There was nothing luck about the winning drive and the winning touchdown throw by Robert Griffin III to Pierre Garcon in the fourth quarter, but there was plenty of good fortune with the Washington Redskins’ first touchdown of the night, brought on thanks to their quarterback’s fumble.
Griffin had the ball pop out of his hands straight into the waiting arms of receiver Joshua Morgan, who ran the extra 13 yards to give to put the Redskins on the board during a first half in which they struggled moving the ball or stopping the Giants from putting points on the board. Luckily, these were field goals they were conceding instead of touchdowns.
Griffin is delighted to have Pierre Garcon back after missing six of the first nine games this season. Garcon caught the game winning touchdown pass and finished with 8 catches for 106 yards. The Redskins are 5-1 when Garcon plays this season.
The two big keys for the Redskins was keeping Griffin out of the reach of the Giants’ pass rush and limit the big plays. Eli Manning didn’t make too many mistakes or bad throws, usually thwarted by the penalties called against his team (9 for 73 yards), finishing with 20-33 for 280 yards and a touchdown. Manning also suffered from a pretty conservative play calling day from Coughlin, which kept the Giants grounded and limited, having to settle mostly for field goals when they got close to a scoring position.
The Redskins? They kept running the pistol formation, and got one hell of a day from Griffin and Morris, which has turned out to be a regular thing this season. Griffin threw for 163 yards and a touchdown while running for 72 more on only 5 carries. Alfred Morris ran for 124 yards, 1106 yards this season. With that, the Redskins are the 1st team in NFL history to have a 2,000-yard rookie passer and 1,000-yard rookie rusher in the same season. Griffin himself has already rushed for 714 yards this season.
The Giants couldn’t get to them, recording no sacks and only 2 quarterback hits. The Redskins ran 32 of their 52 (61.5%) plays from the pistol formation, their highest percentage of plays in that formation this season. They averaged 8.1 yards per play out of the pistol (second-highest this season) and collected 180 of their 207 rushing yards. They’ve averaged 6.0 yards per rush out of that formation in 2012.
What also worked extremely well was the play-action, which Griffin has being executing to perfection from his first day in the league, usually creating a lot of space for Garcon. He completed 9-of-11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown on play action, 7-7 when throwing to Garcon. Nine of Griffin III’s 17 touchdown passes this season have come on play-action. Over his last three games, Griffin has completed 23 of 28 (82.1%) play-action passes for 445 yards and six touchdowns.
The second key? Stopping Manning’s big plays downfield? Manning was only 4-13 on passes that traveled more than 15 yards, including 0-5 to Hakeem Nicks. The Giants are now 2-5 when Manning completes less than 50 percent of passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield, and 5-0 when he is above 50 percent.
The NFC East is wide open, with now both the Redskins and the Cowboys only a game behind the Giants. What’s left for Washington, already a win over their total (5-11) from last season? Baltimore (home), Browns, Philly on the road and Dallas to end the season. Not exactly an easy schedule, but going 3 out of 4 seems highly reasonable looking at the current situation. They just need Griffin to get the kind of help he’s been getting these last three weeks, and a little bit of luck won’t hurt as well.