Third Down Execution Will Determine Redskins Vs. Vikings
Robert Griffin III candidly addressed the media on Wednesday, attempting to extinguish any doubts about concussion symptoms keeping him from appearing in Sunday’s games against the Vikings. “The only [concussion] symptom I do have is irritability because they keep asking me the same questions,” said Griffin III bringing a little humor to the press conference.
Irritability may be Robert Griffin’s biggest concern, as his history shows that maybe the media and fan base should relax a little, and understand that he’s been there before. In that same press conference Griffin III alluded to a similar situation in college, where he was knocked out by a concussion but returned the following week and led his team to a victory against Texas.
And when fact checking Griffin’s statement, it must be noted that his remarks returned true. Last season at Baylor Griffin was knocked out of competition with a concussion against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He returned to the starting lineup the next week against the Texas Longhorns and completed 15-of-22 passes for 320-yards and 2 touchdowns, as Baylor rolled Texas 48-24. Obviously, Redskins nation will be hoping for a similar bounce-back performance, as Robert prepares to go to work against the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday at FedEx Field.
When it’s time to get to work, the one in-game battle that the Washington Redskins must succeed at involves the game’s time of possession. Last Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons can be attributed to the Redskins having the football 14 minutes less than the Falcons.
Atlanta was able to control the time of possession, and the Redskins’ defense could no longer play defense when it mattered the most in the fourth quarter. With the NFL being the ultimate league of copycats, look for the Vikings to attempt to do more of the same against Washington: Control the time of possession and lean on their 2nd year star quarterback Christian Ponder to make timely passes on third down.
And when the fourth quarter rolls around, the Vikings will then plan to unleash the beast Adrian Peterson and watch Washington’s gashed defense gasp for air.
But the key to solving Washington’s time of possession woes involves the Redskins getting off of the field on third downs.
According to teamrankings.com, the Washington Redskins are allowing their opponents to convert about 40% of third down attempts, which ranks them at 20th in the league. To put things in perspective, the league’s best team so far, the 5-0 Houston Texans, rank 1st in the same category. The third down conversation rate directly correlates to wins and losses, and it’s something that Washington must address on both sides of the football.
The Kyle Shanahan led Redskins offense has been great this season, but the biggest area for improvement involves converting third downs. “You have to make third down conversions – especially against a football team like Atlanta who does a great job of controlling the clock and making third downs themselves. They kind of controlled the tempo of the football game. Even though we had a few good runs in there, we just couldn’t gain that momentum,” said coach Mike Shanahan following Sunday’s loss to Atlanta.
One telling word that stuck out during coach Shanahan’s post game message was: Momentum. On either side of the ball, third down conversations usually determine a football game’s momentum.
Momentum is the great equalizer in football, as it often allows underdog teams to ride its wave to victory. There is no statistic for momentum, no way to truly judge its effects, but football minds understand momentum and do their best to seize it.
For the Redskins to be successful, they must steal the game’s momentum from the Minnesota Vikings and win the time of possession battle. If they can do both things, Robert Griffin III will stop being irritated with questions about his concussion, and the only thing left to talk about will be the team’s curly “W” against the Vikings.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.