1. The other day I wrote that Sunday marked the return of the old Robert Griffin III. It’s not that he was a great passer Sunday; he definitely missed a couple throws, had an interception and two others batted down. But in the last drive of the first half and the game-winning drive, Griffin completed a combined 11 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown (and the Redskins scored 14 points). Those are money times for quarterbacks.
2. But the overall impact was comparable to 2012 pre-injury. The feeling teammates had from seeing him run and make the plays that he did gives them confidence and instills a belief that had been missing much of this season. Maybe Griffin could be sharper, but the offense looked much different Sunday.
3. Perhaps the best throw Griffin made was on the third-and-5 to Pierre Garcon on the final drive. It was comparable to the play he made against Detroit, though he was not being dragged down this time. But he did have to elude two rushers and he did have speedy end Shea McClellin bearing down on him. A big difference this time? Garcon ran back to the ball with his arms outstretched. Against Detroit, Garcon had stopped running.
4. The zone-read was huge for Griffin Sunday, in part because the Bears focused so hard on stopping Alfred Morris. Griffin broke off a 23-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, a result of execution and his speed. Griffin got the outside linebacker to widen, then, with Logan Paulsen on him, cut back inside and eventually ran out of bounds.
5. The Bears would send their end at Morris; and two of their linebackers were supposed to scrape outside or fill the hole. But Griffin’s ball-handling still fooled the Bears. Two other quick examples. In the second quarter, the Bears blitzed the safety to the Redskins’ left side as the Redskins ran the zone-read. The outside linebacker ran upfield, but was blocked by Paulsen. Linebacker Lance Briggs ran to the hole, but hesitated and that allowed Griffin to get wide for 10 yards. In the third quarter, Griffin conned them again, getting the linebacker to hesitate, look inside and then get sealed by a block. Griffin gained 9 yards.
6. It’s clear that Griffin absolutely trusts rookie tight end Jordan Reed. If Griffin is high or behind most of the receivers, it’s an incompletion. That’s not the case with Reed; the coaches say he has a wide catch radius, which is perfect for a quarterback with inconsistent accuracy.
7. One of Griffin’s longest passes, the 38-yarder to Reed, came when he turned the wrong way on a handoff. But it didn’t matter because Reed ran a good post-corner route and was wide open. Griffin threw a perfect fade to Reed in the end zone. Again: Trust. Here’s a good stat: Reed has caught 26 of the 30 passes Griffin has thrown his way. No one else is close to that percentage.
8. Griffin has gotten used to some throws being open, which is perhaps why he automatically looked for certain routes off zone-read play-action. And it’s why I think Briggs batted down two passes. Both are staple plays for the Redskins and Briggs did a good job of reading Griffin’s eyes on the play and timed his jump well. The Bears were definitely hurt when Briggs left the game with a shoulder injury.
9. Griffin still eyes targets, like he did with Leonard Hankerson on the interception. It enabled corner Charles Tillman to break off Aldrick Robinson running a deep post and jump the pass. Hankerson didn’t exactly come back hard for the ball, but Griffin needed to keep the secondary more honest, too.
10. I did see Griffin doing a better job of keeping players honest in coverage by not automatically eyeing his target. It’s why Garcon caught a 19-yard pass in the second quarter; the middle linebacker could not cheat that way because Griffin kept his eyes down the middle of the field long enough to hold him. So the linebacker had to stay in the middle, as did the safety. I also liked how quickly Griffin delivered the ball, in 2.0 seconds. A good, decisive play.
11. Griffin took a chance on the deep ball to Robinson for a touchdown. Tillman played it well; the last time they ran that route it led to his interception. This time, Josh Morgan was wide open and Tillman sank with Robinson. Had Griffin led Robinson more to the corner of the end zone it would have been a phenomenal play. But Griffin needed help from the safety to fall down and Tillman to not get deeper. But it worked, similar to the Santana Moss play versus Philadelphia last season. Sometimes the ball just falls right. People forget his mistakes last season turned out well: two fumbles that resulted in touchdowns, for example. Trust me on this: Griffin left a lot of plays on the field during his golden rookie season, too.
12. Griffin did an excellent job on a throw to Reed in the right flat for 10 yards in the third quarter. There was pressure on this play, with a safety bearing in on him. Griffin had to wait for Reed to turn on the route before he could throw, so it led to hesitation. But Griffin still delivered a good enough throw, albeit to the inside. But Reed could still run after the catch.
13. There were a couple times when Griffin ran wide, then started to cut back to the middle of the field only to either turn back and go out of bounds or hit the ground. Call it a flashback to Haloti Ngata.
14. I also really liked the bootleg pass to Hankerson as Griffin rolled to his left. Got his hips square, was under control despite two rushers coming at him, and threw a pass that allowed Hankerson to stay in stride.