Capitals

ON FOOTBALL: RG3 is a Redskin with a magic touch

201210211405507481450-p2.jpeg

ON FOOTBALL: RG3 is a Redskin with a magic touch

The New York Giants are lauding what Robert Griffin III can do now - and worried what he will do to them in the future.

They got a close-up look Sunday at what's in store, and it was downright scary for the Super Bowl champions.

``I'm not even going to lie: That's the best quarterback we've played this year, for sure,'' defensive end Osi Umenyiora said after Griffin did everything but beat his team. ``It's just unfortunate that he's a rookie because he's going to be around here forever doing stuff like that. That's just crazy.''

The excitement RG3 brings to every game - make that every offensive play - for the Redskins is unmatched in the NFL. The skill set might be, too.

It's something the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles will be dealing with for a long time.

``I'm pretty mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East,'' Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. ``To face that guy twice a year is going to be a headache. It's hard to game-plan that guy. He takes away from your enthusiasm for the game when you play a play perfectly and he still has 4.3 speed to make plays.

``I don't think there is anybody in the league just like him. If I was going to run an offense and they asked me Vick, Cam Newton or RG3, I'm taking that guy hands down.''

Hands were up everywhere from guys willing to praise Griffin, the second overall pick in this year's draft behind another precocious quarterback, Andrew Luck.

This is a transition year for the Redskins. Yet with Griffin working his magic - pinpoint passes such as a 30-yarder to Santana Moss that gave Washington a late lead Sunday; sprints around the ends during which Griffin outruns cornerbacks with 4.4 speed; wild scrambles that leave All-Pro defenders sprawled on the ground empty-handed - they are in every game.

Griffin brings talents similar to Vick with his speed and change of direction. Except he's apparently faster and shiftier than Vick. And bigger at a sturdy 6-foot-2, 217 pounds to Vick's alleged 6-0, 215.

His arm is as strong as just about any NFL quarterback, and he shows touch as well as strength. The throw to Moss was as masterful as Peyton or Eli Manning would ever manage. He rarely puts balls up for grabs and has the power to squeeze passes between defenders.

Then there is his knack for escape that's reminiscent of John Elway and even the original scrambler, Fran Tarkenton. Except the Broncos and Vikings rarely, if ever, designed runs for their QB. For Washington, letting RG3 run wild will be a significant part of the game plan.

Griffin was a 400-meter hurdler in college with Olympic aspirations. You won't find many of those in the NFL, either. And none at quarterback.

``We know offensively we can do anything with the ball in his hands,'' Moss said. ``We've just got to try when we get the opportunities to make sure the guy who can make plays has the ball in his hands. He's giving you a chance to get open. Even when it's hard, he gives you opportunities and there are not many quarterbacks who can do that.''

Griffin is matter-of-fact in answering questions about his transcendent talents. Asked about his remarkable fourth-quarter scramble on fourth-and-10 that eventually ended with a 19-yard completion that set up the go-ahead TD pass to Moss, he simply recounted the play as if it happens all the time.

With RG3, at some point it just might.

``I try not to approach the game like I'm a rookie,'' he said. ``I don't try to give myself excuses. I just don't approach it that way and the team doesn't look at me like a rookie, either. I'm their leader. I'm their quarterback, so I can't go out there and say, well if I make a mistake it's because I'm a rookie. I have to hold myself accountable for everything. I think that's why I'm able to go out and be successful.''

One caveat, of course, is the vulnerability that accompanies Griffin's style of play. He already had a concussion against Atlanta when he didn't slide at the end of a run, although he returned for the next game.

Putting shackles on a player with Griffin's skills is unwise and counterproductive. But making him aware of how much a target he presents when on the run is essential and will be done by the Redskins.

But coach Mike Shanahan knows what he has in RG3, and he isn't about to pull the reins on his thoroughbred.

Too bad, the Giants - and the rest of the NFC East - must be thinking.

``That guy,'' Tuck said, ``is the real deal.''

---

AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this story.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

Quick Links

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

usatsi_10847206.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.