With all the focus on Robert Griffin III's running ability, it can be easy to forget that he's having the most accurate season for a Washington Redskins quarterback since Sammy Baugh.
In this case, speed and precision go hand in hand.
"Sometimes I think the play's over," said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who calls the plays, "and I'm ready to look down for my next call -- and he's still making it happen, still running around doing stuff. I'm learning from that. I think the receivers are learning from that, just knowing that whatever happens, you've always got a chance."
Through his first 11 NFL games, Griffin has completed 67.5 percent of his passes, trailing only Alex Smith (70), Matt Ryan (68.5) and Peyton Manning (67.7) among regular starters. The only Redskins quarterback with a better percentage for an entire season is the legendary Baugh, who hit 70.3 percent in 1945.
In the two games since the bye week, Griffin has the same number of incompletions as touchdowns (8). He also had one interception to bring his season's tally to four, a turnover-stinginess rate exceeded only by Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
Coaches say Griffin's ability to buy time under pressure gives his receivers more time to get open. Also, the threat of him running the option sometimes freezes defensive backs, leading to blown coverages.
"I think whenever you can make a lot of plays with your legs, you don't feel the pressure that you have to make some bad throws," Shanahan said. "Some guys who can't make plays with their legs, if it's not there, they don't have much other option than to take a sack, so some guys will just let it go and throw it away.
"Robert, if the play's not there and it doesn't work, there's another option --and that option is him running and making a play."
Or, as head coach Mike Shanahan put it: "You've got to be able to make plays off-schedule."
The return of Pierre Garcon from a foot injury and the overall development of the receiving corps have also helped. One of Griffin's passes to Garcon in the 38-31 Thanksgiving win over the Dallas Cowboys probably shouldn't have been thrown -- but Garcon reached backward to snag the ball and ran for a 59-yard score.
Garcon is one of six players to catch a touchdown pass from Griffin during the two-game winning streak that has Washington (5-6) back in the hunt for the NFC East title heading into Monday night's game against the New York Giants (7-4).
"After the bye, I just told myself I have to trust these guys out there," Griffin said.
Griffin has also developed a solid rapport with Kyle Shanahan. They talk on Saturdays to discuss Griffin's comfort level with the week's playbook and will throw a play out if the rookie isn't comfortable with it -- although Griffin says he tries not to make such a request very often.
On game days, Griffin frequently knows what play is coming before Kyle Shanahan calls it.
"It's getting that way," Griffin said, "where I can take the words out of his mouth."
RG3 also remains spot-on in front of a camera. His weekly appearance before reporters Wednesday was its usual treat of laugh-lines and anecdotes.
-- On having numerous endorsements despite not having a "Madison Avenue look": "It could be a changing of the tide, you never know. Of course, I'm not `clean-cut,' `fade,' `bald-head' -- I got hair. I mean, that's just what it is, and it shows people that maybe there is a changing of the guard. It's not always about what you look like, it's about what you represent."
-- On having to be politically correct in politically charged Washington, D.C.: "My politically correct answer is `no comment' a lot of times."
-- On hobbled left tackle Trent Williams: "If he needs me in the training room with him, I'll be there. I'll rub on his leg, whatever he needs me to do. ... On the field, during the game, he'll get up and he'll start grabbing something, and I'll look at him, and I'll go back to the huddle because I know he'd better get his butt in the huddle because we've got to go to the next play."
-- On a conversation he had with linebacker London Fletcher on the sideline following a big drive during the fourth quarter of the win over the Cowboys: "It's gut-check time -- and we definitely checked their gut."
That one caused a hearty round of laughter. After it died down, he smiled and said: "I'm good for one every time."
Notes: Williams did not practice due to a deep left thigh bruise, the result of being kneed by teammate Kory Lichtensteiger against the Cowboys. Williams doesn't usually wear thigh pads, but now: "I'm definitely going to have something protecting my thighs this game." ... Fletcher (left ankle) also did not practice and was wearing a brace and limping noticeably as he left the locker room. ... Mike Shanahan said he didn't have to speak to Brandon Banks about Banks' decision to return a punt from the end zone against Dallas. "Obviously, he made a bad decision ... My wife told me that wasn't a good decision," Shanahan said. ... The Redskins released LB Darryl Gamble from the practice squad.
By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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