A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins’ offense and some observations after re-watching the FOX telecast and the NFL.com coaches’ film of their 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
QB ROBERT GRIFFIN III: I suppose I’ll just reserve this spot for him every week. Griffin’s next bad game would be his first. There were so many positives. Let’s review the highlights:
This was his most accurate passing performance through four games. His 74.3 completion percentage beat his 73.1 percent mark against New Orleans. And one of his incompletions against Tampa Bay was a spike to stop the clock on the final drive; take that away, and he completed 76.5 percent of the throws on which he dropped back to pass.
Griffin wasn’t always mechanically sound, but on those occasions his athleticism and core strength enabled him to get the ball to his receivers. His first pass was an incomplete sidearm/underhand sling to RB Alfred Morris on a disrupted screen pass. He jump-passed above a defender to TE Fred Davis on the 26-yard screen on the first touchdown drive. His physical talent allows him to be creative and extend plays when the pocket or passing lane isn’t clean.
Griffin made smart decisions and got away with attempting a few throws into tight coverage. Only six of Griffin’s 26 completions traveled more than 10 yards in the air. He was extremely accurate throwing over the middle off of play-action, and he anticipated his receivers’ breaks well. He also hit WR Joshua Morgan in stride on two quick slants to the right, threading the ball between an inside slot defender and the outside defender on Morgan’s back.
His pocket presence was quite good. His best play in that regard was the 15-yard scramble to the Tampa Bay 26-yard line on the game-winning drive. When the Buccaneers diagnosed the screen pass left to RB Evan Royster and clogged the space there, Griffin raced around LDE Michael Bennett and out the right side of the backfield to put the Redskins in field goal range. Earlier in the fourth quarter, he stepped up in the pocket to avoid DT Corvey Irvin, who had beaten LG Kory Lichtensteiger, kept his eyes downfield and threw a perfect pass to a tightly-covered Morgan for 16 yards.
Griffin’s poise on the final drive was special. His calm when the helmet headset went out is a testament to his confidence, practice habits and comfort in the offense. He took what Tampa Bay gave him in soft coverage, didn’t force anything and let his receivers gain yards after the catch. On the 20-yard pass to Davis that moved the Redskins into Bucs’ territory, Griffin got rid of the ball in 1.6 seconds against a seven-man blitz. Tampa Bay blitzed FS Ronde Barber and its two linebackers, leaving Davis wide open. Davis caught the ball at 6 yards and gained 14 more. It wasn’t a difficult read considering Davis was uncovered and the Bucs brought pressure, but Griffin didn’t panic.
Griffin scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season on a 5-yard quarterback draw in the second quarter. He’s very patient in selling the pass before he takes off. That gets defenders out of position and allows his blockers time to get out in front of him. On the touchdown, his pass set held slot CB Eric Wright long enough that Wright stayed with slot WR Santana Moss for an extra moment, and as a result he was too late getting over to stop Griffin at the goal line.
Griffin’s first-quarter fumble stands out as the greatest negative. He ran with the ball too far away from his body on the quarterback draw. He pulled it closer to his chest just before S Mark Barron and S Ahmad Black sandwiched him, but the ball was not secured.
When he was sacked in the fourth quarter on second-and-10, he didn’t wait for WR Leonard Hankerson to break open to the middle of the field from the left. RDE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim dropped into coverage from a down position, and he temporarily occupied Griffin’s passing lane to Hankerson. But Te’o-Nesheim lost his bearings and chased Moss’s deep slant from the slot instead, leaving Hankerson open underneath on the shallow cross. Griffin, however, had already pump faked and started to run, even though the pocket held up because of good pass protection. If he had hung in the pocket, he probably would have been able to reload and hit Hankerson for a positive gain.
RB ALFRED MORRIS: Morris gained three yards or less on 11 of his 21 carries, but he fought hard for yards, as usual. He gained 82 of his 113 rushing yards after contact, and he had five additional yards after contact behind the line of scrimmage. He often makes the first defender miss because he runs low and behind his pads, and he keeps his strong legs churning when he gets hit. The FOX broadcast team noted Morris can squat 645 pounds. That’s major for a running back.
