Robert Griffin III took the Redskins to the NFC East crown, beating Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.
The Washington Redskins found their franchise quarterback in the 2012 draft. In the midst of all the despair and controversy surrounding Robert Griffin III’s knee injuries, it’s about time the world was reminded of that.
Looking back through Griffin’s highlights, there are many plays that stand out, for differing reasons. From the obvious deep-ball touchdowns to the scrambles that picked up crucial first downs, Griffin raised the level of performance throughout the team.
With the help of Alfred Morris, the offense suddenly became one of the most potent in the league. Critics and cynics waited for teams to figure out the pistol, play-action and read-option plays, but it never happened.
These detractors still maintain that this offense will ensure Griffin has a short career, that Mike and Kyle Shanahan are exposing him to too much danger by making him run so often. In response to this, just one question should be asked:
How did Griffin’s injuries occur?
The answer to that question is, of course, that he was injured on scrambles, not as a result of designed running plays. It’s true that he needs to learn how to protect himself better, but he did just that after the concussion suffered during the Atlanta game.
The LCL sprain during the game against Baltimore was a freak occurrence that had about as much to do with the Shanahans’ offense as Rex Grossman, while the final injury that tore his LCL and re-injured his ACL came from a bad snap, a sack and a roll-out in the first quarter.
Should Shanahan have taken him out of the game? Maybe so, and I freely admit to being one of the people screaming at the TV for Kirk Cousins to take the field in the second half.
However, both Griffin and the team thought he could see them through, which he had done against Dallas a week earlier.
The fact that Griffin ended the year on a hospital bed doesn’t take anything away from his magnificent play, which resulted in a 10-6 season and the team’s first home playoff game since 1999.
As his rehab gets underway, let's remember Griffin's top five plays of the year.
The team had an inconsistent run up to this point, but Griffin demonstrated his ability to put together a fourth-quarter drive that gave the team a chance to win the game.
The Redskins were down by four with a minute and 38 seconds to play. They had to end the drive with a touchdown or the game was over.
Griffin had been excellent against the blitz and was again on this play. Making a quick read of the situation, he saw Moss up against a rookie—Jayron Hosley out of Virginia Tech—in man coverage and trusted the experienced receiver to make the play.
Showing great touch, he dropped the ball over Hosley’s head and into Moss’ hands as the offensive line picked up the blitz.
Moss had his second touchdown of the game, and although the Redskins defense would surrender a big play and eventually lose, this showed both fight and composure from the young quarterback in the final minutes.
This play was made even sweeter by the fact that Troy Aikman called it seconds before it happened. The Cowboys were so caught up in trying to defend the option that they forgot about Griffin’s deep-ball accuracy, and it cost them.
Griffin faked the handoff to Morris running out of the pistol, who then got in a crucial block to keep the pocket clean. Griffin set his feet and hit Robinson in stride as he beat the Cowboys secondary for pace.
This touchdown would start a run of 28 points in the second quarter to give the Redskins a lead they would never relinquish.
Thanksgiving has always been cruel to Redskins fans in games against the Cowboys, but last year was one to remember.
In the third game of the season, this proved beyond all doubt that Griffin was an NFL-caliber quarterback.
Yes, the 70-yard bombs look better on a highlight reel, but this three-yard pass to Moss saw him thread the ball into a tight window and, on top of that, put the ball where no one but the receiver could make a play on it.
Griffin rolled out to the right and Moss used all his experience to drag his toes and ensure that he stayed in bounds while turning his hips to make the catch as the ball was thrown.
The Redskins drew level with the Bengals after that score, but were unable to build on it in the fourth quarter and the game slipped away.
The Redskins had fought back from a 9-0 deficit to score 24 unanswered points across the second and third quarters. The Vikings then came back with 14 points in the fourth to keep the game alive.
In the final three minutes, Washington was four points up and had the ball at its own 24-yard line. Griffin, returning from a concussion suffered in the previous week against Atlanta, saw an open lane as he dropped back and took off.
Will Montgomery got just enough on his block to allow Griffin the time to accelerate past the line of scrimmage, and after that there was no catching him. Josh Morgan got another good block in to open up space along the sideline and Griffin ran through it for the touchdown, sealing the victory in the process.
The quarterback had 138 yards rushing that day, and the game ensured that the rest of the NFL had no choice but to respect the threat that Griffin offered on the ground. Of course, this then opened up holes for Morris and the running game continued to roll along.
The one that started it all.
No one knew what sort of team the Saints were going to be without Sean Payton, but the Redskins were not expected to win the game in Week 1, let alone put up 40 points in the Superdome.
Up until this play, Griffin had been eased into the league with a variety of screen passes to keep the chains moving. He lined up under center and faked a handoff to Morris, which was enough to make safety Malcom Jenkins hesitate.
Jenkins recovered and hit Griffin as he threw, ensuring that Griffin had no time for anything but a short-arm throw to Pierre Garcon as the receiver beat Corey White in coverage and cut inside.
Griffin remained on the ground with arms aloft as Garcon ran in for the score, and “Griffining” was born.
Here’s to many more moments like this in 2013 as we wish Griffin a safe and speedy recovery from injury.
It’s not been easy to pick Griffin’s top plays of the season, as there have been so many highlights.
In the end it’s a personal list, so if you have any plays that you enjoyed more than the ones shown, please highlight them in the comments section.
In the meantime, here’s every Robert Griffin III touchdown of 2012.