A few thoughts on Robert Griffin III’s day vs. Carolina:
- The Panthers did an excellent job of keeping Robert Griffin III in the pocket with their pass rush. They sacked him four times in part because he never had anywhere to escape in most cases. The ends pinched him at around seven yards and the tackles got enough push to where he was stuck – and surrounded. It’s a tough combination for him, too, if a team can cover with seven and rush four; it causes him to hesitate a little bit, which enables a team with good pass rushers to get home. It appears that’s what the Panthers did. I will say, Griffin needs to get more help from running back Evan Royster in protection.
- Griffin was off Sunday, perhaps more so than in any other game. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 215 yards, but did not throw an interception. He nearly did, however, thanks to a hit right before attempting to pass. The ball fluttered to the flat where a Panthers linebacker nearly made the interception. But Griffin threw behind targets and over their heads. Said it before but when we were able to watch full practices, he would have days like this. The next day would be different. One pass in the fourth quarter was unlike Griffin. He overthrew Royster largely because he got a little lazy with his feet and didn’t get them around; I’m not sure he got his feet around either. Regardless, the pass sailed on him. He misfired to tight end Logan Paulsen earlier in the game. The ball was low and after a review, ruled incomplete. It would have been a 14-yard gain, but it instead left them at third and 9 and he was sacked. Thought he tried to be perfect on another throw to Paulsen that went over his head. Really, this is about what I anticipated earlier on from Griffin and rarely saw it: a guy who looked like a rookie, whether because of indecision or inaccuracy, but could still make plays. Griffin did have a beautiful pass to Niles Paul for 22 yards, just out of the way of the linebacker’s hands.
- It’s too bad Griffin’s touchdown run didn’t stand. Quite a nice run, owing to his patience and athleticism. The first hole was blocked, he paused and cut back. Then there was his helicopter spin after picking up one first down on the fourth and 4. Griffin already had picked up the first down when this occurs, but on a day where a lot went wrong, it’s always refreshing to see an effort like this. Certainly, it provided a nervous moment. But the guy is fighting for a first down. Attitudes like that from the quarterback become infectious at some point.
- Griffin’s talent is such that he can make plays late even on a day where he’s been mostly contained. Coach Mike Shanahan considered the fourth quarter yet another learning experience. It’s the second week in a row Griffin and the offense have had to move the ball down by 15 points in the fourth quarter. “It’s good to put him in those situations,” Shanahan said. “You don’t get it very much.” Well, that’s usually because you don’t want them very much. But I get the point; he can learn enough that perhaps someday he’ll wipe out the deficit. Not that he can do it by himself.
- The zone read did hurt Carolina at times. Griffin executed his fakes well most of the time and once got the linebacker to widen on a run around the end with a hard step. So I’m not going to say they shut this down completely. But the Panthers did a solid job (on first glance) of staying home on the backside with their ends and safeties. Just in case. On one zone read keeper in the third, the safety came up hard and forced Griffin up for no gain. If he doesn’t come up like that, Griffin can turn the corner.