Morris gained 39 of his yards on his second-quarter touchdown run. It was brilliantly blocked, evidence of what can happen when players carry out their assignments. Morris did his part by starting right and pressing his cutback to the left. That sucked LB Quincy Black toward the line of scrimmage, too far inside to help make the tackle once Morris cut back left. Once through the hole, Morris stiff-armed CB Eric Wright and then juked FS Ronde Barber to the turf. His combination of speed and power is a huge reason why the Redskins average 5.16 yards per rush, the third-best average in the NFL.
Morris helped clear the way for QB Robert Griffin III’s touchdown in the second quarter. He led Griffin through the hole and sealed CB Eric Wright at the goal line. Wright was late getting over because he played the pass first; that enabled Morris to get between Griffin and him.
Coach Mike Shanahan on Monday shared with reporters the team’s running inside joke that Morris leads the Redskins in sacks because of how many times he has collided with Griffin to force a sack. On the Bucs’ first sack Sunday, the one that nearly was a safety, the play was such a mess that it wasn’t clear what Washington was trying to run. A quarterback draw, perhaps? Morris fell trying to chip blitzing LB Mason Foster, and Foster breached the line to make first contact against Griffin. So Morris remains a work in progress in several areas, which is scary because he’s already a significant asset to the offense.
LT TRENT WILLIAMS: Williams played through the pain in his bruised right knee, and he played well, at that. He was very good in pass protection, and he made several key blocks to help the Redskins average 5.3 yards per rush against the league’s best rushing defense. Williams is taking his leadership role seriously so far, which is an impressive turnaround from his season-ending suspension last year. To Williams, leadership means being on the field on gameday. He took medicine (but not an injection) to help overcome the pain in his knee after hobbling around Redskins Park all week. Whatever he did, it worked.
One of Williams’ blocks that stood out occurred on TE Fred Davis’ 12-yard screen on the second play of second half. The Redskins lined up in the triple option and faked a handoff to the right. Williams began the play by faking right to run block with his teammates, but he changed direction and ran into space on the left to block LB Quincy Black. Black flowed toward the run fake, which enabled Williams to get to him as Davis caught QB Robert Griffin’s screen pass to the left.
WR JOSHUA MORGAN: Morgan has proved he is fearless catching passes in traffic. He did it in Week 1 against New Orleans, when he collided head-on with a safety while diving for a pass, and he did it again Sunday by repeatedly going over the middle at full speed. That’s essential for this offense, considering how often the Redskins are using play-action to pull the linebackers forward and attack the soft middle.
Morgan caught two slants in traffic while running full speed. He also made a sliding catch for a 16-yard gain in the second half after QB Robert Griffin III stepped up to avoid pressure and placed the throw low and away from a defender covering Morgan to the inside. Morgan has been excellent at sliding or going to his knees to catch a ball.
Blocking by receivers was a major element of Washington’s victory, and Morgan led the way with his best blocking game out of four as a Redskin. He’s aggressive, physical and doesn’t shy away from contact. He sealed S Mark Barron inside on RB Alfred Morris’ 39-yard touchdown. He blocked CB E.J. Biggers outside to create a running lane for TE Fred Davis’ 12-yard screen catch-and-run in the second quarter. Morgan was called for holding in the first half, but coach Mike Shanahan believed it was a bad call because Morgan pulled the defender down to the ground only because another defender rolled up his legs.
RT TYLER POLUMBUS: This was Polumbus’ best game of the season. He wasn’t perfect, but if the Redskins could get this level of pass protection and run blocking from him every week, their line would be in fine shape. Against LDE Michael Bennett, Polumbus was better protecting against edge rushes. That’s how St. Louis’ Chris Long and Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap got the best of him in the previous two games. It’s fair to say Bennett isn’t as difficult a matchup as Long or Dunlap, but Polumbus did his job.
His successful cut block on RB Alfred Morris’ 5-yard carry on the first play of the game eliminated some backside pursuit. On QB Robert Griffin III’s 15-yard scramble on the game-winning drive, Polumbus shoved Bennett inside just enough for Griffin to escape the pocket wide to the right. The Redskins ran at least two successful toss plays to the right with Polumbus kicking out and leading in space. He did enough to obstruct defenders – FS Ronde Barber on one run – that Morris was able to get around the corner and get upfield.
TE FRED DAVIS: This was a complete performance by Davis. He had four catches for 70 yards, including 61 yards after the catch. His ability to make defenders miss is a weapon the Redskins did not take advantage of during the first two games. He’s fast and strong, which makes him tough to bring down.
