Best and worst moments from Washington’s nerve-jangling, heart-pummeling, kicker-headline-stealing of a 24-22 win in Tampa Bay.
Best Leader: Heavens, but Robert Griffin III inspires confidence, no? On the road, having blown a 15-point lead, with the crowd in full voice, down to one timeout, the rookie went 15-yard pass, 20-yard pass, 4-yard pass, 15-yard run, spike, 7-yard pass. And then the Redskins somehow won a mind-bender of a game that they had every reason to lose. If the point of this 2012 season was to discover whether RGIII can carry a team, well, he can carry a team.
Worst False Start: The Kory Lichtensteiger penalty with 18 seconds left while Washington was desperately clawing for every last inch cost a team with a shaky field-goal kicker five invaluable yards. Minus that final seven-yard pass to Santana Moss, who knows what happens?
Best Field Goal Kicker: In this game, it was Connor Barth. The Bucs’ kicker was 3-for-3, hitting from 50, 57 yards and 47 yards. Not a bad day.
Worst Field Goal Kicker: In this game, it was Billy Cundiff. Washington’s kicker missed attempts from 41, 57 and 31 yards, before ultimately making the game-winner, which wouldn’t have been necessary minus the earlier misses. The kickoffs are great. I get that. But when your team plays one-possession games every week, you can’t miss twice from inside 41.
Best Field Goal Tweet: Redskins legend Larry Brown sent out this classic in the final moments: “I would let RG3 kick the FG.”
Next Best Field Goal Tweet: A Maryland blogger added this classic: “So is Billy Cundiff going to be the first NFL kicker to hit a game-winning FG and get cut the same week?”
Worst Second-Half Pass Rush: I dunno. To give this award to the Redskins would imply that they had one. Josh Freeman had enough time to read the collected works of Tolstoy during some of his second-half dropbacks.
Best Individual Effort: The Bucs had 3rd-and-short, on the verge of field-goal range, late in the game. Then Ryan Kerrigan destroyed a swing pass to D.J. Ware, forcing Tampa Bay back seven yards. The Bucs punted. Kerrigan seems to be Washington’s best defensive player, by about 400 miles.
Worst Challenge: I understand the Redskins were close to the marker on Griffin’s 3rd-down scramble on their next-to-last drive. But there was nothing we saw that indicated the spot on the field was incorrect. You can’t just wish things worked out better and throw the red flag. And those timeouts matter in close games. Whoever told Mike Shanahan to throw that flag has some explaining to do.
Worst Deep Balls: RGIII’s arm is amazing. His deep balls are majestic. But on this day, as this lead withered, one deep pass into traffic led to an offensive pass interference call, and another stopped the clock while the Redskins were trying to preserve a lead. Whether because of the coverage or the routes or the throws, neither was close to a completion.
Best Red Zone Weapon: The designed RGIII runs are still terrifying to some fans, but inside the red zone, the rookie’s speed makes the Redskins offense virtually unstoppable. Washington’s first two touchdowns both came on QB draws from inside the 10; while he fumbled the first at the goal line, he was credited with the second, which gave him four touchdowns already this season. No Redskins quarterback has ever rushed for more than four TDs in a season.
Worst Long Ball Defense: The secondary seemed to be doing so much better in the first half on Sunday, but when Tampa rallied in the second half, it did so with the deep ball. A 65-yard catch and run to Mike Williams, covered by Josh Wilson, led to one touchdown. A 54-yard catch by Vincent Jackson, covered by DeAngelo Hall, led to another. By game’s end, Josh Freeman had thrown for 299 yards.
Best Connection: Since Griffin’s memorable pass to Pierre Garcon for his first NFL touchdown, the prized free agent wide receiver has mostly been injured. The receiver returned on Sunday, and the RGIII-Garcon connection was revived almost immediately. On the final play of the first quarter, Griffin darted for eight yards up the middle and fumbled forward at the goal line, right in Garcon’s direction. He jumped on the loose ball for a touchdown.
