One of the storylines heading into Sunday's Redskins-Buccaneers matchup was how Washington's top-rated run game would stack up against Tampa Bay's third-ranked run defense. Not only did the rushing attack have some success, the Skins were efficient through the air, too.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris ran for 113 yards on 21 carries, including a 39-yard touchdown jaunt that gave Washington a 21-3 second-quarter lead. Sunday's effort put Morris in elite company. According to the Washington Post, he joins Larry Brown, John Riggins, George Rogers, Earnest Byner and Terry Allen as the only Redskins to rush for at least 75 yards in their first four games.
Morris has rushing 376 yards through the first quarter of the season, which works out to 94 yards per game.
“He’s been playing great every game,” said coach Mike Shanahan. “In the first half, I thought he played unbelievably. I thought their defense stepped up in the second half and played like they have throughout the year.”
Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III added 43 yards on the ground to go along with his 323 passing yards. Most impressive, perhaps: 26 of his completions (he had 35 attempts) went to nine receivers, and seven of those receptions were for at least 15 yards.
The biggest benefit to the Redskins getting up early, even if they had to scratch and claw to win it on a last-second Billy Cundiff field goal: Fewer option plays leaving RGIII open to huge hits, something that had become common during the first three weeks. Still, Griffin took plenty of punishment, two coming in the first half courtesy of Bucs safety Mark Barron, who forced a fumble near Tampa Bay's goal line (Pierre Garcon recovered for a touchdown). And later when Barron bodyslammed RGIII and drew an unnecessary-roughness penalty.
Another twist: Shanahan and son Kyle, the Redskins offensive coordinator, used Griffin under center Sunday (RGIII had primarily worked from the shotgun this season), which caught the Bucs' defense off-guard and gave Washington an advantage. It's this diversity that could ultimately save Griffin from wide-eyed defenders looking for a knockout blow.
Details via the Post's Jason Reid:
Sophisticated quarterback option plays. End-around runs after shifting into a modified quarterback shotgun formation called the “pistol.” Shotgun misdirection calls. The Shanahans’ offensive creativity is prompting Redskins fans to expand their football vocabulary. They are trying to construct the most creative offense in NFL history.
If the Shanahans realize their vision, they’ll design an offense that draws from, well, almost every scheme and system that has worked. And Griffin is the foundation for whatever they can dream up.
The 'Skins are off to a good start. Yes, they're 2-2, but it's a good 2-2. A year ago, this team was 3-1 but no one -- not even Shanahan, we'd imagine -- expected their good fortune to last. This is the reality of building your team around Rex Grossman and John Beck. But this season, Washington for the first time in a long time, has their franchise quarterback.
Now they just need to find a kicker who converts slightly more than 25 percent of the time. Because if Billy Cundiff had made just half his kicks Sunday (and let's be honest, there's absolutely no excuse for missing from 41, much less 31 before he finally willed the ball through the uprights on the last play of the game.
“I just knew he wasn’t going to miss four,” tight end Fred Davis said. “I just knew he wasn’t.”
That makes one of us.