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OAKLAND, Calif. | After watching Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning carve apart the Oakland Raiders’ defense Monday night, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had to like his odds of a breakout game Sunday.
Manning completed 32 of 37 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-21 Broncos victory.
Griffin didn’t come close to matching those numbers against an energized Raiders defense that appeared intent on making amends. But he got untracked in time to lead the Redskins to a 24-14 comeback victory over Oakland, their first win of the season after losing three straight.
Griffin completed 18 of 31 passes for a season-low 227 yards and one touchdown, a 5-yard strike to wide receiver Pierre Garcon in the third quarter. But he didn’t throw an interception and didn’t lose a fumble, which was huge when you consider that his Raiders counterpart, Matt Flynn, turned over the ball three times.
“It’s huge,” Griffin said of the win. “We talked about it in the pregame. Our goal was to make sure we came out of here 1-3, and there’s nothing else to say. We’ve got to do whatever it takes to come out of this situation, 1-3 going into the bye week, and I think that was big for us.”
Griffin ran the ball only three times for 10 yards, preferring to get the ball to his receivers and let them do the work and take the hits.
Going into the game, Griffin was averaging 325 passing yards per game and had thrown 139 passes. Against the self-destructive Raiders, throwing fewer passes seemed to be a better plan.
Griffin got off to a slow start, throwing incomplete on his first three attempts, although wideout Santana Moss dropped his first throw. By halftime, Griffin had completed 10 of 18 passes for just 117 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He had a passer rating of 75.5.
Griffin, still recovering from surgery to repair two torn knee tendons, proved to be little threat to the Raiders on the ground. He carried one time for 1 yard in the first half.
When Griffin broke the pocket and tried to buy time, Oakland’s defenders often chased him down and forced him to throw the ball away.
Griffin generated his first touchdown drive of the game in the third quarter, putting the Redskins ahead 17-14 with a short strike to Garcon.
Garcon lined up left against Raiders rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden, and Griffin quickly recognized the mismatch. Garcon beat Hayden’s man coverage with a quick inside move, and Griffin hit him in stride for an easy touchdown.
Griffin had a chance to extend the Redskins lead early in the fourth quarter, facing third-and-4 from the Raiders’ 41. Wide receiver Santana Moss broke free deep down the right sideline, but Griffin put too much juice on his pass and overthrew him by two steps.
“He had a couple of three and outs,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of Griffin. “We had an opportunity. We had an opportunity on that third down. We didn’t make it happen. That’s why it takes everybody. When it doesn’t happen you have to keep your composure and keep on playing through it. I was pleased with the guys. They kept on fighting through it.
“You could look at somebody and all of a sudden it’s a dropped ball or whatever it may be. A lot of times the team starts going a different direction. Guys hung in there and found a way to win.
Griffin came up with some of his old magic to make a huge play on a quick touchdown drive that put the Redskins up 24-14 with 6:59 to play.
Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan forced a fumble by Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn, and nose tackle Barry Cofield recovered at the Oakland 42.
On first down, Griffin spun away from a Raider, sprinted to his right and hit backup running Roy Helu Jr. for a 28-yard gain to the Raiders’ 14. Helu, who took over in the fourth quarter after starter Alfred Morris suffered a rib contusion, bolted 14 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
“I talked to our offensive line, told them to give me a little time because we had a deep concept going,” Griffin said. “Came out of it and No. 1 and 2 weren’t there, so I had to pull it down and try to get to No. 4. They did a good job of holding up on that play and then Helu actually did a great job running an off-schedule route as well. The backside corner blitzed. That’s what made me have to step up and move out. Rolled out of it and threw it to Helu. He made a good catch and a good play down the sideline.”
In the first half, Griffin had most of his success running a no-huddle attack that they used after going nowhere in their first three drives and falling behind 14-0.
The hurry-up offense seemed to jump-start the Redskins, as they drove 73 yards in 11 plays but settled for John Potter’s 25-yard field goal. On the drive, Griffin hit wide receiver Leonard Hankerson on a pair of 15-yard passes, the second one giving Washington a first down at Oakland’s 39.
“It just gives you a little spark,” Griffin said of the no-huddle. “I’ve run that no-huddle a lot, at all levels of football, high school and college and then here. It was a spark for us. It caught them off guard. Our team did a good job executing it. It’s a curve ball you can throw every now and then.
“When nothing’s going your way, you’ve got to try something. We went to it and it worked. The guys responded to it well. It kind of tired their defense out a little bit. we were able to move the ball more consistently and convert third downs. So that was a good thing.”
Three plays later, Griffin rolled left and threw back over the middle to hit wide- open tight end Niles Paul for 16 yards to the 6. Griffin had plenty of running room in front of him, and he undoubtedly would have taken off last year. Griffin showed post-surgery good sense and got the ball to a teammate.
“He’s a little bit different than last year,” said Raiders safety Charles Woodson. “I think the brace is probably a little bit cumbersome for him. He’s probably not as mobile or fast as he was without it. But they made enough plays during the game to come up with a win.”
By John R. Bolton
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