The Washington Redskins rookie quarterback needed only three passes on his third and final drive to show glimpses of stardom in his much-anticipated NFL preseason debut Thursday night.
After a muffed handoff and no first downs in his first two series, RG3 found his rhythm by completing his final three passes for 58 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon in a 7-6 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Garcon celebrated by doing a front-first somersault in the end zone. And he was quickly joined by Griffin, who raced over to congratulate him with a leap in the air. With 5:54 left in the first quarter, it was the go-ahead score after the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) fell behind 3-0.
It was an eventful cameo appearance for the Heisman Trophy winner, who was drafted with the No. 2 pick out of Baylor. Griffin finished going 4 of 6 for 70 yards and a lost fumble.
”It felt extremely good to come out and play,” Griffin said. ”Coach did a good job calling plays, got me in a rhythm and helped get the offense in a rhythm on that third drive.”
Defensive end Mario Williams made a debut of his own for the Bills (No. 19) in his first game since signing a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency in March. Williams, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and the Bills’ new-look defensive front was solid in limiting the Redskins to 11 yards and no first downs in the first two series.
The trouble for Buffalo came on offense, which was sloppy and lacked finish.
Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick went 6 for 14 for 61 yards, and squandered a scoring opportunity when the Bills got the ball at the Redskins 21 following Griffin’s fumble. The Bills were undone by a false start penalty and an illegal formation that negated what would’ve been a 20-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson.
Buffalo instead settled for Rian Lindell hitting a 43-yard field goal.
”I thought it was really poor, but luckily it’s the preseason,” Fitzpatrick said. ”We’ve got a lot to work on.”
The offense did no better under backup Tyler Thigpen, who hit 3 of 8 attempts for 38 yards. Thigpen failed to score despite six snaps from inside the Redskins 10-yard line. And the Bills then came away empty when Lindell pushed a 22-yard attempt wide left.
Lindell also hit a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The Bills were penalized 14 times for 134 yards.
Griffin’s only real miscue was the fumble, which was credited to him because he was the last player to have possession. Replays, however, showed running back Evan Royster was also to blame because he never closed his hands on the ball.
After opening his third series with an incompletion to Niles Paul, Griffin confidently stepped into his next throw, hitting Garcon for a 20-yard gain over the middle.
Two plays later, he hit Garcon up the left side for an 18-yard gain. The touchdown pass then came with a quick dump off to Garcon, who got a big block from Trent Williams clearing a path up the left side.
The game was otherwise dull and sloppy. And the replacement officials struggled.
They were booed late in the first quarter after muffing a call on a touchback. Bills punter Brian Moorman hit a 49-yard punt, which Buffalo’s Ruvell Martin downed at the Redskins 4. Back judge Craig Burd, however, ruled it a touchback.
The only Bills player who entered the end zone was Brad Smith, who never touched the ball.
Fans began booing when the ball was placed at the 20 and they got louder when a replay was shown on the scoreboard.
Coach Chan Gailey challenged the play, which was reversed shortly after referee David Scott reviewed it.
The NFL is using replacement officials after locking out its regular officials, whose contract expired.
There was another miscue at the end of the first half, when the Redskins’ offense was penalized for delay of game with 5 seconds left and Washington out of timeouts. Scott marched off the 5-yard penalty to prepare for the next play, when Gailey had a brief conversation with line judge Rondell Taylor at the sideline.
Taylor quickly ran over to the referee, and Scott announced the half was over because, under NFL rules, 10 seconds had to be run off the clock because the penalty occurred in the final two minutes of a half.