Robert Griffin III on Sunday turned back the short clock of his NFL career and used his legs to befuddle his opponent, rushing for 77 yards on nine carries against the Dallas Cowboys. But, for a third straight game, the quarterback saw his completion percentage decrease after he and his top targets squandered crucial opportunities. The Redskins fell to 1-4, and the frustrations continued to mount.
“It’s a matter of miscommunications,” said Griffin, who a year after ranking among the top five in completion percentage of 65.6 is now completing 59.8 percent of his passes and on Sunday owned a clip of 48.7. “There’s some missed throws in there, there are some dropped passes, and all of that accumulates into what the stats say.”
Some of the most notable miscues on Sunday came between Griffin and his top wide receiver Pierre Garcon, the most demonstrative of all the offensive players when plays didn’t work out properly.
He and Griffin blew a chance for a touchdown late in the first half when Griffin went to the end zone from 17 yards out, but Garcon had run a hitch route and had stopped around the 10-yard line. Garcon looked back at the quarterback with his hands on his hips, bewildered, and trudged back to the huddle. (It turned out Garcon had missed a signal from Griffin that was meant to change the route at the line.)
Griffin and Garcon misfired several other times. There were two more overthrows, another underthrow and another time when Garcon ran a deep route and had cut in, but Griffin threw toward the sideline. Garcon threw his hands up in frustration and jogged back upfield.
But the miscues haven’t been limited to Griffin and Garcon.
There were other times, both in the Dallas game and those prior, where Griffin has turned one way for a handoff, only to find his running back on the opposite side and in no position to take the handoff.
Redskins players have shared the blame for the miscommunications. And together, they have downplayed the issues.
“I’m not concerned by them. It is frustrating when you have a situation like we had in the red zone. But you have to move on from those things,” Griffin said. “You can’t let those things linger in your head. For us, we do practice so hard at that stuff and we have to make sure we’re on it on game day.”
Said Garcon, “It just happens. Just when you’re trying to do a lot of things, miscommunications happen when you’re trying to adjust at the line and do things. But, uh, it’s nothing to worry about. It’ll come. We’ll get it down pat.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said such instances happen often in games. The only difference is that when a team is in Washington’s situation — desperately needing to turn the season around but seemingly unable to get things clicking — the errors are magnified.
Santana Moss, the elder statesman of the offense, agreed.
“You just have to deal with it that time and at the end of the day, try to make something out of it,” said the wide receiver, who while running a pass route into the end zone in the fourth quarter got tripped and fell to the ground, leaving Dallas’s Orlando Scandrick in perfect position to intercept Griffin. “It’s not always going to be bad. There are plenty of times when you are going to have things work out where, it’s not what you want, but you still make a good play out of it. It just happens. One time they’ll beat us, next time we’ll beat them. It’s just football. It’s not always what you want it to be.”
Griffin on Sunday took a more active role in trying to cure his team’s offensive woes. After shying away from running for the majority of the season, he “cut loose.” Griffin said he played off of his instincts rather than thinking about the need to slide or get out of bounds to protect himself. Twice he cut back to the inside rather than trotting safely out of bounds.
“I felt that’s what I have to do,” Griffin said. “That’s what I’ve always had to do. You’ve got to use every ability that you have. Broke the pocket a couple of times, broke the pocket and hit some guys downfield as the defense was closing in on me, and then there were times when you just take off and go.”
After he started running, the Cowboys started using middle linebacker Sean Lee as a spy to mirror his movements rather than using him as a pass rusher. Dallas also brought additional defenders into the box to stop the run, which should have created opportunities in the passing game. But Washington failed to capitalize, and came away from that game with just one touchdown — a 45-yard run by Alfred Morris.
Griffin said that he believed he played with “a healthy mix” of using his arm and legs, but conceded failure because of the lack of points. “It’s just unacceptable to have [433 yards] and not score as many touchdowns as we should have,” he said.
Garcon said there is no magic cure for the struggles. Continued work in practices should help eliminate the miscommunications, and persistence — they hope — will lead to improved red-zone execution.
“We’ve just got to score points,” Garcon said. “We’re out there playing football, trying to get to the end zone. We just have to finish the drives. But, to say I’m not frustrated would be a lie. But it’s football. Football makes you frustrated, football makes you happy. So, continue to play and continue to give your best effort.”