Robert Griffin III is back and so are the Washington Redskins’ playoff chances. Really? A week ago everyone slated them for an offseason coaching search and free agent spending frenzy. Those angry voices were silenced by 12 free pizza toppings at Papa John’s on Monday after the Redskins scored six touchdowns in their 45-41 victory over the Bears.
Well, the Redskins are still a mediocre team with dreadful special teams and a defense that can’t stop good offenses. They really should be heading to a 5-11 season.
But the turnaround came Sunday when Griffin led Washington to four touchdowns in its final six drives. Last year’s high-scoring offense is finally back after Griffin’s monthlong acclimation following offseason surgery.
Griffin is the team’s greatest quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen a half century ago. Even better, Griffin can lift the team to the postseason. He did it last year with a mediocre team. Without a healthy and mentally ready Griffin in September, Washington opened 0-3.
Two things made the difference in Sunday’s shootout win: Griffin ran smartly and trusted his instincts.
Griffin’s 23-yard sideline scamper was a flashback to 2012. It looked so fluid. Griffin finished with 84 yards on 11 carries. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Redskins gained 209 yards on 43 yards. Alfred Morris gets a fair chance when defenses are worried Griffin will run. Roy Helu Jr. punched through with three touchdown runs against a Bears defense that was too worn down by the ground game to stop his red-zone runs.
Griffin is smartly giving up one yard in return for safely stepping out of bounds. He’s not turning upfield for several yards, which led to injuries last year.
“I know I’ve got to have a mindset of protecting myself,” Griffin said. “I thought I did a better job at protecting myself even when I cut back in.”
But equally important was Griffin’s 45-yard scoring pass to Aldrick Robinson to take a 38-31 lead. It wasn’t the called play. And for a moment, it looked like a sure interception. But Griffin trusted his instincts and went with the bomb against a defender who intercepted him earlier.
“I just had a feeling in that situation,” Griffin said. “I had a thought and went with my instincts.”
Griffin knows he can’t do everything because of the knee brace, but apparently offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan finally agreed to expand Griffin’s options outside the pocket.
The Redskins have to let Griffin be “RGIII” no matter the risk. Otherwise, they should have played Rex Grossman and saved the four draft picks it took to get Griffin.
The NFC East comes down to catching Dallas, and a 7-3 Redskins finish is possible. After all, Griffin is finally ready.