LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 14: Robert Griffen III #10 of the Washington Redskins prepares to take the field before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedExField on October 14, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Vikings 38-26. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Apparently, getting conked in the head by someone who outweighs him by 50 pounds makes RGIII stronger. The rookie phenom looked as sharp as he has all season in Washington's 38-26 win over Minnesota.
Robert Griffin III finished Sunday 17 of 22 for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but did most of his damage with his legs. He rushed for a mind-boggling 138 yards on 13 carries, scoring twice, including a 76-yard sprint (the first by a QB since 1996!) down the left side with 2:43 to go in the fourth quarter to cement the win.
“He saw a hole and he took off and the rest was history,” said Coach Mike Shanahan, who didn't need a chalkboard full of Xs and Os to explain the simplicity of what happened.
But that's the allure of RGIII -- there's no secret to what he does or how he does it but that doesn't make it any easier to defend.
Griffin admitted that he thought about “running out of bounds because everyone’s been telling me that lately," but when you run 40 yards in 4.3 seconds and you're even with a linebacker and the only thing between you and the end zone is about 50 yards of FedEx Field turf, you hit the afterburner.
"I felt like I had the guy outflanked," RGIII said, "and I just took off running."
Yes, yes you did.
Griffin still took some hits, several coming on designed running plays. And the concerns remain that, over the course of a season, the contact will take its toll. Which is why the sidelines can be the young quarterback's ally.
“I felt like I got out of bounds a couple times when I should have,” he said via the Post. “I threw the ball away one time and got a penalty because the guy came and hit me. So you try to play smart but stay aggressive. …I told the team I wasn’t going to leave them hanging. I tried to make sure I did that today.”
And Shanahan, who has everything riding on Griffin's success, added: “You’ve got to go play [but] I think common sense prevails. I think he’ll learn every game when to maybe slide, when to throw the ball away, when to go out of bounds a little bit earlier.”
Or, to cite the unofficial team barrister and religious scholar Fred Davis, maybe Griffin transcends sports.
“You really can’t say much more,” Davis told Comcast SportsNet (via the Post's Sports Bog). “I mean, like I said, he’s Black Jesus right now. He saved us today. He’s a great player. He makes plays. And he did what he had to do on that third down. We’ve been talking about him protecting himself a lot more, but he seen an opening and made a play. And what can you say? I mean, he’s a great player.”
While the competition has changed from his NCAA days, Griffin continues to treat opposing defenses like they're members of the Big 12. The only difference: In the NFL everybody's bigger, stronger and faster and when they get a chance to take you out they will. Which is why it's critical that Coach Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan continue to cultivate game plans that highlight RGIII's strengths (namely, the Baylor-inspired read-option offense) while limiting his exposure to big hits.
Still, it's hard not to get excited when RGIII takes off.
“I was on the sideline," Redskins fullback Darrel Young said according to the Washington Post, "I was messing with [linebacker] Keenan Robinson. I said, ‘Would you have caught him?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so, man.’ But that’s a gift that he has. …The sky’s the limit for that guy.”