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Griffin sprinted past 11 Vikings players and the ghosts of previous losses when he secured the victory on Sunday with his 76-yard gallop.
1. The scene in the parking lot after the game yesterday was quite different from the ones that have preceded it over the last year. People were happy. People were hopeful. It was hard to believe that just 48 hours earlier, most of these people were on the edge of crippling depression. I remember a time not too long ago when I was sure it would be the Washington Nationals lifting the hearts of the DC faithful in September and October with gigantic wins. As Robert Griffin said after the game, the loss in Game 5 by the Nats weighed heavily on everyone involved on Sunday--players, coaches and fans. I want to be careful not to suggest that a regular season victory washes away the sting of postseason defeat. It doesn't, but the manner in which the Redskins ended their winless streak at FedEx was enough to make the heart forget the pain it had been drowning in since Friday night...even if only temporarily.
2. The thing about Griffin's game-breaking run in the 4th quarter that sticks in the forefront of my mind is that it is something he is capable of doing at almost any time. If you think about those runs he makes over the tackle where he seems to run with reckless abandon en route to a six or seven-yard gain, he is probably a shoelace grab away from breaking those plays wide open. He has enough speed to get through that hole and if he is able to do it cleanly without running into a blocker or brushing past a would-be tackler, he can accelerate away from the defense. On that 76-yard run, the lane was there and after he got through it cleanly, he was in full take-off mode. Since there is no separating Griffin from the monumental trade that was executed by the Redskins to get him, it bears mentioning that this is the kind of play that justifies the cost the Redskins paid.
3. The fact that we have a guy who is in range to score from anywhere on the field is just amazing. When Clinton Portis first came here, he was pretty close. Champ Bailey and Sean Taylor on defense were the kinds of players that could change a game with the ball in their hands. I don't think any of them could match the straight-up playmaking ability of Robert Griffin III though. In your opinion, who is the player that you have watched in burgundy and gold that is closest to Griffin in terms of game-changing ability? This is a new era indeed.
4. It could be suggested by some that Griffin's run was not a "game-winning" touchdown because we were already in the lead. I disagree completely. We may have had more points at the time, but that game was heading the other way in a hurry. We have seen this game many times before over the course of the last few seasons (or longer). We have especially seen it at FedEx Field. The Vikings had us dead to rights. If we fail to convert on that third down opportunity--as we have many times prior--and punt to Minnesota, they would have had plenty of time to work us for a touchdown. That movie has been on repeat for quite some time. If we turn the ball back over to Minnesota, the BEST case scenario is 78,000+ fans are holding their breath with 30 seconds or less to go as Christian Ponder works his red zone offense. At that point, the pre-October 12th Washington Redskins would have been exactly where their opponent wanted them. The pre-76-yard touchdown run Washington Redskins would have been battling against the 11 men in purple plus the ghosts of every loss that they had suffered in the closing minutes of games over the last few years. We might have held a five point advantage when Griffin dashed down the field for his touchdown, but the Washington Redskins were not in the lead. To be certain, that was a game-winning touchdown run in every sense of the term.
5. Does one dare compare the Griffin run yesterday with Lavar Arrington's interception return for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers back in 2001? Yes, one does. I was at that game, too. Both plays took place in Week 6 and both plays had a far greater impact than just seven points. We were 0-5 under Marty Schottenheimer that year and we just couldn't seem to get it going. We were down 14-0 that day before Lavar stepped in front of a Chris Weinke pass and took it 67 yards for the score. It turned not only that game around (we won in overtime) but the entire season. We went on to finish 8-8 under Marty in a season where the team seemed to get better each week from then on. The impact of Griffin's run will manifest itself over the next couple of months, but it is already credited with ending a home winless streak that was becoming a heavier and heavier burden to carry as the weeks dragged on. It lit up the entire Washington sideline and it awakened a fanbase from the slumber of eight straight home defeats. It is a good bet that Griffin will produce more "signature" moments, but Sunday's performance will always be special because of its timing and brilliance.
6. It is okay to see the New York Giants for who they are: a very good team that has earned their status as one of the league's upper echelon squads. (Sometimes it is hard to get past those feelings of...disdain.) It is good news indeed that the Washington Redskins are travelling to play the New York Giants with first place in the NFC East on the line. There will be much made out of the differences between our two teams this week. I would suspect that we will not be picked by many to win this one. I would caution those naysayers to carefully consider that the Redskins are very, very hard to pick against right now. We are in every game. We are close against pretty much every team. And when you are in it at the end and have a player like Griffin who only needs a Griffin-sized window to fly through to break things open, you can beat anyone. The Vikings are a good team. Ask them.
P.S. I can't let you go this week without thanking the great folks at Ristorante Tosca for their hospitality and exceptional food. My brother Joe has taken us there for the last two years to celebrate his wife's birthday (Happy B-day, Win!) and he gets us the chef's table in the kitchen, which is an awesome experience. One should be so lucky to be up close and personal to the intoxicating aromas of Executive Chef Massimo Fabbri's Italian masterpieces. Assisting us with our wine choices and generally chaperoning our evening of awesomeness was none other than Hogs Haven reader Milto, who uses the handle "mivaldis" on our site. Do yourselves a favor and get over to Tosca for a special occasion as soon as humanly possible (ask for Milto). I know I am speaking to many married or otherwise spoken-for dudes. You think a 76-yard touchdown run is amazing? Take your significant other to this restaurant and see what it gets you.
P.P.S. Massimo came by the tailgate yesterday and I was flipping burgers. BURGERS! They were solid, half-pound burgers, but come on...it's like inviting Picasso to a paint-by-the-numbers party. Thankfully he came on a full stomach. After he put the last shot of tequila in front of me the night before, I am sure he was not intending to eat much of my cooking the next day.