NFL Week 14 recap: Let RGIII run free

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is hit by Baltimore Ravens defensive end Haloti Ngata (92) and linebacker Paul Kruger (99) during the second half Sunday. The hit led to Griffin leaving the game in the final minute of the fourth quarter with a sprained right knee. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Rob Woodfork, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – For the second time this season, star Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was slow to get off the FedEx Field turf after a punishing hit at the end of a play in which he was running.

Unlike the previous injury (a concussion against the Falcons), the one we saw Sunday against the Ravens was a seemingly gruesome hit to RGIII’s knee (or as we’ve called it on-air, “RG Knee”) and could actually keep him out of the next game.

Luckily, we found out Monday from coach Mike Shanahan that the injury is a sprained LCL, not nearly as bad as it looked.

While that’s great news for Redskins Nation, it is, however, touching off another wave of debates over whether Griffin should ever be put in position to take a hit like that in the first place.

One side says, “Stop running him! We finally have a franchise QB and we need to keep him upright!”

Meanwhile, the other side says, “Let him run. He’s great at it, and it’s the exciting brand of football we’ve never seen in Washington before now.”

Put me in the latter category.

To me, this is a no-brainer. If you have a QB that just happens to (literally) be a world-class runner, you use that. It’s a dimension nobody seems capable of stopping right now, and it’s what makes RGIII such a rare talent. It’s why you shipped three first-round picks and a second-rounder to St. Louis. It’s part of why we’ve come to love this kid. He’s electric, he’s unique and he’s ours.

Sure, you’d love to have Peyton Manning. But why settle for that when you can have Peyton Manning with Randall Cunningham athleticism?

Furthermore, what good is having a guy with speed and agility that makes you forget about Cunningham and Michael Vick if you’re not going to use it?

This is football. In the pocket, out of the pocket … hell, even on the sideline you can get hurt in an NFL game. (Remember Saints coach Sean Payton’s leg injury last year?)

Yes, Vick struggles to stay healthy as a “running quarterback.” But he doesn’t protect himself out there. He dives head-first, runs to the middle of the field and rarely has a sense of when the play is over. Griffin is a pass-first QB that has the ability to run, and he’s rapidly learning when to get out of bounds and when to slide when he’s got nowhere left to run (though admittedly, his sliding needs a lot of work).

Remember how it ended the last time the Redskins had a franchise-caliber QB? Joe Theismann had the Hogs and still got his leg snapped in half standing behind one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled.

Also, let’s not ignore the fact that the NFL’s two most high-profile QB injuries of the last five years happened in the pocket. Tom Brady wasn’t in the midst of weaving through defenders to run for a first down in 2008. He was standing tall behind a wall of blockers when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Peyton Manning didn’t miss last season because he was decked on a run to the sideline last year. Last time I checked, he rarely leaves the pocket – the place where RGIII is supposedly “safe.”

Plus, the Redskins offense has enjoyed plenty of success this year off the threat of the run. Having a QB with elite speed helps open up holes for running back Alfred Morris, freezes the defense when the ‘Skins go to the run option plays and helps mask some of the deficiencies in the offensive line.

Right now, Griffin runs because he has to run. His play has camouflaged a lot of what ails the Redskins offense, and I’d say RGIII’s running has won no less than four games for the Redskins this year. Perhaps when the ‘Skins can build up their offensive line and get a couple more receiving targets, they can run a more conventional offense. For now, this works … especially while the rest of the team has to compensate for a defense that has badly regressed.

Look, I hold my breath just like everyone else when RGIII takes a wicked hit. But I also know this is part of the game. I’d love to find a surefire way to preserve the long-awaited franchise quarterback, but we can’t just encase him in bubble wrap.

Speaking of bubble wrap, let’s open up a fresh box of NFL Week 14 Recap, shall we?

Broncos 26
Raiders 13

Denver failed to get touchdowns in the red zone, ran for only 3.6 yards per carry and got to Carson Palmer only once. Yet they still had control of this game from start to finish and won by two touchdowns. The Broncos are legit.

Ravens 28
Redskins 31 (OT)

Like Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” Robert Griffin III is settling all Redskins family business. Losing streak to Philly? No worries: 25-point win. Can’t beat Dallas on Thanksgiving? Here’s a four-TD virtuoso. Haven’t beaten Baltimore in 12 years? Here’s a come-from-behind win in “The Battle of the Beltways.” Here’s hoping he’s healthy enough to play in Cleveland and show them up close and personal what they’re missing.

Quick Baltimore note: It’s a total panic move to fire Cam Cameron in-season. I like Jim Caldwell, but he’s never called plays in the NFL and has a pass-first background from his days in Indy. This is a lateral move at best.

Cowboys 20
Bengals 19

Thoughts and well-wishes go to the families of the late Jerry Brown and the distraught Josh Brent, as well as the Dallas locker room. The events in the hours before this game were thoughtless, and there’s simply been too much senseless death in the NFL this season.

Rams 15
Bills 12

I’m calling it now: Michael Vick will be the starting QB in Buffalo in 2013. Just remember you heard it here first. You have my sympathy, Bills fans.

Chiefs 7
Browns 30

In case you haven’t noticed (and most of America hasn’t), Cleveland has quietly won three games in a row. I hate to say it, but don’t be surprised if they make it four when they face the red-hot Redskins in the Dawg Pound – with or without RGIII.

Titans 23
Colts 27

Speaking of RGIII (and I have quite a bit this week, I know), Andrew Luck might steal Offensive Rookie of the Year from Griffin just on his league-record six come-from-behind victories alone.

Bears 14
Vikings 21

The Minnesota fans who accepted Chad Greenway’s request to get drunk for this game might not realize this, but Adrian Peterson is pretty close to joining the exclusive club of 2,000-yard rushers. If he pulls that off, he’s the cinch pick for NFL Comeback Player of the Year (with no apology to Peyton Manning required).

Chargers 34
Steelers 24

In a weird twist to Ben Roethlisberger’s return, this is the first time San Diego has ever won a regular-season game in Pittsburgh. Bad homecoming for Big Ben, but a nice farewell present for Norv Turner and A.J. Smith on their way out of town.

Eagles 23
Bucs 21

Philly may have stopped the bleeding of an eight-game losing skid, but it won’t stop Andy Reid’s pink slip from coming in three weeks.

Falcons 20
Panthers 30

Cam Newton’s historic day helped prove his teammate Greg Hardy was right. Well, if only for one night.

Jets 17
Jags 10

Oh, if we could read Tim Tebow’s mind, how many stray “I wish I picked Jacksonville” thoughts we would find…

Dolphins 13
Niners 27

Miami has lost five of their last six games after their surprising 4-3 start. Might be time to put in Ryan Tannehill and see what he’s got. Oh wait…

Saints 27
Giants 52

Once again, New York looks like a world-beater in a game where everyone’s watching. Does anyone else feel increasingly certain they’ll find a way to beat Atlanta and Baltimore in successive weeks, but totally drop the ball at home against Philly in Week 17?

Cardinals 0
Seahawks 58

Seriously … was this a real NFL game, or did Fox accidentally switch their coverage to a 12-year-old Seattle fan playing “Madden” on rookie level?

Lions 20
Packers 27

For those keeping score at home, that’s three straight losses for Detroit in games they led by 10 or more points. That’s an NFL record. And that’s got Lions fans saying five familiar words:

Texans 14
Patriots 42

If this is a playoff preview, Houston better hope the rematch is played at Reliant Stadium. Or canceled.

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