Davis also was one of the many Redskins who blocked well. On the touchdown WR Pierre Garcon recovered in the end zone, Davis blocked FS Ronde Barber from the 4-yard line to 5 yards deep in the end zone. And when QB Robert Griffin fumbled, Barber was a step too far away from the ball, enabling Garcon to recover it a split-second earlier. Davis used his 60-pound, 6-inch size advantage over Barber to overpower him at the point of attack.
On RB Alfred Morris’ 39-yard touchdown, Davis blocked DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim to create the left side of the hole Morris ran through. Davis stayed low off the ball and finished his block even after Morris was through. Davis’ commitment to blocking on Sunday was unquestionable.
RG CHRIS CHESTER: It’s probably harsh to put Chester here. DT Gerald McCoy, the 2010 third-overall draft pick, is a tough matchup for any lineman, and Washington’s offensive line played fairly well overall against the NFL’s leading rush defense.
A couple of important plays, however, stand out for the wrong reasons. McCoy tackled QB Robert Griffin short of the yard-to-gain on a quarterback run on third-and-2 early in the fourth quarter. Griffin ran around the left edge behind TE Niles Paul and Chester, who pulled from his right guard spot. McCoy lined up at LDT over Chester’s outside shoulder. Just as Chester pulled to the left, McCoy scraped along the defensive line. Chester appeared not to see McCoy scraping, and he went to block LB Lavonte David, which left McCoy unblocked because Paul blocked David, too. The failed third-down conversion preceded K Billy Cundiff’s missed 31-yard field goal.
LB Mason Foster beat Chester’s block in the third quarter to sack Griffin at the 1-yard line. Chester initially blocked down on DT Roy Miller but didn’t kick out in time to stop the blitzing Foster. It’s possible that play was a designed quarterback draw, in which case credit the Buccaneers for clogging the middle with their linebackers and disrupting the timing.
Griffin had to scramble on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter when McCoy beat Chester by turning him outside with a strong upper body move. You’ll recall Griffin ran out of bounds 1 yard short of the first down, and the Redskins lost a challenge trying to overturn the spot. McCoy’s power was impressive on that play and on another block he won against Chester in the first half.
RB Alfred Morris lost 3 yards after McCoy drove Chester two yards into the backfield off the snap. That impeded Morris’ path, and he had to redirect to the left, where Tampa Bay had a defensive back and linebacker containing the edge.
There were positives, though. For example, although Chester didn’t engage LB Lavonte David on a first-quarter screen pass to TE Fred Davis, he fell at David’s feet, forcing him on an inside path and bad angle, which Davis capitalized on en route to a 26-yard gain.
The list of gassers would have been longer if the Redskins had lost.
K Billy Cundiff took his name off it by making the game-winning 41-yard field goal. The 57-yarder on first down at the end of the first half deserves an asterisk. It was out of his range, and the Redskins wouldn’t have attempted it if they had more time. But he has to make the 31-yarder every single time. You can’t miss field goals from such a short distance and stay in the league. Cundiff knows that, of course.
If you’re like me, you wondered how Graham Gano would have fared on those four field goals. Cundiff’s career long is 56; Gano’s is 59, the Redskins’ franchise record. And because consistency is so crucial for a field goal kicker, it’s worth noting that Gano last season made his final 15 attempts that weren’t blocked. That streak included seven attempts of 33 yards or longer.
To Cundiff’s credit, he overcame whatever mental anguish resulted from the three misses and made the decisive kick.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger also had an uneven game, sort of a microcosm of the Redskins’ offensive production in the first half and struggles in the second.
He had key blocks on second-quarter touchdown runs by QB Robert Griffin III and RB Alfred Morris. On Griffin’s quarterback draw, Steigs shoved DT Gerald McCoy to his left, clearing a running lane for Griffin up the middle. Then he sealed off RDE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, who looped behind McCoy. On Morris’ touchdown, he blocked DT Gerald McCoy long enough for LT Trent Williams to slide over, take over the block and ride McCoy out of the play. Then Steigs climbed to block LB Mason Foster.
