Robert Griffin III parts the clouds, at least for one game
By Jason Reid,
There’s still one big difference between this disappointing Washington Redskins season and others recently: Robert Griffin III. Losing streaks, controversy, angry fans — Griffin has proven he’s good enough to help the team overcome most of its problems.
The Redskins have a chance to salvage their season because they have a star quarterback. We were reminded again while watching Griffin pass for a career-high four touchdowns during a 31-6 rout of the reeling Philadelphia Eagles.
In the Redskins’ first game after their bye week, Griffin made sure they resumed their schedule on an upbeat note.
He was razor sharp again. Griffin completed 93 percent of his passes en route to his first perfect passer rating of 158.3. His scrambling (the Eagles joined the list of teams that couldn’t corral him) played the biggest part in his rushing for a game-high 84 yards on only 12 carries.
Whether Sunday’s outing was Griffin’s best yet is debatable. But it was definitely his most timely.
Before their bye, the Redskins had lost three straight and four of five. Coach Mike Shanahan spent days doing damage control after making comments that sounded as if he were throwing in the towel on the season. And fans, growing restless with Shanahan’s lack of success (he’s 15-27 in Washington), lit up phone lines on sports talk radio to blast the leader of Washington’s football operation.
If ever the Redskins needed a victory, it was this week. Fortunately for them, Griffin started strong and got better. The Redskins raised their level of play to try to keep pace. Washington rediscovered a pass rush and totaled four sacks. The secondary, which benefited from finally having safety Brandon Meriweather in the lineup, had two interceptions.
Facing a bad opponent definitely helped. The Eagles (3-7) dropped their sixth straight and are alone at the bottom of the shaky NFC East. But the Redskins have squandered opportunities against other struggling teams.
Griffin made sure they didn’t stumble against the Eagles. It was definitely another performance worth reviewing.
Don’t tell, show
Anyone can talk a big game. Griffin’s coaches and teammates respect him, in part, because he backs up his words with big plays.
After saying the Redskins (4-6) have a chance to make the playoffs, the recently elected team captain completed 14 of 15 passes to nine receivers. Griffin’s six-yard touchdown pass to Darrel Young early in the first quarter gave the Redskins the lead for good.
In the second quarter, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan drew up a nifty play (the Redskins faked a handoff to Alfred Morris and an end-around to Brandon Banks) that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson. Santana Moss beat double coverage in the third to haul in a 61-yard touchdown pass.
In the running game, Griffin doesn’t get as many designed carries as he once did. When Griffin does run, however, he produces.
Standout Eagles defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole had a rough time trying to contain Griffin in the pocket. On two scrambles, Griffin had 10- and 23-yard gains. He also rushed for 28 yards in the fourth quarter on a play that left the Eagles gasping for air and shaking their heads. Three plays later, Griffin teamed with Logan Paulsen on his final touchdown pass.
Getting defensive gain
Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick didn’t make the trip after suffering a concussion during the team’s previous game against Dallas. Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles (40.5 passer rating) held the ball too long and misfired often. That’s what most quarterbacks do in their first start.
Under the circumstances, it wasn’t surprising that the Redskins limited the Eagles to 257 net yards. The Eagles converted only 37 percent of their third-down attempts. Still, it was clear that Meriweather helped in his season debut.
Meriweather, sidelined by a left knee injury until Sunday, picked off Foles in the first quarter and was solid in run support before suffering a right knee injury early in the third quarter. With Washington facing Dallas on Thursday, Meriweather played it safe and sat out the rest of the game.
He didn’t appear rusty after the long layoff, which was an encouraging development for a battered secondary in need of good news.
Still behind Shanahan
After Shanahan’s foot-in-mouth moment, some Redskins observers in the media wondered whether Shanahan had lost the locker room.
Judging from the way guys were hustling on offense and defense, the Redskins have not given up on the season — or their coach. You just can’t fake blocking as effectively or hitting as hard as the Redskins did throughout the game.
In improving to 6-15 at FedEx with Washington, Shanahan won a game by more than 14 points for the first time. Perhaps he can build on this.
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was back in the lineup after missing most of the season because of a toe problem. It appears he’s still in no condition to contribute.
Garcon wasn’t able to break free from coverage and finished with three catches for only five yards. If the Redskins hope to use Garcon as a decoy, they’ll have to convince opponents that Garcon is actually ready to play.
Griffin changed the conversation as only he can. The Redskins remained relevant in their weak division and would move into second place with a victory at Dallas on Thursday. Who knows how long the Redskins’ sunshine will last? But at least the clouds are gone for the moment.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.
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