When the teams went into their locker rooms last Sunday night, Broncos players, coaches, and fans felt confident that the game was in their hands. Tom Brady and the Patriots had yet to score a single point. And then something unexpected happened. The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points and won the game in overtime. When the players returned to the locker rooms at the game’s end, Broncos players, coaches, and fans were still trying to explain exactly what had just happened.
Speaking about comebacks on NFL Radio one morning, co-host Amani Toomer explained that in his playing experience the magic number was 21. When teams went up 21 points, they seemed to soften up in one way or another. Maybe it’s the play calling, the effort, objectives or any combination of those that change and allow these leads to be eliminated. What is true is that at some point, the winning team starts playing against the clock more than the opponent.
Applying Toomer’s logic to the Redskins’ 2013 season, shows that Robert Griffin may need a lot more work than his final statistics show. The Redskins have fallen behind by 21 points to their opponent in 5 of their first 11 games this year. In 4 of those games, the Redskins hit Toomer’s magic number with more than 24 minutes to play.
(As of 11/26/13) Griffin’s current season stats have his completions at 238/398 (59.8%) for 2,832 yards, 14 TDs, and 11 INTs. These are respectable numbers and shouldn’t constitute a 3-8 record. What could paint a clearer picture of the season would be separating the statistics once the games hit Toomer’s magic number.
Once the Redskins fell behind by 21 points or more, Griffin’s completions are 65/102 (63.7%). To put that in perspective, 59.8% ranks 25th in the NFL among starting QBS, while 63.7% would rank him 11th. RG3 has 784 yards in those 4 situations which is more than ¼ of his season total. In those games, he averaged 11.8 yards per possession until the 21 point deficit was reached when he would increase that number to 41.2 yards/possession the remainder of the game.
But the most astounding numbers are the 7 touchdowns and 2 Interceptions Griffin has thrown after falling behind by 21. That represents half of all his touchdowns but only accounts for 2 of his 11 INTs. Robert Griffin’s 2,048 yards, 7 TDs, and 7 Interceptions is easier to understand why the Redskins have hold a 3-8 record. Those are his season numbers for his time in any game where the Skins never fell behind 21 points, or before they reached that point.
Maybe the defense doesn’t attack Griffin after Toomer’s benchmark or maybe the secondary plays more off-coverage and just tries to keep the clock moving. Maybe defenses look to contain the Redskins more than they look to drive them back or stop them all together. After the first Eagles game, Griffin said that he had no explanation for his tale of two halves (1st half=6/14, 68 yds, 1 INT)(2nd half=24/36, 267 yards, 2 TDs). He said they played the exact same defense and he ran the exact same offense. Maybe it’s as unexplainable as he makes it seem.
Or maybe it’s that Griffin’s strengths and weakness have been exposed and coordinators around the NFL have figured out how to attack him. One thing is for sure: If Griffin doesn’t find the ability to beat what defenses throw at him earlier than he has in the past, there will be many more large deficits and too many more losses.