There were bumps in the second half, though. On a first down midway through the third quarter, DT Roy Miller avoided Lichtensteiger’s cut block attempt and tackled Morris for a 1-yard gain. On the next series, Griffin had to step up in the pocket to avoid DT Corvey Irvin, who used a rip move to beat Lichtensteiger. And McCoy beat Lichtensteiger with a strong right-handed slap on the first play of the final drive and tackled Griffin just after he passed the ball.
Lichtensteiger also committed two false starts, one on the final series. If Cundiff had missed the final field goal, Lichtensteiger’s false start two plays earlier would have been a major focus. The head referee announced RG Chris Chester committed the false start in the first half, but it was Lichtensteiger who committed the penalty.
QB Robert Griffin III dropped back to pass 39 times. He was 26-of-34 passing for 323 yards; a passer rating of 105.4. That excludes his spike to stop the clock on the game-winning drive. He was sacked twice, and he scrambled three times.
Griffin dropped back out of the shotgun 28 times. He was 18-of-23 for 193 yards, two sacks and three scrambles; a passer rating of 101.6.
He dropped back from under center 11 times. He was 8-of-11 for 130 yards; a passer rating of 111.9.
Griffin dropped back without play-action 25 times. He was 16-of-20 for 140 yards, two sacks and three scrambles; a passer rating of 95.8.
He dropped back using play-action 14 times. He was 10-of-14 for 183 yards; a passer rating of 113.7.
Griffin absorbed less contact against Tampa Bay than he did in any of the first three games. He went to ground with contact a season-low 10 times, compared to 28 against Cincinnati the previous week. Against the Bucs, he went to ground four times on designed runs, four times on quarterback hits while passing and twice while scrambling for yards.
Griffin kept the ball on a zone-read run only once, compared to four times against Cincinnati. Griffin’s strategy of demonstratively showing he did not have the ball worked to keep him upright. The Bucs never hit Griffin when he didn’t have the ball in the running game, as opposed to the three hits he took against Cincinnati.
WR Pierre Garcon did some good things in his return. He aggressively blocked LB Lavonte David on the second level on a first-quarter quarterback draw in the red zone. That put him in position to pounce on the loose ball when QB Robert Griffin III fumbled. He also drew a 32-yard pass interference call on FS Ronde Barber with a sharp cut to the post after faking a corner route.
On the down side, Garcon committed offensive pass interference on a deep throw in the second half. He pulled Barber to the ground by Barber’s arm. Garcon also missed a pair of run blocks in the second half, the second of which resulted in a 2-yard loss by RB Alfred Morris. CB Aqib Talib was quicker off the ball than Garcon was, and he got inside to penetrate the backfield.
Garcon was flagged for a late hit. Officials said he blocked Talib after the play was over, but on the FOX telecast you can clearly hear the whistle blow after Garcon’s block. Coach Mike Shanahan believes it was a bad call.
WR Leonard Hankerson had a game-high seven receptions, but only two were for first downs and both were on first downs from inside Washington territory. In other words, his receptions didn’t make a major impact. He dropped a pass over the middle, and he mistimed his leap on an incomplete deep ball in single coverage in the fourth quarter.
Hankerson, like WR Joshua Morgan, had a fine day blocking. He engaged CB Aqib Talib in the secondary long enough to take Talib out of the play on RB Alfred Morris’ 39-yard touchdown run. Also worth noting: Hankerson played some slot receiver.
The Redskins executed a 12-yard screen to TE Fred Davis out of the triple option look featuring WR Brandon Banks in the backfield, a formation they ran effectively out of against Cincinnati in the previous game. On Sunday, QB Robert Griffin III faked a stretch handoff to Banks and then threw back to Davis on the left. LT Trent Williams and WR Joshua Morgan made excellent blocks to allow Davis to gain yards after the catch. Running different types of plays out of same formation week-to-week is how this offense figures to evolve with Griffin enabling a wide variety of formations.
Of QB Robert Griffin III’s 323 passing yards, Redskins receivers gained 198 after the catch. They gained 205 total yards after the catch. Seven were behind line of scrimmage.
Here’s a sign of how potent the Redskins’ running game is: Even on first-and-25 in the second half, an obvious passing situation, Bucs LBs Mason Foster and Adam Hayward, who lined up four yards beyond the line of scrimmage, came up five yards against play-action before dropping into coverage. The pass ended up being incomplete, but there was space for QB Robert Griffin III to throw it because the linebackers respect the running game.