When Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III went to the sidelines late in the fourth quarter with a sprained knee, outside linebacker Paul Kruger didn’t think much of it.
“I felt confident with him in the game,” Kruger said.
That’s because the defense clamped down on RGIII and limited him after giving up two first-quarter touchdowns.
And who would have thought another rookie quarterback, fourth-rounder Kick Cousins, would have been the one to beat the Ravens?
RGIII and the Redskins’ college-like option offense had a field day in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, putting up an NFL season-high 186 yards.
But the Ravens defense clamped down from there for much of the game, holding RGIII to 15-of-26 passing for 246 yards and one touchdown. Baltimore sacked him three times.
It was Cousins who ended up beating the Ravens, a week after Pittsburgh’s third-string quarterback Charlie Batch took them down.
Cousins threw an 11-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds remaining, then ran up the middle for a game-trying two-point conversion with RGIII on the bench.
“It’s frustrating because it’s two backup guys, guys that’s not even starters coming in and making plays," cornerback Cary Williams told CSNBaltimore.com. "It’s just one of those things where we have to find ways to contain those guys, just do whatever within our powers to put ourselves in position to make plays."
The Redskins had 259 yards of offense in the first half, but just 161 in the second. Of those yards, more than half came on Washington’s final game-tying drive.
“I thought our defense did a nice job after the first quarter of getting a grip on their offense,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“The timing of it is a little different and especially with the athlete they have leading their offense. I thought we had a good handle on it and played well the rest of the game.”
Washington came out firing, as the combination of running back Alfred Morris (23 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown) and RGIII ran the Ravens ragged. The Redskins had five plays of over 20 yards on their first two drives alone.
“I think we were playing just a little bit timid at the very beginning of the game,” said outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who recorded his fifth straight game with at least one sack and now has eight on the year.
“He’s an explosive player. He can make some plays on his feet, he can throw the ball, and he’s just an all-around guy who can hurt you in a lot of ways.”
Baltimore did a better job against Washington’s running attack in the second half, and didn’t let RGIII beat them with his legs. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was getting pressure up the middle, which flushed RGIII, and the defense did well rallying for the tackle.
The Ravens defense was put in difficult situations twice by the offense in the second half after turnovers. But each time, it surrendered only field goals.
The unit dug in its heels in the fourth quarter with Baltimore clinging to a one-point lead. Defensive end Art Jones notched his fourth sack in three games after he and Kruger stuffed Morris for a 2-yard loss.
On the Redskins’ next drive, Baltimore held RGIII to just three yards on a scramble to the outside, then saw a third-down pass go low and off the hands of Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon.
Two straight three-and-outs gave the offense a chance to pull away.
Jones credited the Ravens’ scout team quarterback Dennis Dixon, who ran the option at Oregon, with giving the defense a good simulation of RGIII and Washington’s offense in practice.
“Dennis Dixon is the master of the option coming from Oregon,” Jones said. “We were well prepared for this game and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
Jones and Kruger combined for a sack and 9-yard loss on the Redskins’ final drive. But Griffin scrambled around the left end for 13 yards before taking a crushing blow from Ngata.
RGIII’s right knee bent badly, but he missed just one play before returning to the game for three more, including completions of 15 and 22 yards.
“I knew as soon as I got hit, as I screamed – like a man, of course* *– I knew it hurt really bad,” RGIII said. “I told them, ‘Just get me to the sideline, and I’m coming back in the next play.’ … I think the guys were proud of me for going back out there and fighting, and they told me they’d fight with me any day.”
While Cousins threw the final touchdown pass and ran in the game-tying two-point conversion, the Ravens left impressed with RGIII.
“The guy’s a fighter,” Kruger said. “He came back in and tried to make it work. So credit to him.”
“He’s the real deal,” Jones added. “Hat’s off to him, good luck to him the rest of the season and hopefully we’ll see him down the road.”