The Washington Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-22 in Florida today.
RG3. What more can we write about this kid? The future of the Redskins will be determined not by the team's final record in the 2012 season, but by what Robert Griffin III becomes over the next twelve games. If the first four games of his career are any guide, RG3 is going to be a truly spectacular player, one of the few persons in the NFL who determines wins and losses by his presence on the field. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 323 yards and no interceptions. [Three of his 9 incompletions were the result of drops or a receiver falling down.] He did fumble the ball on a run at the Tampa goalline, but it was recovered in the end zone by WR Pierre Garcon, who didn't do much else all day. [More on him later.] He led the Redskins on long drives and if the drive failed it was pretty much never his fault. His passer rating of 102.4 marks the second time in his first four games he's had a passer rating of at least 100 and he added 43 yards and a touchdown on 7 carries. Most of all, RG3 took the ball on his 20-yard line with 1:43 left in regulation and one timeout and led the Skins 57 yards to set PK Billy Cundiff up for his game-winning 41-yard field goal.
He was cool as a cucumber on the drive, quickly completing passes of 15 yards to WR Santana Moss and 20 yards to Fred Davis. After a short pass to TB Evan Royster, RG3 eluded the pass rush and scrambled for 16 yards, taking a big hit at the end of the run, but popping right back up. A witless 5-yard false start penalty by LG Kory Lichtensteiger [his second of the day], pushed the Skns back, but RG3 completed a quick 7-yard pass to Moss, setting the team up at the 23-yard line for Cundiff. All great quarterbacks are known for leading their team down the field at the end of a game for the winning field goal or touchdown. Today, RG3 led his first late game-winning drive. By the look of this young man, it will be merely the first of many to come. A week into Griffin's very young career, it is difficult not to be very excited about what he will do in the future as he learns more about the pro game.
Alfred Morris. One of the interesting and improbable things about Washington's offenisve resurgence this season is that it has been led by two rookies. Morris, the unknown 6th round pick who toiled in anonymity for a small Florida college with a bad football team, has become the centerpiece of Mike and Kyle Shanahan's rushing attack. Facing the top rushing defense in the league -- Tampa came into the game giving up less than 45 rushing yards per game -- Morris gashed the Buccaneers for 113 yards on 21 carries, a 5.4 yards per carry average. Tampa was giving up slightly over 2 yards per carry coming into Sunday's game. The highlight of the day for Morris, of course, came on his beautiful 39-yard touchdown run, where he faked a Tampa defender out of his jock before hitting the open field. Morris is a tough, hard runner with excellent vision and he falls forward rather than back when he meets contact. The only thing that would get him out of the lineup now would be an injury. Alfred Morris is here to stay.
BILLY CUNDIFF. Look, I don't have a problem with Cundiff missing a 57-yard field goal. [Though Tampa's kicker, Connor Barth, hit one today.] But missing a 41-yard field goal and a 31-yard field goal, both kicked under perfect weather conditions, just isn't acceptable. I know the Redskins got Cundiff for his magnificent ability to crush kickoff touchbacks and he's been everything he was advertised to be on that score. But scoring is a pretty important part of a kicker's game and this game didn't have to be so close. Cundiff may have saved his job today with that 41-yard game winner, but I hope Redskins GM Bruce Allen puts Neil Rackers and Graham Gano on his speed dial.
STUPID PENALTIES. The Redskins had two very promising second half drives destroyed by idiotic penalties. First, C Will Montgomery, who has otherwise played well this season, drew a 15-yard clipping penalty when the Redskins had a 1st and 10 on Tampa's 44 yard line. Suddenly the team was back on its own side of the field and needing 25 yards to continue the drive. They didn't. On the next drive, the Redskins had 3rd and 4 on their own 46 yard line when WR Pierre Garcon unleashed a completely unnecessary cheap shot on a Tampa cornerback, putting the team in third and very long and effectively ending the drive. The personal foul occurred after the play ended on the other side of the field, making Garcon's [only 1 catch for 20 yards today] cheap shot even more witless. Finally, on first and ten from the 26 yard line with less than 30 seconds to play, LG Kory Lichtensteiger committed his second false start penalty of the day, pushing the Redskins outside of easy field goal range. Lichtensteiger is the left guard, positioned right next to the center. How he commits not one but two motion penalties in the same game is bizarre and inexcusable. Lichtensteiger is a solid guard but he needs to do better than that. Odd that while veteran players were committing stupid penalties, the rookie QB kept his cool and delivered the win.