Reporting Grant Paulsen
Robert Griffin III’s 76-yard touchdown run electrified the FedEx Faithful, slammed the door on any potential Minnesota Vikings rally and secured a win for the Washington Redskins, their first at home in more than an calendar year.
Here are five thoughts on prolific rookie’s score.
It came at a big time.
The Vikings had pulled to within five points and there was still 2:56 remaining. Minnesota had seized momentum, scoring 14 unanswered points to trail 31-26 as the Redskins faced a 3rd-and-6 from their own 24 yard-line and a possible three-and-out on a second straight possession. But that’s when Griffin decided to go into the phone booth and come out wearing his cape.
Griffin’s jaw-dropping run would have been the calling card highlight of his season to date even if it had come in garbage time of a blowout game. But it didn’t. It put the Vikings away when they were on the verge of a comeback and it cemented a Redskins’ victory.
What would have happened if Griffin doesn’t score? Better yet, what would have happened if he doesn’t move the chains to keep Washington’s offense on the field? You know what, don’t think about that. Just enjoy the moment.
Photos: Redskins Cheerleaders
It was premeditated.
Griffin said after the game that he planned on running for the first down as soon as he saw the look Minnesota was in. He had other options – including a thought that he might throw a quick pass on a hot read – but his pre-snap plan was to run.
The Vikings lined up in a front that tipped the cerebral young quarterback off. He knew they were blitzing and he knew the heat should be coming from the interior, with Minnesota attempting to send defenders through the A-gap. “We kind of felt like they were going to bring pressure in that situation,” Griffin would say after the game.
As soon as Griffin saw that none of the Vikings’ blitzers came free – thanks largely to a great job in protection by running back Evan Royster – he tucked the football and ran. “I thought about running out of bounds, because everyone has been telling me that lately,” Griffin joked. “I felt like I had the guy outflanked.”
All that was left for the speedster to do was win a foot race.
Griffin is as fast as advertised.
When I mentioned to one of the Redskins’ coaches after the game that Griffin ran away from a defensive back to score on the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in 16 years, the coach looked at me and said, “But I bet very few of them were like that, with defenders having a chance to catch him.” They’re right.
Griffin’s world-class speed is one of the reasons the Redskins traded up to No. 2 to draft him, and while he’s displayed his speed in spurts throughout his rookie season, he found a gear on that touchdown run that he hadn’t utilized through the first five games of the season.
Over the past several seasons the Redskins haven’t had a player on offense required to score a touchdown on Griffin’s final rush of the game. Not even from a wide receiver or a running back. On Sunday Washington’s quarterback was the fastest player on the field on that third-and-six and that’s why he scored.
It was historically significant
You already know that the touchdown run was the longest by a quarterback since an 80-yard Kordell Stewart sprint back in 1996. But did you know that Griffin’s 76-yard house call was longer than any run in Michael Vick’s career?
Griffin rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the game, making him just the second NFL quarterback to do that in a single game since the 1970 merger.
Only two quarterbacks have ever rushed for more yards in a game. One is Vick (he’s done it three times, in 173, 166 and 141 yard performances) and the other was a guy named Tobin Rote in 1951.
He’s only played in six games, and he missed a quarter of one of those contests, but Griffin has already set the Redskins’ franchise record for rushing yards and touchdowns by a quarterback.
Give Royster and Morgan Credit
There is a lot of credit to go around when commending an offense for it’s blocking on a 76-yard touchdown run, but two particular Redskins deserve credit for assisting Griffin on his electrifying carry.
Running back Evan Royster has played a reduced role this season after finishing the 2011 campaign as Washington’s starting tailback. The last time the Redskins played the Vikings, in week-16 a year ago, he rushed for 100 yards as the focal point of Washington’s offense. On Sunday he watched much of the game from the sidelines. But when he was called upon late, to help protect Griffin in pass protection, he did his job.
Royster began the third-and-six lined up next to Griffin as a personal protector in the shotgun formation. As soon as the ball was snapped Royster lunged in front of his quarterback to take on a blitzer, who had already broken through Washington’s offensive line.If Royster doesn’t make the right pre-snap read, or if he misses his attempted block, you’re not reading this blog right now.
Wide receiver Josh Morgan also made the touchdown possible. He was coming back to Griffin in his route when the quarterback rushed across the line of scrimmage. At that point Morgan “just found somebody and tried to block him.” He did so, turning a cornerback inside to allow Griffin to get to the sideline and cut his run up-field.
If Morgan missed his block Griffin’s run would have gone for eight yards. Instead you’ll be seeing replays of the dash for months.