- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2014

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For a player who maintained so frequently this week that he was focused on San Francisco, Robert Griffin III found on Sunday that such a strategy may be beneficial.

As always seems to be the case with Griffin, he just needs more time.

Griffin responded to the worst performance of his career with another mediocre effort in the Washington Redskins’ 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday — one that was capped by two stalled drives in the final three minutes and a sack and fumble on the final play that epitomized the problems the quarterback continues to face.

He completed 11 of 19 passes for 106 yards — the fewest he has gained in a game he has not left because of injury — while working within what appeared to be a simplified game plan. That strategy leaned heavily on the running game, with running back Alfred Morris gaining 125 rushing yards to reach triple digits for the first time this season.

The mediocre effort was punctuated by a game-ending fumble, with Griffin sacked and stripped of the ball by 49ers defensive end Justin Smith with a minute remaining.

“[Griffin] made strides, but there’s a lot of other things that go into the passing game,” said coach Jay Gruden. “We wanted to try to get the running game going. We had positive field position and didn’t want to take a lot of risk down the field, but this wasn’t a good day in the passing game.”

SEE ALSO: As bodies keep falling, Redskins’ secondary has valiant effort in loss

After a miserable performance in the Redskins’ previous game, a 27-7 loss to Tampa Bay, Gruden heavily criticized his quarterback, noting that fundamental flaws in Griffin’s technique were “not even close to being good enough to what we expect from that quarterback position.”

While Gruden made clear immediately after the press conference that Griffin had been privately told each of those criticisms, the honesty — and the response — led to a backlash that resonated in the national media.

By the time the coach and quarterback were scheduled to speak to reporters on Wednesday, Griffin was muzzled, responding to questions only by looking forward, and Gruden clammed up, backtracking and apologizing for how blunt he was with his assessments.

The focus, then, was on how Griffin would respond to his previous performance, and whether the quarterback could shake off the issues against San Francisco, which entered the game with the league’s fourth-ranked passing defense.

“I feel like you go out each week and you try to hammer in the game plan — whether that’d be the running game [or] the passing game — and be the best you can be at it and show Coach that you’re doing everything that he asks you to do,” Griffin said. “You take care of your house so that when you look at it on tape, you can say, ‘All right, this is where I need to get better. This is what I did well.’ I think all the guys will do that.”

Griffin completed just 5 of 8 passes in the first half, gaining 54 yards, with the Redskins running the ball on consecutive plays to start three of their first five drives.

SEE ALSO: Redskins notes: Alfred Morris eclipses 100-yard mark in rushing for first time this season

They went three-and-out on their first possession, including an incomplete pass from Griffin that was nearly intercepted by 49ers free safety Eric Reid. At one point on the second drive, Griffin took the snap, dropped back and turned to give the ball to Morris, only to collide with fullback Darrel Young and allow the ball to pop free.

Griffin was sacked five times on Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive game he’s started and finished where he’s been dropped at least three times. Part of that was the inexperience of his offensive line — especially on the left side, where rookie left tackle Morgan Moses was making his first start in place of injured starter Trent Williams.

Moses appeared to be at fault for two sacks by Aldon Smith — one on the second play of the game, when Griffin incubated the ball too long and lost nine yards, and one early in the third quarter, when Griffin was immediately corralled upon the completion of a five-step drop.

He also was beaten by Justin Smith on the final play of the game, when, with a minute remaining and the Redskins facing third-and-8 from their own 10-yard line, the defensive end flew by Moses and grabbed the quarterback.

In two drives with fewer than three minutes remaining, the Redskins lost a combined four yards. They went 2-for-13 on third down, and Griffin completed just two passes for more than 20 yards — one to Pierre Garçon in the second quarter and one to DeSean Jackson in the third.

“We’ve just got to make it happen,” Griffin said. We’ll go back, watch the tape and make it happen. Aside from that, I’m not gonna speculate on what happened or anything like that. We’ve just got to be better. We will be. I believe that. I believe. I trust the process. I believe in those guys in the locker room and we’ll make it work.”

• Zac Boyer can be reached at zboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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