Griffin faces test of early success in first NFC East showdown
This may not be the biggest story of the week, but it's my favorite. This is the first game Robert Griffin III will play in the NFC East. Think of it: If he's the Washington quarterback for the next 15 years, he'll play 90 division games, and this is the first. If you've been watching him in his first six games in the NFL, you know there's going to be a little bit more than the normal New York-Washington buzz in the stadium Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands.
Now, as much as Griffin flings his body around and puts himself in harm's way, it'd be an upset if he does play 90 NFC East games. However many he plays, they're going to be a thrill ride.
He sprinted up the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown run last week, looking as fast as Deion Sanders ever was. With 379 yards on the ground, Griffin is outrushing Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Michael Turner through six weeks -- and his six touchdowns are more than those four star backs combined. While it's correct to think of the 218-pound Griffin as the next run-pass threat among young quarterbacks, he's not your garden variety runner and thrower. Griffin is the only quarterback in the NFL completing at least 70 percent of his passes through six weeks.
His game-by-game completion percentages: 73.1, 69.0, 61.8, 74.3, 66.7, 77.3. What's makes those all the more impressive is that Griffin hasn't played with a clean pocket this fall. He's often on the move because of a work-in-progress offensive line.
Griffin's accuracy, really, is mind-boggling, considering how he's had to adjust to a new offense and the pro game. Steve Young eventually became the most accurate passer in the game, but early in his career he struggled mightily. In Young's first full season as a starter, 1986, playing for Tampa Bay, he completed 53.7 percent of his throws
"You don't see players come into the league performing like that,'' Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said this week. "So they've got a really good player on their hands, and we've got a problem on ours."
The logical thought for Griffin this week, at least the first thing I thought of, is this: You're going on the road to play the Super Bowl champions, a team with a ferocious pass rush, in your first division game ever. There has to be a few butterflies about this. Right?
"Nah, nah,'' said London Fletcher, linebacker and Griffin teammate, over the phone from Virginia, with a bit of a chuckle. "He'll be fine. He won't be intimidated by their pass-rush. In fact, noting intimidates him that I've seen. The kid's unflappable. None of this stuff with the NFL affects him. You can see it in his preparation and then in the games -- he understands the NFL's a great challenge, but in the end, he also understands it's football.
"I also think the great thing about our schedule, even though this is the first division game, is that I think his first game got him ready for anything. We played New Orleans in New Orleans, with that crowd, with Sean Payton and the suspensions, with all the stuff about the bounties, and the crowd was crazy. With all due respect to all the crowds in the NFC East, I don't think he'll face a tougher environment in any other game. The intensity won't be any higher than it was that day.''
Griffin was 19-of-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns that day, for a 139.9 rating. And off he went. He's treating this game like any other, and we'll see if the Giants can hem him in.
"It's going to be a heated game, very competitive,'' Griffin said this week. "I'm looking forward to my first taste of divisional action."
Griffin, obviously, has already learned quarterback-speak.
The Vegas crowd went nuts, because, according to reports, a nine-point win in a game with a betting line of 7 or 7.5 points meant a swing of $75 million in bets. Plus, how in the world could Seattle score twice in 43 seconds to either tie or win the game? Answer: The Seahawks almost certainly couldn't. But Harbaugh knew Alex Smith could take two kneel-downs easily, which would run the clock out. And, almost as important, he knew he wasn't risking injury on one more melee of a play, which the free kick surely would have been, with Seattle players clawing and scratching for the ball. Why risk injury and the infinitesimal chance Seattle could score twice in 43 seconds?