- This is why you have a quarterback like Robert Griffin III. It wasn’t just the 76-yard run, it was the ability to change the structure and look of the offense. They can go from a traditional look, with Griffin under center and the backs in I-formation to a triple-option look with a receiver aligned at running back (or two tight ends next to Griffin and the back behind him). The Redskins came out with a game plan for running the outside zone, but the Vikings consistently shut it down. Too much penetration. With another quarterback, they would have just switched to an inside zone and maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But a defense is still only worried about one threat: the running back. OK, and the play-action pass.
- However, with Griffin, when they started using inside zone runs, the Vikings had to honor multiple people: the back, Griffin, Brandon Banks. It’s all because of Griffin’s multi-dimensional talent. Kyle Shanahan and the offensive coaches adjusted, but it was all because of who they had at quarterback. Great players make coaches look smarter. The Redskins’ offense did nothing in the first quarter (29 yards) but when Griffin’s legs got involved it changed the complexion of the game.
- Defenses forget about certain players because of what Griffin can do. Like on Griffin’s 15-yard pass to Fred Davis in the third quarter. The linebackers are looking at Alfred Morris; they’re looking at Griffin. They weren’t looking at Davis (aligned in the backfield a yard behind left tackle and left guard). Davis was wide open for an easy catch and run. So many times passing lanes open up because defenders can’t get into their drops. Most of Griffin’s throws over the middle are made easier by this, but you can thank him and his ball-handling ability for that. He did stick a throw into a tight window to Santana Moss on one third-and-4 (on the 90-yard drive).
- The first time Griffin carried the ball, on a bootleg to the left, he ran out of bounds. The crowd cheered as if he had learned a lesson. Thing is, he ran out of bounds against the Falcons on a similar play. Griffin has done well in this area; on a first-down bootleg in which he has the option to run or pass he picks up yards and gets out of bounds. When he gets himself in trouble is in key situations, like the headfirst dive vs. Tampa Bay or the third and goal scramble vs. Atlanta.
- However, he did do well on some zone read carries in which he never took a big hit. Why? Because he opted to slide instead of trying to pick up extra yards. Here’s what Griffin said about that: “You try to play smart, but be aggressive. One time I ran up the middle and the safety came down and I slid for seven yards. You have to live with that and not worry about the eight or nine yards you could have got and taken the hit. I told the team I wouldn’t leave them hanging and I did that today.”
- Griffin did carry on three straight plays in the third quarter: on a 15-yard scramble on third and 11; on a bootleg run around left end and then on a draw for a seven-yard touchdown. He dove into the end zone. Griffin wasn’t really hit hard on any of them (though the bootleg drew a horse collar tackle). At times he’s too fast or on the TD run he was able to avoid defenders with a swerve and then a dive. I remember a conversation before the draft with his QB coach in the offseason, Terry Shea. Asked him about Griffin’s durability and his point was that the rookie is flexible enough that he’ll sometimes avoid the big hit. That was true on a couple runs today. If Griffin sees you coming, he’s good at contorting his body to avoid the big blow. Of course, if he doesn’t see you …
- Again, last week he was only hit four or five times; one just happened to be brutal. Today he ran a lot more and there wasn’t one cringe-worthy hit. On a lot of his runs he wasn’t hit at all, so you can’t measure the toll the hits take by the number of times he carries. Heck, he might get more beat up just being a pocket passer (which the Redskins don’t ask him to be that often). As long as Griffin is playing quarterback for the Redskins we’ll have conversations like this. It’s just the way it is. Let’s accept it and move on.
- Griffin has been in a tight spot in the fourth quarter in each of the past four games. He had the Redskins in field goal position until a bone-headed mistake by Joshua Morgan; he drove the Redskins from their own 2-yard line to the Bengals’ 19 in less one minute, 40 seconds until mishaps occurred; he led a game-winning field goal march vs. Tampa and then Sunday vs. the Vikings he had the 76-yard scoring run. In all the years I’ve covered the Redskins I don’t remember a QB doing all that in one season let alone four straight games. The bigger the moment …
- Special players do special things. Maybe you’ve heard that before. On the 76-yard run, the Vikings made a crucial mistake: they left a gap wide open off a blitz and in man coverage. Basically, they told Griffin: Please take off and run, sir; we’d like to help you out. So Griffin obliged because, well, the opening was bigger too wide not to. Griffin made them pay and showed that hurdle speed (and his vision).
- Funny thing is, he looked bad in the first quarter (just like he looked bad in the first half vs. Cincinnati). Griffin forced a pass, something he has avoided doing most of the time, and it was intercepted. A rookie mistake, though it’s not as if veterans don’t force passes on occasion too.
- Griffin showed some humor in the postgame presser. As I’ve written before, he handles every question as well as any younger player I’ve ever seen. When someone jokingly asked him about his, uh, getting knocked down after one pass he played along. “He hit me good,” Griffin said, with a smile. “It wasn’t like a basketball flop. I sold it pretty well. The ball is clearly gone guys… It was a great job of me and the ref being on the same page.”
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