The explosive plays were absent, but it wasn’t because Robert Griffin III couldn’t move. It was because the Cowboys defended plays better and forced the Redskins to beat them another way.
Which, of course, they did.
Griffin did not have his best game throwing the ball, in contrast to his game on Thanksgiving. Sunday, he completed only nine of 18 passes for 100 yards. And though he rushed six times for 63 yards, Griffin ceded the spotlight to another rookie, Alfred Morris.
“I don’t fret about the passing yards, the touchdowns or anything like that,” Griffin said. “I want to win games. If it’s the running back that gets 200 yards and I’m celebrating with him, making it easy for me, I’m all for that. We know the receivers will be called upon pretty soon to make a lot of plays for us and they’re ready for it. But whenever you have a running back like Alfred do what he did tonight, you have to keep riding that.”
The big question, too, surrounded Griffin’s health. He still wore a knee brace and was walking at a brisk pace with no limp in the locker room. He may not have the same burst, but he can still be effective and it showed on his runs. He kept the ball on zone read options, something Dallas did not seem to expect. That eventually caused the edge rushers to freeze and open lanes for Morris.
Griffin sucked in linebacker Anthony Spencer on a zone read fake and carried around right end for nine yards. Two plays later Morris scored on a 17-yard run around left end. In the third quarter, he suckered DeMarcus Ware, who came inside to take Morris after a fake. That opened the outside for Griffin who scored from 10 yards.
“I don’t think my health influenced the passing,” Griffin said. “I was healthy enough to run. That’s why coach called upon me to run. Whenever you have games like this it’s real cold, receiver’s hands might be a little cold, you have to have that running back, that offensive line, that fullback, that has the mentality to go out and run the ball.”
And the quarterback, too. Griffin was not sharp on his passes and, indeed, was close to being picked off a couple times in the first half. Though he was not the star of the game, Griffin still made enough plays.
“I didn’t think about him being limited,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “He was probably 4.5 speed instead of 4.3 speed. That’s not too bad.
“He always tells me he’s fine and you can see that he was hurting a little bit, even though he won’t admit that to me. … I didn’t see that during the week, to be honest with you. I didn’t see that type of him being a little bit… I don’t want to say that he was a little bit slower, but you can see he wasn’t his normal self when he was running. But he made enough plays to give us a chance to win.”
“Move the chains, that’s all they asked me to do,” Griffin said. “They want me to be able to run that play, to take some stress off the offensive line and some stress off of Alfred, even though he didn’t look like he needed it tonight. I was able to be effective, ran a touchdown, so that was awesome.”