EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — That was no ordinary team the Washington Redskins cuffed around Sunday to the tune of 480 yards — 248 rushing, 232 (net) passing. That was the New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champs, a club with one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in football. And the Redskins well, I’ll let Santana Moss say it:
“Offensively, we can do anything we want with the ball in his hands and with that guy in the backfield.”
Anything to anybody — even to Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and the gang.
Moss was talking, of course, about Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the Redskins‘ twin rookie terrors. On a cloudless Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Griffin and Morris nearly yin-ed and yang-ed the Giants into submission. RG3 threw for 258 yards, completed more than 70 percent of his passes and lofted a 30-yard touchdown pass to Moss with 1:32 left that should have been The Dagger but wasn’t. Morris, meanwhile, ran over and around the home team for 120 yards (and Robert, when he wasn’t running the option, carrying out fakes and otherwise making a nuisance of himself, tacked on 89 more rushing yards).
It was beautiful to behold, this Redskins attack. It had the Giants‘ heads spinning — and their fans’ stomachs churning. As Griffin put it: “I thought what we did kinda stalemated them for a long time. They didn’t know what was coming. We created confusion.”
To which Barry Cofield, the erstwhile Giant, added, “I’m sure their defense isn’t walking away feeling like they played their best game. They were fortunate. We let it slip away.”
Oh, yeah, that. Despite doing so many things worth getting excited about, the Redskins managed to lose the game, 27-23, when their secondary went to sleep on a 77-yard TD pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to go. It’s not easy to lose when you put together scoring drives of 93, 80 and 77 yards and punt just once. It’s not easy to lose when you gain as many yards on the ground as the Redskins did. In fact, they hadn’t rushed for more than 225 yards in a losing effort since 1959 (when they racked up 255 against the Cleveland Browns but were beaten by two touchdowns).
A loss like this makes you think. It makes you think of all the havoc Griffin figures to wreak on the Giants in years ahead. (You’d better believe they’re thinking about that in the New York locker room.) But it also serves as a reminder that RG3 needs more help if he and the Redskins are going to be all they can be. And how long will it take that help to arrive?
This is a team, let’s not forget, with no first-round pick the next two years — thanks to the megatrade to acquire the Griffin selection. It’s also a team with increasingly obvious holes, holes that won’t be easily filled. The defense, minus Brian Orakpo (and secondarily, Adam Carriker), is an accident waiting to happen, and the secondary is a total mess. It was burned for three long TD passes by Cincinnati (73, 48, 59), and Sunday it gave up the bomb to Cruz even though he was supposed to be double-covered.
Almost as telling as that breakdown, though, was the unit’s inability to stop the Giants late in the game when they had a third-and-15 at the New York 12. Eli Manning, not looking to take any risks with a 20-16 lead, flipped a screen to Andre Brown, and he picked up 17 yards to enable the Giants to retain possession and force the Redskins to burn two timeouts before they got the ball back. Awful, just awful.
Such is Griffin’s lot in life. He playing about as well as a rookie quarterback has ever played, as well as most veteran quarterbacks can play. Indeed, he’s been in so many end-of-game situations these first seven weeks that it’s hard to look at him as a rookie anymore.
RG3 feels the same way. “I’m trying not to approach the game like I’m a rookie,” he said. “I’m not giving myself excuses. The team doesn’t look at me like I’m a rookie. I try to hold myself accountable for everything.”
So naturally he beat himself up for throwing an interception in New York territory late in the third quarter. He was trying to hit Logan Paulsen over the middle, but Paulsen got held up in traffic. (The pass went instead to strong safety Stevie Brown, who ran 41 yards to the Washington 35 to set up a go-ahead touchdown.)
But here’s the thing: Griffin was having to rely on Paulsen because Fred Davis, his top tight end, had blown out his Achilles in the first quarter and is done for the season. Achilles injuries, as we all know, are nothing to kid about. Will Fred Davis ever be Fred Davis again? Heck, will Fred Davis ever play for the Redskins again? (He’s on a one-year, franchise-player contract, remember.) And if he doesn’t play for the Redskins again, who exactly is RG3’s tight end of the future? Certainly not Paulsen.
Yup, it was a swell day at the Meadowlands for Mike Shanahan’s club. They had the Super Bowl champs on the ropes and could have gone home tied for first in the NFC East (and left the Giants in an 0-3 division bind); but events, as they say, intervened. In the end, it was difficult not to wonder: When will the Redskins be good enough to turn defeats like this into victories? Sooner? Or later?