Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins looks to pass against the Minnesota Vikings at FedExField on October 14, 2012. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Under Mike Shanahan, the Redskins are 2-2 against the Giants. But this time, a win would move Washington into first place in the NFC East seven weeks into the schedule. And unlike last season's "there's absolutely no way this sustains itself" fast start that ended -- seemingly inevitably -- in a 5-11 record, the 2012 Redskins appear legit.
Washington can take strides to change perception to reality by beating the defending Super Bowl champs in their first division game of the year. Veteran wideout Santana Moss downplayed the matchup and in the process offered up the usual assortment of cliches.
“It’s bigger than that to us,” Moss said, reports the Free Lance-Star's Zac Boyer. “They’re a division rival and we just want to go out there and do the best we can against them. We know that they’re the Super Bowl champs and all that other stuff that comes with it, but it’s New York. They’re in the NFC East, and we’ve got to take care of business.”
But TCB becomes much more practical when the Redskins show up at MetLife Stadium with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris in the backfield instead of the two-headed monster (some might even say cyclops) known as Rex Grossman and John Beck. It also helps that Washington is far enough into the schedule that early-season jitters shouldn't be an issue for the rookies.
“You know, the one thing I always say is I don’t even worry about when you play different teams, but I’d say it’s always an advantage if you’re gonna play within your division, it’s a little bit later than earlier with young players,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “I think it is a big benefit for us with Robert, a kid like Alfred. You’d rather play a little bit later than earlier.”
Also beneficial: The Giants' secondary is banged up and the run defense has been inconsistent. Not only will New York have to worry about the 'Skins' conventional running attack with Morris, there's also RGIII's ability to change the complexion of a game in the time it takes him to outrun the 11 defenders to the end zone.
"There aren’t a lot of guys who play that position that can break a 76-yard run and not get caught,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after Griffin sealed Minnesota's fate late in Sunday's game. “So that creates some issues for any defense. He’s a heck of a young player that can throw the ball and run the ball.”
That's the other thing. RGIII isn't Michael Vick 2.0 -- part running back, part point guard and occasional passer (in that order) -- he's a passing quarterback who excelled in the read-option offense in college, which makes him extremely dangerous when he decides to take off. He's more John Elway or Steve Young, if we're making comparisons.
And it's a game-planning nightmare for defensive coordinators. It's all so intoxicating, in fact, that even Grossman can't deny its awesomeness.
“He is a lot better than I thought he was, and I thought he was great,” Grossman told Mike Wise on 106.7 The Fan this week, according to the Sports Bog. “He’s got potential to be as good as he wants to be. He’s accurate, he runs a 4.3, he’s smart, he wants to be great. He’s got all the potential in the world. I’m excited to be a part of it. He’s a very good person, good teammate. So things are looking bright in Washington.”
Grossman also happily recounted RGIII's 76-yard touchdown sprint with the exuberance usually reserved for lottery winners. Which, in a sense, is exactly what the Redskins are.
“I mean, once he got the edge, he was gone,” Grossman said. “And that is the coolest thing in the world. I wish I could run a 4.3. That would be SO cool! And getting up the sidelines right there and just watching the fans go crazy, and then have him look back at the defender and just take off, that was a cool moment for him. I just think that’s a moment he’ll never forget.”