Robert Griffin III Boosts Rookie of the Year Odds with Game-Winning Drive

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2012

Sept. 30, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) pitches the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Washington defeated Tampa Bay 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE

Robert Griffin III had done everything, except lead a game-winning drive during the first three weeks of a spectacular debut campaign, that seems certain to end with rookie of the year honours.

Well now pundits can scratch that off the list of milestones. Griffin led the Washington Redskins to a game-winning 44-yard field goal to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-22.

He came close to achieving the feat a week earlier against the Cincinnati Bengals. Penalties and more farcical officiating ended that attempt, but Griffin was not to be denied against a plucky Tampa Bay defense.

On the drive, he completed clutch throws to Santana Moss and Fred Davis. Griffin also unleashed another trademark scramble for a critical gain.

Those efforts positioned Billy Cundiff to make amends for three previous misses. The ex-Baltimore Raven, just about obliged, to even the Redskins record at 2-2.

That parity can largely be attributed to the playmaking talents Griffin is displaying every week. His knack for making plays on the run and his play-action expertise are keeping defenses guessing and making the Redskins one of the league's most prolific scoring teams.

While the Redskins coaches have taken great care to incorporate elements of the spread offense and utilize option plays, Griffin has also displayed a confidence in the pocket that belies his inexperience and raw skills.

His clock management on that final drive was reminiscent of a seasoned veteran. However, the most impressive qualities were Griffin's decisive decision-making and quick-release in the pocket.

To display those attributes, with the game in the balance, is a very encouraging sign for a Redskins franchise still struggling for direction under Mike Shanahan's stewardship. Griffin offers some hope that those struggles could soon come to an end.

With every game that passes, he is creating more big news and exciting plays. In doing so, he is refuting the doubters, this author included, who questioned if the Redskins had given up too much when they traded consecutive first-round picks to draft him.

His numbers are impressive, but now Griffin has added that winning mentality in the clutch at the pro level, it might be time to consider the rookie of the year race already over.