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Speed, Poise Make RGIII A Challenge For Falcons


The Falcons aren't the only team that put together a game-winning drive last week.

In Tampa, the Washington Redskins, this week's opponent, found themselves with 1:42 remaining and down by one point. Rookie QB Robert Griffin III was 4-for-4 on pass attempts and scrambled once for 15 yards as he led the Redskins from their own 20-yard line to Tampa's 24.

From there, with seven seconds remaining, Redskins kicker Billy Cundiff, who had missed all three of his field goal attempts earlier in the game, hit a 41-yarder to improve Washington's record to 2-2.

It was just another exciting performance by the young QB that has many in the NFL excited. His poise putting together that final drive has his head coach Mike Shanahan impressed and the RGIII star continues to rise.

"He's not handled himself like a rookie; he's handled himself like a veteran," Shanahan said on a conference call Wednesday. "That's quite unusual at the quarterback position with the way he plays and the way he's handled himself. He's an extremely hard worker. He's very professional and he's done everything we've asked him to do. There's going to be growing pains, we understand what growing pains usually come at the quarterback position, especially as a rookie.  He's been very impressive."

The growing pains so far have been few. Griffin has only one interception, and has eight total touchdowns this season. RGIII is similar to Atlanta's QB opponent last week, Cam Newton, in that he's also a mobile quarterback, but the Redskins rookie isn't as big as Newton and flashes more speed in his running game. His leadership and collected approach have influenced his teammates quickly.

Lost in last week's game-winner was one significant factor that demonstrates Griffin's polish. As he took the field, Griffin's in-helmet communication from his offensive coordinator shorted out. The entire no-huddle drive was RGIII's own design. The play calls were in his control. On Wednesday, he said it's something he was prepared to do because they work on that in practice.

"Coach has me call the plays every week just in case it does go out," he said. "I know what I'm doing out there. It's kind of weird that it went out at that point in the game on the road, but it is what it is. We had to make it work. I called plays on that drive; coach tried to signal things into me when he could. We made it work and went and won the game. We had a couple of big plays. All we had to do is get into field goal range and pray that our kicker would overcome the toughness of the beginning of the game for him and he did that for us."

What makes Griffin dangerous in any situation, and something the Falcons must be ready for, is his elusiveness. Part of Washington's offensive scheme involves designed scrambles for RGIII to exploit defenses with his speed. His four rushing touchdowns are tied for the most of any player in the NFL. He's as dangerous running with the ball in his hands as he is standing in the pocket. He rushed only seven times last week, the fewest of the season, for 43 yards. His running opportuities are always based on what he's seeing in front of him.

"It's just based on whatever coach calls and whatever the defense is allowing us to do," he said. "For me, it all depends. Different situations, third-and-10, it's hard to slide four yards when you think you might get 10 or 11. I try to weigh each situation as its own based on the point in the game and what's going on in the game."

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