A lot of good things have happened to the Washington Redskins in 2012, and a lot of very good football players, coaches and evaluators are responsible for the team's promising rise to relevance and beyond. But the vast majority of the credit and attention has unsurprisingly gone to rookie sensation Robert Griffin III.
In Sunday's huge home victory over the Baltimore Ravens, the Redskins stated to the football world that this is a team that has more layers to it than just RG3.
They made big plays when it mattered most on defense, holding the Ravens to just seven points in the second half and overtime, and forcing two turnovers after halftime. They ran the ball well again, with Alfred Morris going over 100 yards for the third straight week and falling two yards short of a career high.
And when their franchise quarterback went down with a knee injury with the 'Skins down eight points in the fourth quarter, rookie backup Kirk Cousins subbed in and completed two superb passes to lead Washington into the end zone before taking it himself on the game-tying two-point conversion.
And then in overtime, another rookie did all the work, with return man Richard Crawford taking a punt back 64 yards to set up the game-clinching field goal. Virtual rookie Kai Forbath hit that, along with two other clutch kicks on the day, moving to 14-of-14 in his first NFL season.
Something that all of the aforementioned game-savers have in common is that they're all NFL freshmen. Griffin, Morris, Cousins and Crawford were all drafted by Mike Shanahan in April, and this team wouldn't be close to where it is right now without them; all of them, and not just the world-famous signal-caller from Baylor that led that list.
This team has proven that it can win regardless of some massive injuries. Brian Orakpo, Fred Davis, Jammal Brown, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather are all down for the season, but they keep winning. Sunday, they kept breathing with top-performing cornerback Cedric Griffin suspended. Now they've lost Robert Griffin, and they've found a way to succeed anyway.
Of course the 'Skins can't make a Super Bowl run without RG3, but I believe one thing now that I did not believe before 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, and that's that the Redskins have the ability to survive without Griffin.
We don't know yet how long Griffin will be out, and they'll undoubtedly need him in order to win games in January; but Cousins, with the right support, is capable of getting this team to January.
Washington's final three games are against the five-win Browns, the four-win Eagles and the Cowboys at home. Cousins and Co. can win all three of those games, and they should be favored with or without RG3 in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
They still need help elsewhere, but this is doable. The Redskins can actually go from worst to first in the NFC East in 2012, and they could make it official with the face of the franchise on the sideline.
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