- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some interesting numbers, focusing on Robert Griffin III and his numbers on third down and in the red zone; and some Dallas passing numbers, some of which will please Redskins fans:
Quarterbacks make their money on third down and in the red zone. If that’s the case, then Griffin needs to start earning his on third down. Defenses are blitzing him more, especially on third down, as they’re forcing him to win with his arm. But this also speaks to the importance of the early downs. When Griffin and the Washington Redskins' offense faces a third and four or less, he’s converted 7-of-13 third downs into first downs with his throws. But after that? Griffin’s passes have resulted in only 7-of-31 conversions. The key is the 31, which is way too many. That means that of his third-down drop-backs, 67.3 percent have been in third and five or more. And when it’s third-and-8 or more, Griffin’s throws have resulted in first downs only 3 of 19 times. Griffin did a good job in the second half against an underrated Oakland defense before the bye, converting 3-of-6 third downs with his arm. His ability to maneuver in the pocket helped convert two of those, a 32-yard pass to Logan Paulsen (who eventually fumbled) and ta 17-yard pass to Leonard Hankerson (on the go-ahead touchdown drive).
In the red zone, Griffin has completed 11-of-20 passes for 81 yards, five touchdowns (one coming versus Oakland) and an interception. His completions, attempts and touchdowns are the league average in the red zone. Just for comparison: Dallas’ Tony Romo has completed 15-of-25 passes for 91 yards and nine touchdowns and an interception. And, looking a couple weeks out, Denver’s Peyton Manning is 27-31 with 15 touchdowns and no picks.
From my guys at ESPN Stats & Information: “Through 5 weeks, every NFC East team has a losing record and the division has a combined record of 5-14, worst in the NFL. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the only time an entire division has been under .500 through 5 weeks since the merger in 1970.” I still think, for now at least, that it'll take nine wins to capture the division.
Griffin has scored just one rushing touchdown in the past 14 games after rushing for six in his first six games. Yes, the knee injury has had something to do with that, but at least last year so, too, did the way teams defended Washington in the red zone. They went to more man coverages, putting the receivers in a better situation and prompting Washington to throw more. The result: Griffin threw six touchdown passes in the red zone in his final five games compared to four in the first nine games. This season he has five touchdown passes in the red zone and no rushing attempts in the red zone. I would expect that to change the more comfortable he gets, whether on designed runs or scrambles.
Stat that should give the Redskins optimism: Dallas has allowed a league-high 14 touchdown passes this season (the Cowboys have only allowed two rushing touchdowns). They’ve been horrible on downfield throws, with quarterbacks completing 56.8 percent of passes at least 15 yards downfield (compared to 49.5 percent last season). The NFL average is 42.5 percent. The inability to get consistent pressure with their four-man rush has been an issue; they've also faced quarterbacks willing to take shots downfield in Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
Stat that won’t provide optimism: Dallas receiver Dez Bryant has an NFL-best 16 touchdown receptions since Week 10 of the 2012 season. That’s five more than the next highest total (Denver’s Wes Welker). Bryant has caught a touchdown pass in 11 of those 13 games. One in which he did not? The 2012 season finale at Washington.
Romo has thrown eight interceptions in his past 14 games; five occurred in the two losses to Washington last season.