Down a point and needing a field goal to win, Robert Griffin III held his poise and kept making plays. Even when the headset in his helmet failed.
The second overall pick in the NFL draft marched Washington down the field in the final minute Sunday, giving Billy Cundiff a chance to redeem himself for a horrible day kicking with a 41-yard field goal that enabled the Redskins to snap a two-game skid with a 24-22 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
”The whole drive was a little complicated,” said Griffin, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 323 yards without an interception.
”In practice every week, we always practice me calling the plays in two-minute, acting as if the headset goes out. The funny thing was the headset did go out on that drive. That’s why I was having to run back and forth to the sideline,” Griffin added. ”I had to call a couple of my own plays, and we moved the chains and got in field-goal range. It was very neat how that practice situation, that practice scenario, actually played out in the game.”
Cundiff missed three earlier attempts, including a 31-yarder that would have put the Redskins (2-2) up by two scores early in the fourth quarter. He also missed first-half tries of 41 and 57 yards, but was on the money after Griffin completed four passes and scrambled for a 15-yard gain to put the Redskins into a position to win.
”We all had a feeling he was going to make it, even though the day wasn’t so great for him,” Griffin said. ”He came up big when it mattered. … We all have things that we have to get better at. For him, that was a good confidence kick, seeing that he didn’t make the rest of them.”
Tampa Bay (1-3) wiped out an 18-point deficit to go ahead 22-21 on Connor Barth’s third field goal, a 47-yarder with 1:42 remaining.
But Griffin wasn’t finished. He completed three straight passes to move the Redskins from their own 20 to the 41, then weaved through the Bucs defense on timely run to the 26. Cundiff kicked the game-winner with three seconds left.
”It is tough. You have to remember that this place isn’t sold out, but whoever is there is essentially reminding me how bad I performed earlier in the game, to put it nicely,” Cundiff said. ”In order to really find out a lot about yourself, I really feel like you have to be tested.”
Griffin, who was sacked twice, scored on a 5-yard run while Washington was building a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. He nearly scored on an 8-yard run in the opening quarter, but fumbled at the goal line and the loose ball was recovered by receiver Pierre Garcon for the Redskins’ first TD.
Alfred Morris rushed for 113 yards and scored on a 39-yard run that put Washington up by 18 five minutes halftime.
”You take a look at the last two games, and we found a way to not win them, and this one we found a way to win it,” said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who nearly watched this one slip away.
Josh Freeman threw for 299 yards and one TD, leading the Bucs back from their big deficit with help from Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, who scored on a 7-yard reception late in the third quarter.
Jackson finished with six catches for 100 yards, and Williams had five receptions for 115 yards. The Bucs have lost three straight — all to NFC East teams.
”Because you lose at the end, you fail to finish, but we really didn’t do a bunch of stuff before that to put us in position” to win, first-year Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
Griffin was sacked six times and was hit hard after handing off on some option plays during a loss to Cincinnati last week, prompting Shanahan to ask the rookie to take some precautions on the field to protect himself.
With regular officials back on the job, the Bucs were flagged twice for unnecessary roughness on the Redskins quarterback — once on a throw out of his own end zone and the other when he was picked up and dropped for a 2-yard loss by Tampa Bay rookie safety Mark Barron on a designed run.
Barron read the quarterback keeper perfectly, but was flagged when he lifted Griffin into the air before dumping him to the ground and falling on top of Griffin. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner bounced right up, clapped his hands, then threw for 20 yards to Garcon on the next play.
Tampa Bay’s offense sputtered until Freeman connected with Williams on a 65-yard pass that led to the TD pass to Jackson that trimmed Washington’s lead to 21-13.
Two more completions to Jackson, this time for 54 and then 22 yards, set up LeGarrette Blount’s 2-yard TD that helped the Bucs pull within 21-19.
Griffin began the winning drive from the Washington 20 with 1:42 left. He completed passes of 15 yards to Santana Moss, 20 to Fred Davis and 4 to Evan Royster before taking off on his big run that got the Redskins into field goal range.
NOTES: The Redskins played without safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Aldrick Robinson, who were declared out after colliding in the end zone during pregame warmups. … Barth also kicked field goals of 50 and 57 yards, extending his team-record streak of consecutive attempts to 25. … Freeman was intercepted once and also sacked once.