Robert Griffin III rushed for 77 yards against the Cowboys after having gained 72 yards on the ground in the Washington Redskins’ first four games. But, in reality, the Redskins got over 100 yards out of Griffin’s legs last Sunday.
That is because the Cowboys were hit with 15-yard penalties for hitting Griffin when he was out of bounds at the end of two of his runs. The Redskins ended up scoring on both of the drives where Dallas was charged with the late-hit infractions.
The first one took place on the Redskins’ opening drive of the second half. On third and five at his own 36, Griffin dropped back to pass from shotgun formation with an empty backfield on third and five at his own 36. The Cowboys were in man coverage and Griffin quickly spotted wide-open space to his right. He took off down the field, angling towards the sideline. Dallas safety Barry Church charged towards Griffin as he headed out of bounds. Griffin tried to shake him with a quick stutter step a few yards from the sideline but the defender stayed focused on his target. Church left his feet and contacted Griffin just as he scampered out of bounds. That is going to draw a penalty flag almost every time.
It wasn’t much of a hit and Griffin was happy to take the penalty.
“I gave him a little move there before I went out of bounds, but I was clearly out of bounds,” Griffin said on Wednesday. “He hit me and it does suck, but some guys are going to take those penalties. It’s hard to walk that line and you’ve always got to try to protect yourself.”
The 15 yards tacked on to Griffin’s 26-yard run set the Redskins up at the Dallas 23. They couldn’t keep the drive going but they did get a 33-yard Kai Forbath field goal out of it.
The other one came near the end of the third quarter. On second and 10 from the Washington 29, the Redskins were in a pistol formation. Griffin pulled the ball out of Alfred Morris’ belly and took off to the left. Linebacker Bruce Carter eluded a block and had a bead on Griffin in the backfield but the quarterback kept him at bay with a classic stiff arm. Griffin skirted the sideline until he got just past the first down marker. After Griffin slipped out of bounds, Church, who was engaged with tight end Logan Paulsen, took a swipe at the quarterback that caught his facemask. A yellow flag flew again.
The 11-yard run and 15-yard penalty gave the Redskins a first down at the Dallas 45. On the next play, Alfred Morris broke loose for a 45-yard touchdown run.
“The sideline is your friend and you can get out of bounds at the sideline, but a lot of defensive players, they just really don’t care,” said Griffin. “Sometimes they’re going to still get that hit on you.”
Sometimes defenders are smart enough to avoid the flag. Midway through the fourth quarter of their game against the Lions, Griffin scrambled to the left and as he approached the sideline he slowed up as Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis ran to him. Griffin said that he was trying to bait Mathis into a penalty but the cornerback was having nothing of it. He stopped and raised his hands in the universal football sign of innocence.
“He said, ‘I’m not taking that penalty, Griff,’ and I said, ‘I got you, man,’” said Griffin.