Standout performances have been few and far between for Robert Griffin III in 2013, but on Thursday Night Football the second-year quarterback had his best game since November of 2012, but it wasn't enough as the Washington Redskins defense couldn't prevent 20 unanswered points in a 34-27 Minnesota Vikings victory.
Griffin III finished with 281 passing yards and three touchdowns in defeat. It wasn't just about the passes he completed, but how Griffin III used his weapons. A total of eight receivers were targeted on Thursday night, with five different players catching multiple passes. Pierre Garcon was the biggest benefactor, with the veteran receiver finishing with seven catches for 119 yards.
The Redskins' offensive success is tied to their running game. Alfred Morris ran for 139 yards against the Vikings, opening up the pass and taking pressure his quarterback. Griffin III has an above-average quarterback rating of 102.0 when Morris runs for 100 yards or more in 2013, confirming the idea that asking him to be the team's focal point is not how the team will have offensive success moving forward.
This idea often seems foreign to a team desirous of putting the game on its quarterback's shoulders. Morris averaged 5.3 yards per carry on Thursday night, but the Redskins elected to have Griffin throw the ball three straight times from the four yard line late in the game. It was a case of over-thinking the time on the clock and asking the passing game to convert a fade throw to close the game rather than try to punch it in on the ground.
Morris carried the ball just nine times in the second half, erasing Washington's good first half tendencies and reverting to bad habits. Unable to control the clock the team faltered, while the Vikings had less success on the ground, but they better understood that making Adrian Peterson the focal point would give them success.
It was a damaging loss for Washington, and their playoff hopes are now in tatters. Griffin's quarterbacking style also changed during the season. Many of his struggles this season have correlated with unwillingness to stand in the pocket, take hits, and bounce back up after getting knocked down. It's not abnormal for doubt to seep into a player's mind following an injury, especially one as vicious as the ligament tear RG3 suffered. Against the Vikings, however, Griffin stood tall throughout the game, even though he was sacked four times on the evening.
Thursday night's loss effectively ends the Redskins' season, as the division-leading Dallas Cowboys are now too far out of reach. There's a silver lining, and it's Robert Griffin III who regained his confidence and poise in the team's loss. It's not much of a consolation prize this year, but it will benefit the team down the road.