s just your growth — continued growth at the position,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “The more comfortable you feel with reading coverages, your technique with throwing, your ability to side-step and move around the pocket and still focus downfield, your familiarity with the strength and weaknesses of football players — be it a cornerback, a linebacker. A lot of things go into it.”
Griffin pointed to the success on third down as the chief reason why he and his teammates succeeded against San Diego. The Redskins didn’t always put themselves in the most manageable third-down situations, but he said that a determined mind-set enabled the Redskins to overcome those unfavorable instances.
“During the game, you kind of feel a certain way about the game,” he said. “But looking back on it, I do think we were in that zone on a lot of that stuff. That’s why we were 71 percent on third down, which is not easy to do. . . . I just think everybody having that desire to go out there and do their job individually helped us.”
Griffin’s teammates agreed. Tight end Niles Paul said, “It was just a mind-set thing. You could feel it was like it was last year when we went on that win streak. You noticed the attitude of the offense was the same.”
Now, the Redskins — although faced with a short turnaround and limited prep time — hope that they can maintain that attitude and level of efficiency when they face Minnesota. Sunday’s success should serve as validation and a source of unity, left tackle Trent Williams said.
“It just shows that everything we’ve been working on, when it works, that confidence starts setting in and when coach sends a play in, everyone is on board,” Williams said. “There’s no second-guessing and everyone believes that this is going to work. When you’ve got a lot of everybody going in the same direction with the same confidence, you can do some special things on offense like rushing for 200 yards and having 500 yards of offense. . . . Now, we have to take it on the road and do it again.”