His 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon was a source of jubilation. But the, ‘Hey, I got it’ moment came from one of his 13 other plays.
Six plays before they scored, Griffin and the Redskins faced second and 10 from their 20. The unit had experienced two shaky possessions, and the third possession began with a dropped pass by tight end Niles Paul.
Griffin took the shotgun snap and looked to his first read and saw that receiver was covered. He went to his second option. Try again. The third option? Covered as well.
Griffin then located Garcon — his fourth and final option on that play — slanting in from the left and fired a pass 12 yards downfield. Garcon caught it and gained another eight yards.
Reflecting on the play, Griffin — who on Monday spoke to the media for the first time since he reviewed tape of his first pro game — recognized his own growth and comfort in the Redskins’ system because one thought never entered his mind during the three seconds he held the ball.
“The thought never crossed my mind to run,” said the athletic quarterback, who dazzled his way to the Heisman Trophy with his world-class speed and cannon of an arm. Instead, Griffin trusted his line, and his grasp of the play’s options told him that somewhere a receiver was running free.
“I went through my first three reads really confidently, knowing the protection was going to hold up, that at some point, one guy is going to be open, because on a lot of plays, one guy is wide open and the rest are blanketed,” Griffin explained after Monday’s practice.
Said Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan: “That was a great job. He looked out to the right, kept the tight end in the flat, and did a great job of coming to . . . actually his fourth progression. But that is timing. The more you put him through it, the more comfortable he becomes. Also good protection, so a combination of a lot of people working together.”
Running back Evan Royster drew affirmation of his quarterback’s progress from another play on the same drive. Griffin audibled out of a quarterback keeper because he saw the Bills’ defense loading up to that side, and instead handed the ball to Royster.
And the entire sideline erupted when Griffin threw the touchdown pass to Garcon.
“The joy that I saw in the team, on the sidelines after we scored that touchdown, after Pierre scored on that screen, it was unbelievable,” Griffin said. “The defense was extremely excited. It helped the team become more confident, knowing that what they’re seeing in practice isn’t just a fluke.”
The Redskins officially conclude training camp Tuesday. Griffin described the camp as a “huge success,” because of the growth in his confidence. His teammates noticed — in practice and during the Buffalo game. Veterans say that Griffin appeared equally at ease running the huddle against the Bills as he does during practices.
“He conducted himself well,” wide receiver Santana Moss said. “I wasn’t really paying attention to it, but I didn’t see anything that wasn’t normal. If you’re noticing something, that means something ain’t right. But I didn’t notice it, so that’s a great thing.”
Griffin said his confidence comes from the hours spent on the practice field and in the film room. Calling audibles at the line is new for him, because Baylor’s system didn’t feature play changes at the line. But Griffin said talking over plays and situations with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur has enabled him to handle the new responsibilities without much struggle.
Taking snaps under center and dropping back for passes are other elements that Griffin wasn’t asked to do often at Baylor. Repetition in practice has helped Griffin and translated into production against Buffalo.
“You can be confident, you can’t be overly confident,” said Griffin, who said he is looking forward to more extensive playing time Saturday against the Chicago Bears. “I think that the experience in the Buffalo game kind of reassured myself, reassured everybody else why they brought me here, reassured me, that this is still football and still the game we love, and love to play.
“So, if you trust your preparation — not that you can’t be stopped — but when you trust your preparation, you’ll feel confident when you go out on the field, and we definitely felt confident.”
Mark Maske contributed to this report.