Looking at Robert Griffin III's game after re-watching the 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Robert Griffin III still needs to protect himself better and still doesn’t always see open receivers, making a play that would lead to big yards or avoid big hits. Or both. But against Minnesota he also made some passes that were excellent and showed signs of growth. The real growth for Griffin won’t take place until the offseason, but Griffin made a couple outstanding throws. Yes, it came against a bad defense. But some of these throws were delivered with good anticipation, trust and accuracy.
2. One pass I loved occurred in the second quarter on a third and 8 from the Vikings’ 22-yard line. Minnesota rushed five and played zone. Tight end Jordan Reed is running a deep in-route. As Reed breaks behind the linebacker, Griffin already is starting to throw and leads Reed to the open spot over the middle with his pass. Griffin was hit on the play, too. Good anticipation.
3. Another example, this time in the third quarter. The Redskins faced third and 5 from the 41. This time, the Vikings played man coverage. Minnesota pressured on both edges, forcing Griffin to make a quick throw. As end Jared Allen hit Griffin low, he unloads a ball to a still-breaking Leonard Hankerson on an out route. The ball arrived as Hankerson turned around so even though the coverage was pretty good, it was a 12-yard completion.
4. And one more throw I loved because it speaks to the athleticism of both players and the chemistry between them. But the touchdown to tight end Jordan Reed required both he and Griffin to be in sync. They were. On third and goal from the 11 in the second quarter, Reed, on the left side, runs a crossing route. Griffin gets ready to throw, but there’s a linebacker in the middle that would have tackled Reed. So Griffin pulls the ball down and Reed takes off over the middle. Griffin then hits him with a pass over the middle. The play took 3.8 seconds so the line did a good enough job, allowing both to make the play.
5. My unofficial count for Griffin hits: 18. That’s too many and there are several areas to blame, including Griffin himself as well as the protection. He was hit as he threw the ball seven times and sacked four times. He was hit six times on the zone read option, twice after handing the ball off as end Jared Allen often went right at Griffin. He could have avoided some of those hits but definitely not all.
6. The first drive of the fourth quarter ended in consecutive sacks, but it did not have to. On second down, Griffin faked a zone read handoff and only looked to his left on a three-man route. Meanwhile, Jordan Reed broke open over the middle. With a quicker read and anticipation, Reed would have been a fantastic option. Griffin had to start scrambling after 2.4 seconds, but it could have been avoided. Next play, Griffin was sacked in 2.8 seconds. Of the four receivers on the route only one was turned around at the time of the sack -- Reed, who was open at the 35-yard line. Griffin started to wind up, then ate the ball and took the sack. The pressure was quick, but there was a brief window to make the play.
7. But on the next series, Griffin was hit because no receiver had turned around on a third and 3 as the pressure arrived in 2.6 seconds. It wasn’t just interior pressure, either, as both tackles were beaten on the edge. A mess of a play.
8. Griffin could have avoided a hit on his dive at the goal-line after a second-and-13 scramble. Had he looked at all to his right (while under duress). There, he would have spotted a wide open Roy Helu, who was at the 19 and had no defender within 15 yards. Griffin nearly scored and the Redskins did execute a play-action pass to tight end Logan Paulsen on the next play for a touchdown. But Griffin could have saved himself some wear and tear.
9. Should Griffin have gone elsewhere on that final play? In that situation you make a decision and let it fly because the pressure is coming. Minnesota rushed six on the play and Griffin had been hit on the previous two passes. He knew he had to unload the ball quickly (threw in 1.4 seconds), so you’re going to pick a target and live or die with him. The thought, in hindsight and after multiple viewings of the play, is this: Garcon and Reed are their best options at this point. It’s hard not to target one of them. Griffin made a near-perfect throw to Moss, but it was still incomplete. By the way, give guard Kory Lichtensteiger credit: He held off two rushers on the play.