You could certainly make a case for last Sunday's game against the Eagles being the biggest of Robert Griffin III's young NFL career. Sure, his first professional game got all the hype, but the stage was set last week and with major implications.
"I thought I was hungry before the bye week," Griffin told the media before last Sunday's game. "But you come back and realize how much more energy you have. You know that everybody’s looking at me to be the guy to make everything work.”
Fresh off their bye week, the Washington Redskins hosted the Eagles for the first of two games between the division rivals this season. The Redskins entered the game with a 3-6 record that smelled a lot better than it looked. If they could escape with a win, then competing for the division lead was a reasonable scenario over the course of the next two weeks.
What happened next was nothing shy of brilliant.
Griffin, delivering on his pregame promises, finished the game 14-of-15 for 200 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. He'd also lead the Redskins with 84 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Before delving into Griffin's four touchdown passes en route to his crafty performance last week, it should be noted that the young man is working behind a very average offensive line—and even that may be a generous label.
Despite efficiency in the run game, the Redskins offensive line struggles noticeably in pass protection. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's newly implemented offense helps to disguise the poor play of left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, and more so of right tackle Tyler Polumbus—both of whom are key reasons as to why we see Griffin in very few traditional pockets by way of a sound dropback.
Following an interception by DeAngelo Hall on just the third play of the game, Griffin and the Redskins were handed great field position at the Eagles 9-yard line. Alfred Morris would push for three yards on first down before Griffin set up for his first touchdown of the game on just his second snap of the day.
The play starts with Griffin's play action to Morris. As a result, Eagles safety Nate Allen bites down on the line of scrimmage, while often-overlooked fullback Darrel Young leaks off to the right and into the end zone. Griffin tosses a touch pass over a retreating Allen to give the Redskins the early 7-0 lead.
Griffin's second touchdown would come early in the second quarter when he hit Aldrick Robinson for a 49-yard strike. As great as the recognition and delivery was by Griffin, it was just as assuring to see a speedster like Robinson get behind a defense and haul in a score.
Kyle Shanahan came up with a great play call here in order to take advantage of an off-balance defense. After going with three runs and a screen pass for a combined 46 yards leading up to the touchdown, the Eagles were creeping closer and closer to the line.
Although the deep coverage by the Eagles was certainly suspect, this play gained all of its steam by way of the double play action to Alfred Morris on a run to the right and Brandon Banks on an end-around. The Eagles linebackers crashed down and even All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha hesitated enough to give Robinson all the separation he needed.
Late in the third quarter, the Redskins extended their lead, thanks in large part to an amazing effort by veteran receiver Santana Moss. We may be profiling Griffin in this column, but the pass wasn't exactly the best of decisions. The play, however, did give Griffin arguably his best pocket of the day, and it allowed him to take a shot down field—something all Redskins fans crave.
Taking note of the pocket provided, Griffin had plenty of time and spotted Moss at deep center in double coverage. Again, not the best of decisions, but I respect Griffin for believing in his teammates and giving this thing a chance. Luckily, it paid off.
This also happened to be one of the many terrible plays by Eagles safety Kurt Coleman on the day.
Finally, to wrap up a victory on the day, tight end Logan Paulsen got some love on a 17-yard extra effort touchdown to push the Redskins out front to the eventual final of 31-6.
With an empty backfield, the play was somewhat risky in the red zone. However, it was one of the few plays where the offensive line made a decent enough pocket for the quarterback. Griffin hung and climbed and delivered a strike.
Paulsen, on the other hand, ultimately created and closed this play with a very nice hesitation on his route to freeze rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and then got into the end zone by carrying—guess who?-—Coleman and his weak tackling attempt.
As much as the outcome of Sunday's game meant to the Redskins and their potential rebound this season, it was the performance of rookie Robert Griffin III that portrayed something special. Something this town hasn't seen since Sammy Baugh in the 1930s.
Not that fans have questioned Griffin or his ability to become the franchise quarterback in Washington, but this game served as the icing on the cake. Remember, this breakdown didn't even mention his elusive scrambling and heady pickups on third down.
RG3 simply appeared unfair.
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