It nearly happened in the previous two weeks. It finally happened Sunday. And I have a feeling it won’t be the last time Robert Griffin III leads the Redskins to a last-second victory in his career. This is how you win a game on the final drive:
1. First and 10, Bucs’ 20; 1:42. Santana Moss is in the slot to the right with Leonard Hankerson on the outside and Fred Davis aligned inside in an up position on the line. Davis and Moss work in concert here, with Davis running an out route and Moss cutting underneath. The Bucs are in zone, but linebacker Lavonte David, on the inside and aligned over Davis, pays about a half-second too much attention to Davis and doesn’t see Moss coming underneath. It also helps that the Redskins send Royster into the flat, forcing David to take two steps to that side, creating more of an opening. The Bucs rush four.
Key for Griffin: It’s an easy read and he unloads the ball in 2.1 seconds, hitting Moss in stride over the middle. That’s key because Moss gains 10 yards after the catch for a total of 15. Griffin is hit as he throws the ball. Griffin does not force passes. While this is an easy throw, it’s the right one and he’s excellent at not trying to get big chunks right away.
2. First and 10, 35; 1:20. The Bucs blitzed two defenders, a linebacker and a safety (Ronde Barber from deep) to the Redskins’ left side. The middle linebacker picks up Evan Royster as he releases from the backfield through the left side. No one covers Fred Davis over the middle.
Key for Griffin: It’s an easy read and he makes the right decision as nobody is near Davis. He picks up 20, including 13 after the catch.
2. First and 10, Tampa Bay 45; :59. The Bucs again rush four and Griffin has a clean pocket. He dumps the ball on the left side to Evan Royster who gains four yards.
Key for Griffin: He doesn’t waste time. The line provides him with a clean pocket, but Griffin looks right and back to the left to find Royster, taking only 2.3 seconds to get rid of the ball. However, this was not an efficient play. The Redskins used 21 seconds of the clock to travel four yards.
4. Second and 6, 41; :38. The Bucs come with another blitz, sending Barber again to the Redskins’ left side. However, only four defenders rush as the right end drops into coverage. A screen is set up for Royster to that side, but the design of the play snuffs it out. Griffin runs around the right side for 15 yards.
Key for Griffin: He doesn’t panic. Also, left end Michael Bennett makes a critical mistake. He starts upfield, then starts inside right tackle Tyler Polumbus. Bad move. With Griffin looking to the left, maybe Bennett thought he had a chance at a sack. You can see Bennett’s head look at the running back, too and that causes him to hesitate. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, because contain was lost the minute he angled inside. But the Bucs were playing man coverage so Bennett losing contain absolutely killed them. Maybe Griffin would have gotten around him, but it would have been much tougher to pick up the yards. As Griffin starts to run, he glances to the right (I’m guessing to see where the first down marker is at) and then blazes upfield.
Second key: Griffin’s second choice is to cut to the middle at the 35-yard line, picking up another 10 yards. Had he stayed outside he might have picked up those same 10 yards and gotten outside.OK, since I first posted this the All-22 became available and after watching that Griffin made a bang-bang decision that worked out well. He might have been pushed out at the 30-yard line and in this case every yard mattered because of Cundiff’s lack of range. However, what I also noticed on this run was a wide-open Santana Moss around the 10-yard line. I mean, wide open. As Griffin broke outside and started to run the deep secondary started racing upfield. Griffin was still about three yards from the line when Moss was in the clear (on his side) by 10 yards. By this point, Griffin was going to run and if he saw Moss, clearly decided not to risk anything with a lot of green grass ahead.
6. First and 10, 26; :18. Griffin spikes the ball.
7. Second and 10, 26; :18. Kory Lichtensteiger jumps early. Griffin, lined up under center for the first time on the drive, barely had started his cadence.
8. Second and 15, 31; :18. Moss is in the slot left with Davis again to his inside. The Bucs are in press coverage and Moss has a corner on him. But Brandon McDonald doesn’t jam Moss, which enables Davis to slip between them for a screen and create room for Moss to gain yards after the catch. He tacks on three more for a gain of seven. Billy Cundiff needed every yard to keep the ball inside the uprights.
Key for Griffin: Another easy throw as Moss is open. They needed to get in better field goal range and this accomplished the goal. With Cundiff struggling on the day, it would have been easy for Griffin to take a shot or force a pass to get even closer. But this gave Cundiff a makeable kick.
9. And on the eighth play, Griffin rested.
…Griffin was hit 13 times, or 15 fewer than a week ago. Of those 13 hits, Griffin was drilled maybe four times. He was hit after he threw five times and was sacked twice. He ran the ball seven times — three on quarterback draws, three on scrambles and only once out of the zone read/option game.
…Griffin lined up under center 26 times (excluding the spiked ball late in the game), completing six of nine passes for 114 yards. He would have had two more attempts, but pass interference was called twice, nullifying the play (once on the Bucs for 32 yards, once on the Redskins). One of his incompletions occurred when receiver Leonard Hankerson slipped on the turf. As you would expect, every pass came off some sort of play-action (there was one bootleg).
…One play that resulted in a sack should please the coaches – to a degree. Now, maybe they’ll think Griffin could have done something else with the play or unloaded the pass earlier. However, remember the Bears game this summer? Griffin was chased up in the pocket on one occasion and tried to make something out of nothing – he didn’t have a good sense of the pocket, started to run then kept his eyes upfield hoping a big play developed. Instead, he was hit and fumbled. Sunday, he took the snap in pistol formation as the Bucs blitzed two to his right. No one blocked safety Mark Barron. Griffin pump-faked to Hankerson and the right end dropped into coverage, taking away Fred Davis. After the pump, and feeling the pressure, Griffin took off running. He didn’t linger at all and was tackled for a two-yard loss. It could have been much worse.
…Griffin could have pitched the ball sooner on the triple option to the left when Barron tackled him and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Of course, then the Redskins wouldn’t have gotten a free 15 yards. Regardless, Barron had blitzed and was waiting for him. Griffin wasn’t going to get anything out of the play. Had Barron not left it up to the officials, this play would have left the Redskins in a hole. The other thing I’ll say is that because of where the play started (at the Redskins’ 10) Griffin avoided potential disaster with a pitch.
…Griffin was very patient on a 26-yard screen pass to Davis with Bennett rushing at him. Griffin waited until the last possible moment as a tackle on that side was right in front of Davis. Because Griffin waited another half-second, the path to Davis cleared. Griffin jumped as he threw and Bennett hit him.
…I also liked how he stood in against another blitz (on the play in which Leonard Hankerson fell as he cut). The Bucs rushed both linebackers (in nickel coverage) through the middle. Griffin saw this and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger slowed it as much as he could, but it was one against two. Griffin waited until Hankerson cut and threw on target. Griffin, perhaps, could have thrown it a split second earlier, but there was little wrong that he did on the play and wasn’t intimidated by the rush.
…Griffin’s worst throw of the game occurred early in the fourth quarter. Disaster was barely avoided. He dropped back in shotgun, looked left middle and right and threw from the left hash to the right numbers without being able to step into the throw. Three Bucs defenders were near the target, Santana Moss (who would not have picked up the first down), and there was nearly a diving interception. Griffin has been smart on third downs and in this case he got lucky. It was a third and 12 situation (with eight in coverage) and for the most part this season Griffin has been smart in these situations: get a quick checkdown if your first target isn’t open, pick up positive yards and live for the next series.
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