The Washington Redskins have picked up some bad habits early in 2012. Two biggies? Robert Griffin III has taken far too many hits, while the team as a whole has failed to close out opponents.
Neither problem was fixed Sunday in Tampa, where the Redskins hung on to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after suffering one heck of a scare.
For the third time in four weeks, the 'Skins held a double-digit lead before letting it slip away. The good news is they got past the Saints in Week 1 and survived against the Bucs on this occasion, which means their inability to put teams away only cost them in the win column against the Rams in Week 2.
And for the fourth time in four weeks, Griffin took far too many hits—some avoidable, some unavoidable—in the process. By my count, Griffin has been hit over 70 times this year. That is not sustainable.
And one of those hits almost worked as the turning point in the Bucs' favor, as the 'Skins let a 15-point lead slip away. You have to admire the rookie's courage, but it's also becoming obvious when he's going to take off in crucial moments.
The near-killer play Sunday took place on a 3rd-and-2 on the Tampa Bay 13-yard line with Washington leading by eight early in the fourth quarter. Griffin took the shotgun snap and didn't even hesitate to run for the first down. Gerald McCoy read it all the way, pierced through the line and took RG3 down for a loss.
Billy Cundiff would then miss the field goal and the Bucs would score on the ensuing drive, moving to within two points. The whole thing gave Josh Freeman a chance to gain confidence and handed Tampa Bay all the momentum at home.
The Redskins can avoid being so overt while also saving their franchise quarterback from taking so many smacks by emphasizing more unpredictability in the play-calling, especially in the red zone. Because while Griffin's a magnificent threat with the ball in his hands near the end zone, defenses will continue to adjust and make plays like that one.
Against the league's top-rated run defense, rookie back Alfred Morris averaged 5.4 yards per carry Sunday. You can't be afraid to use him, too, in spots like those.
This game shouldn't have been this close. It shouldn't have come down to a moment in which the 'Skins were relying on a shaky kicker in the final seconds. Sure, it would have been a different story had Bill Cundiff not been 0-for-3 and Connor Barth not been 3-for-3 (with each successful kick coming from 47-plus yards).
But especially in games against inferior opponents, the Redskins don't want to have to rely on the success and/or failures of kickers.
These have to be learning experiences, because this team won't be so lucky going forward. It's nice that they're in the mix at 2-2 and that they have only five road games on the schedule the rest of the year, but they've yet to meet anyone in their own division and play their next two games against teams that are a combined 7-1.
Will the Redskins adjust on the run in order to finish stronger going forward, or will they continue to settle for the obvious in key moments, exposing their franchise player while failing to put opponents away?