1. Made this point after the game and after watching the film it holds up: It’s not always about how many hits a guy takes, it’s about getting that one vicious hit. Yes, there is a collective toll when a guy gets knocked around 15 times or so in a game. But in 18 drop-backs, Robert Griffin III was hit only three times Sunday (of his 15 passes, all but two were thrown in less than 2.4 seconds and nine were less than two seconds). The problem is, when you’re a runner you leave yourself more exposed and when you’re an inexperienced runner in the NFL, that’s more true. Griffin has taken a shot in each of the last four games in which you think he could have been injured — some of which he has indeed learned from, but all of which could have been the hit that sidelined him. A lot of that is life as an NFL quarterback so you can’t just blame it on him running. But these shots typically occur when he is a runner and not when he’s in the pocket. When you draft a QB who can run and extend plays, this is what happens. That’s what you want, but there is a flipside. The one thing I wonder is this: Can you change his instincts as a runner? He has gotten out of bounds in the past when necessary. But on a third down inside the 5 at a crucial juncture, he’ll try to score if he thinks he has a shot. Everyone will just have to hold their breath whenever he runs.
2. Griffin had his least impact on a game. Ninety one yards passing and seven rushing in nearly three full quarters isn’t much of a help. It was a rather blah game for him. He didn’t make big mistakes; he didn’t make big plays. This offense just moves better when his legs are part of the play — whether as a runner or, better yet, as a threat.
3. Griffin’s third-down passing numbers aren’t very good when it comes to converting them into first downs. His passer rating on third down is 86.6; he’s completed 21 of 34 passes for 190 yards – his 5.59 yards per attempt on this down is topped by 25 other quarterbacks (with at least 17 attempts). But he’s also only one of eight quarterbacks not to throw an interception on this down. Anyway, when it comes to third down passing, Griffin has faced third and seven or long 22 times on his pass attempts (this does not include when he has run the ball). On those plays, he has completed 14 – but only two h`ave resulted in a first down.
4. Griffin was zero for three in third-down passing, though two of those balls were dropped (by Fred Davis and later Santana Moss). Griffin was hurt on his third-down scramble that ended in a sack.
5. But here’s another key to consider: He’s only been sacked once in a third-and-long situation and he hasn’t thrown an interception. Before the season in one of my email reports, former NFL QB Rich Gannon said a big key for a rookie QB on third down was his ability to pick up positive yards.
Here’s what Gannon said about being in a third and long (he used third and 13 as an example):
“The chances of converting is less than 18 percent. Just knowing that you go in and say I trust my protection and I’ll set my feet if I have a chances to make a good throw downfield I’m going to. If not I’ll check the ball down and get a completion and get off the field. Third and 13, a gain of six is a positive play. What you don’t want is a sack-fumble or the interception. If I’m calling a play on third and 13, I say, ‘Robert, let’s be smart, take a look at the X and if he’s not there give me a completion to the back.’ Let’s not take two extra seconds and hold the ball and let Peppers strip it. That’s the biggest challenge.”
6. On plays of third-and-10 or more, Griffin has completed eight of 10 passes for 47 yards and no first downs. But seven of those completions went for positive yards. He’s also run eight times when faced with third and 10 or more and managed three first downs. Not all of them were designed runs, but on those eight runs he’s gained 82 yards.
7. Sunday, Griffin was victimized by three drops (OK, Pierre Garcon’s was a strip). But Griffin still missed badly on some completions. Yes, completions. The four-yard pass to Garcon should have resulted in a touchdown, but he threw it to where Garcon was and not where he was going; Griffin’s feet were positioned for the ball to be thrown exactly where it was – behind Garcon. The result? A terrific catch in which Garcon reached back and somehow hauled it in. If the pass is in front of him at all then Garcon has an excellent chance of scoring a touchdown. At the worst, the Redskins would have faced second and goal at the 1-yard line. The Redskins had a bunch formation split wide. Joshua Morgan, running an inside route, had cleared out two defensive players to the inside. Santana Moss ran straight to the end zone, taking another defender and leaving Garcon wide open underneath. When the pass first hits his left arm, no defender is within four yards — and Garcon is at the 5. It’s the sort of play made for a guy with Garcon’s toughness: He would have had a chance to split two defensive backs to score. Instead it was second and goal from the 5 and they settled for a field goal (after Griffin’s injury).
8. One of Griffin’s best throws came under duress, with the Falcons rushing six. The line held up long enough for him to pump, reset his feet and then flick a pass to Moss. It was low, though away from the defensive back. However, Moss dropped this third down throw.