TAMPA, Fla. (AP) With time running out on the Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III found a way to win.
Playing more like a veteran than a rookie in only his fourth pro game, the second overall pick in this year’s NFL draft made leading a late-minute comeback look easy Sunday by calmly moving his team down the field for a go-ahead field goal that toppled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-22.
The seven-play, 56-yard march allowed Bill Cundiff to redeem himself for a horrible day kicking with a 41-yarder that snapped a two-game skid.
The Redskins (2-2) squandered an 18-point lead, falling behind 22-21 on Connor Barth’s third field goal with 1:42 remaining.
That’s when Griffin, who threw for 323 yards without an interception, took over. Three completions and a 15-yard scramble later, the Redskins were in a position for their second win.
“I think in a movie called ‘The Replacements,
’ they said great players want the ball in their hands when it’s crunch time,” Griffin said. “It’s funny that I just quoted that movie, but it’s also funny that that’s how it really is. It’s true. You want the ball in your hands. When something has to happen, you make it happen, and that’s what we did.”
Griffin also did without the headset in his helmet, which went out on the drive. He finished 26 of 35 passing and rushed for 43 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run that helped Washington build a 21-3 lead.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner also nearly scored on an 8-yard run, but fumbled when he was hit near the goal line, and receiver Pierre Garcon recovered for the Redskins’ first TD.
“I thought he did a great job. Great job,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. “Kept his poise in there, and I thought he played a heck of a football game throughout. A lot of focus, a lot of concentration, and that’s what you’ve got to have of your quarterback. You have a lot of poise there in the fourth quarter, especially in that last drive, make some big-time plays.”
Cundiff missed three earlier attempts, including a 31-yarder that would have put the Redskins up by two scores early in the fourth quarter. He also missed first-half tries of 41 and 57 yards, but was on the money after Griffin went 4 for 4 for 46 yards to set the veteran kicker up for another try.
“We all had a feeling he was going to make it, even though the day wasn’t so great for him,” Griffin said. “He came up big when it mattered. … We all have things that we have to get better at. For him, that was a good confidence kick, seeing that he didn’t make the rest of them.”
Alfred Morris rushed for 113 yards and scored on a 39-yard run that put Washington up by 18 late in the second quarter.
“You take a look at the last two games, and we found a way to not win them, and this one we found a way to win it,” said Shanahan, adding that he encouraged Cundiff to keep his head up.
“I was just hoping he could keep focus after missing the last one,” the coach said. “I told him not to worry about it, and it’s going to come down to a game winner. And it did, and he did a great job of concentrating and obviously making the field goal.”
Josh Freeman threw for 299 yards and one TD, leading the Bucs back from their big deficit with help from Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, who scored on a 7-yard reception late in the third quarter.
Jackson finished with six catches for 100 yards, and Williams had five receptions for 115 yards. The Bucs (1-3) have lost three straight, all to NFC East teams.
“Because you lose at the end, you fail to finish, but we really didn’t do a bunch of stuff before that to put us in position,” to win, first-year Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
“It the National Football League. We could be 4-0 or we could be 0-4,” Schiano added. “Every game has been (decided by) seven or less. None of that matters. … We need to get better.”
Griffin was sacked six times and was hit hard after handing off on some option plays during a loss to Cincinnati last week, prompting Shanahan to ask the rookie to take some precautions on the field to protect himself.
With regular officials back on the job, the Bucs were flagged twice for unnecessary roughness on the Redskins quarterback: once on a throw out of his own end zone and the other when he was picked up and dropped for a 2-yard loss by Tampa Bay rookie safety Mark Barron on a designed run.
Barron read the quarterback keeper perfectly, but was flagged when he lifted Griffin into the air before dumping him to the ground and falling on top of Griffin. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner bounced right up, clapped his hands, then threw for 20 yards to Garcon on the next play.
“We’re very fortunate right now to be where we’re at,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. “I hope we can just build from this and keep this momentum we have as a team. We need to continue to play good football and to finish games.”
NOTES: The Redskins played without safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Aldrick Robinson, who were declared out after colliding in the end zone during pregame warm-ups. … Barth also kicked field goals of 50 and 57 yards, extending his team-record streak of consecutive attempts to 25. … Freeman was intercepted once and also sacked once.