Robert Griffin III knelt near the 20-yard line after Santana Moss surged into the end zone Saturday afternoon. The Washington Redskins‘ new franchise quarterback had thrown a touchdown in front of the home fans for the first time. It was time to celebrate.
Griffin singled out Trent Williams, his 325-pound left tackle, ran up to him and jumped, and they bumped shoulders. It was a bit of flair on top of a substantive performance by Griffin in his final playing time of the preseason.
He helped Washington’s starters outscore the Indianapolis Colts‘ first string en route to a 30-17 victory at FedEx Field. The Redskins led 14-7 when Griffin and the first-string offense exited the game in the third quarter and turned their attention to the season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9.
“You’re always preparing to make sure you’re ready, but I thought we had a good performance overall as an offense today,” Griffin said. “If we’re going to finish it with this performance, I think that was a great way to finish it.”
He completed 11 of 17 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown; good for a 93.8 passer rating.
The results were sufficiently mixed for Griffin to feel good about his performance and move forward with concrete areas that require improvement. The positives included a 4-yard touchdown to Moss and third-down conversions with his arm and legs. The negatives included three incomplete deep balls.
“He looked a lot more comfortable,” Shanahan said. “I think with every game he will feel more comfortable. I thought we had a chance for a couple big plays that we just missed, which is always disappointing. We were right there, just a hair away.”
In a game billed as a matchup between Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall draft pick, and the second pick, Griffin, Redskins sixth-round rookie running back Alfred Morris made the greatest impression.
Morris had 107 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries. He appears to have solidified a roster spot, especially considering the injuries plaguing the Redskins‘ three incumbent running backs.
“Today was just an all-around game,” Morris said. “I was able to run. I still got a screen pass, and I was able to get involved in pass protection. It was definitely a good game to show the coaches I can do this.”
Luck played the first half and finished 14-of-23 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. He showed why Indianapolis preferred him over Griffin with exceptional poise in the pocket and a great feel for the pass rush.
On his 31-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton in the second quarter, he stepped up in the pocket to avoid a defender and placed a perfect deep throw over safety Madieu Williams in the back left corner of the end zone.
“He has the potential to be a great quarterback,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. “He made some plays out there on third down situations moving around in the pocket. He can make all the throws, has a lot of great poise, athleticism. You could see why Indy is excited about him.”
Griffin flashed separately. He escaped pressure up the middle on third-and-5 on the first series and ran around the right edge for a first down, barely getting to the marker at the sideline.
On third-and-3 on Washington’s third drive, Griffin pump faked, then rolled right and completed a pass on the run to receiver Joshua Morgan despite tight coverage.
“Just timing, just feeling more comfortable, just getting in the flow of a game, being able to play a little bit,” Griffin said. “I thought everybody just clicked extremely well.”
Some incomplete deep passes were problematic, though. Griffin barely overthrew Pierre Garcon on the first play of the game. A second deep throw to Garcon was way too long. Leonard Hankerson didn’t connect on another after Hankerson appeared to slow down midway into his route.
“Those type of things, those situations, you have to get used to a guy’s game speed,” Griffin said. “I talked to [Garcon] while we were on the sideline and told him those passes, they’ll come. Once we’re in season and we get a few more reps at those deep routes, we’ll hit those like there’s no tomorrow. We’ll have a lot of touchdowns and a lot of people celebrating.
“It was good to come out and … see that we did miss them and know what we have to fix on those particular routes, me getting on the same page with them and them being on the same page with me.”
Griffin finished the preseason 20-of-31 passing for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 103.3.
“I think he keeps on getting better and better and more comfortable with the system, what we’re trying to do,” Shanahan said. “That goes with the experience that most quarterbacks need to get better in the National Football League.”
Backup quarterback Rex Grossman secured the victory by completing all eight of his passes for 127 yards. He threw touchdowns to veterans Morgan and Dezmon Briscoe after some fans booed his entrance into the game.
“When this offense executes well, and we get good plays and good people running the right depths, it looks crisp,” Grossman said. “A lot of good matchups with the plays versus coverages.”
Running back Tim Hightower had 28 yards on five carries in his first game action since tearing the ACL in his left knee last October.
“It was special,” Hightower said. “I think I hugged my coach and the trainers about 18 times.”
“I’ve been talking about it since OTAs, especially since I lost all that weight,” said Moss, who dropped about 15 pounds in the offseason. “I feel like I can run again. … It’s a lot more easier. I feel like my old self.”
Outside linebacker Chris Wilson sacked Colts backup quarterback Chandler Harnish for a safety in the second half. His got around the right tackle with a quick slap. It was one of four sacks by the Redskins‘ defense.