Recently, as fans of the Washington Redskins, we’ve become accustomed to watching the other team’s quarterbacks lead fourth quarter drives down the field to get into scoring position, eventually breaking our hearts when the game-winning touchdown or field goal is scored for the opposition. We’ve been left with little solace other than a high — but not high enough — draft pick the following April. But that’s all changed.
Much is obvious about the way Robert Griffin III has changed the Skins. His arm, his vision, his speed — all obvious. But there are subtleties that might not be as obvious, but just as important to the long-term impact he brings this team and this community.
For much of the second half in Sunday’s 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Griffin and the offense looked out of sorts — lost even at times — as they played from ahead against a team desperate to find their own identity. At times, the play calling seemed incongruous to the game situation and the offense played that way as well, seemingly impervious to the apparent goal of taking precious time off the clock.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. Run, and give the impression he was simply sitting on the lead and was oblivious to the Bucs gaining ground on the field and scoreboard. Pass, and appear that he was being cavalier with a big lead. Ultimately, for much of the second half, the Skins were effective at neither and the Bucs did indeed not only close the gap, but overtake the Redskins.
It’s not an uncommon theme in this young season. It’s precisely how the Saints and Rams games transpired as well. In both those contests, the Skins came out like gangbusters in the first half, running Griffin’s offense with such flourish that all three games looked like they’d be runaways. Yet, all three turned out to be nailbiters in the worst way.
Sunday was no exception. Yet this time, it was Griffin at his best again on that last drive, hitting open receivers for significant gains, pulling it down and running for a first down, working the clock. Griffin hit Santana Moss for 15 yards in the middle of the field. He found Fred Davis for 20 yards to get into Tampa territory. Evan Royster took a swing pass for four yards. Griffin himself ran for 15 around the right end.
As it turns out, his headset was malfunctioning and he was calling the plays himself during the drive. Fun.
Even after a false start by Kory Lichtensteiger pushed the Skins back five yards, Griffin regained the composure of his team and found Moss again to get those five yards back, plus two more, setting up Billy Cundiff for his redemption-laden 41 yard game-winning field goal.
Griffin’s numbers sparkled yet again. He was 26-of-35 for 323 yards with no interceptions. He ran for 43 yards on seven carries with one touchdown, and should have been credited for a second. But the numbers, as usual, only tell part of the story.
The other part of the story is the presence, the acumen, the fear Griffin brings to the game, highlighted by the way this rookie led his team down the field at the end of the game. This time, it was the Redskins that had the player most feared on the field. It was Griffin’s first fourth quarter game-winning drive. We can only imagine it won’t be his last.
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.