Best Bail-Out: The Redskins narrowly avoided a safety when Griffin was hit at his own 1, and were facing a dangerous punt from the back of their end zone. Then a roughing-the-passer call (on an incompletion) gave Washington 15 yards and a first down. Tampa was whistled 10 times for 107 yards on the day.
Worst Bail-Out: And yet that very same drive ended thanks in part to two penalties against Pierre Garcon for 25 yards, including a personal foul. The Redskins, who have been one of the most penalized NFL teams this season, were whistled 8 times for 73 yards.
Best Trickery: With the Buccaneers within a single score and the crowd back in the game, Washington faced a third-and-long on the final play of the third quarter. Went with the old pitch to Brandon Banks, toss back to Robert Griffin III and 30-yard completion to Niles Paul. Never a doubt.
Best Runs After Contact: Darrel Young, Fred Davis and Alfred Morris (tie). Young, a fullback, caught a short screen in the first quarter and churned out 24 yards, in which he broke two tackles and then required two more tacklers to go down. It was his first catch of the season. On the same drive, Davis caught a short pass and went for 26 yards, helped by a stiff arm and a broken tackle. Later in the first half, Morris stiff-armed a helpless defender and ran for a 39-yard touchdown.
Best Officials: The non-replacement ones. No disastrous calls this week, in this game anyhow (or at least, none against Washington). Although their microphones didn’t work very well, which was annoying.
Worst Omen: Why do Redskins keep getting injured in warm-ups? It happened to Josh Bidwell. It happened to Jammal Brown. Now it happened to Brandon Meriweather and Aldrick Robinson. Seriously, enough. Just cancel warm-ups. Although I guess it can’t count as a bad omen if you win.
Best Streak: Ryan Kerrigan now has at least part of a sack in every Redskins game this season. He also had at least part of a sack in all three preseason games he participated in this summer.
Best Pass: Josh Freeman was under tremendous heat in the second quarter, but he didn’t shirk from it, stood up strong and delivered a perfect strike in traffic right into the arms of….oh wait, it was right into the arms of DeAngelo Hall. Forget it. He did have some real purty passes in the fourth quarter.
Worst Kickoff Return: A tight end bringing the ball out from deep inside the end zone? Seems weird. The Redskins started their first drive of the second half from their 11 yard line after Niles Paul thought he’d try to run it out from about six yards deep.
Best Hard Count: Griffin repeatedly made the Bucs jump offsides with his vocal snap count. Tampa was flagged three times for that infraction.
Worst Relief Pitcher: Chien-Ming Wang.
Best Decision: Now and forever, I love the Redskins going for it on 4th-and-short. I wanted them to do it late in the loss to the Bengals, and they declined. I wanted them to do it Sunday in Tampa; not only did the Bucs jump offsides, but Alfred Morris gained seven yards. With the way this team runs the ball this season, and the way they play special teams, we should be seeing lots more of this.
Worst Decision: With a shaky quarterback, a non-existent passing game and the ball at his own 27, Greg Schiano decided he’d try to work some magic with 40 seconds left in the first half. The Bucs went three-and-out and punted after 26 seconds, and Washington managed to get a reasonable field-goal attempt as time expired.
Best Clapping: “Please hit me if you want to get a 15-yard penalty,” RGIII said last week. Griffin meant opponents should feel free to hit him when he doesn’t have the ball, thus drawing a penalty. But he got the extra 15 yards when he did have the ball on Sunday, after Mark Barron slammed him into the ground during a tackle. Griffin saw the flag and was immediately celebrating the call as he got up, although that was a pretty shabby penalty.
Best Endings: The NFL has a million problems, from the constant labor issues to the head traumas to the in-stadium fan experience. But golly, from the New Orleans-Green Bay ending to the Miami-Arizona ending to the one we all watched in Tampa, this sport has a way of making your heart pitter-patter at well above-normal speeds, which is why we keep watching every week. Well, that and the Fox animated robot thing.