WASHINGTON — Time to break out more superlatives. Robert Griffin III is about to play another game.
“He’s unbelievable. He’s back there, he makes more plays than anyone you’ve been around. He changes the game.”
Ah, but there’s a catch. While it certainly sounds like a defensive player getting ready to face RG3, it’s actually Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan talking about Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed.
“There’s a reason people say he’s the best of all time,” added Shanahan, adding a bit of praise that’s not even in Griffin’s ballpark.
No active player has more interceptions than Reed. No regular starting quarterback this season has a lower interception rate than Griffin. The veteran ball hawk and do-everything rookie meet for the first time when the Ravens (9-3) visit the Redskins (6-6) on Sunday.
“You’ve just got to be aware of where he’s at,” said Griffin, who has thrown just four picks this season. “Just like he’s got to be aware of where I am.”
Every Redskins game this season has revolved around the unique challenge of defending a quarterback who can run the option with world class speed, yet whose decision-making when dropping back to pass is the envy of quarterbacks much older.
This week is no different.
“He’s making great decisions,” Reed said. “He still has a lot to learn, obviously. The offensive scheme that they’re running helps him out a lot.”
Griffin is also proving to be a winner and a national phenomenon, leading the Redskins on a three-game streak that has them within a game of first place in the NFC East. His jersey and cleats were sent to the Hall of Fame this week after he topped Cam Newton’s NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback.
“We’ve got to contain him,” Reed said. “We’ve got to get him on the ground and not allow him to run, but that’s like telling Superman not to fly.”
Baltimore’s reputation for defense has taken a bit of a hit this season as opponents pile up chunks of yards, although the statistics can be misleading. The Ravens are ranked 25th in the conventional measuring stick of yards allowed, but they are eighth in points allowed — and it’s points that determine wins and losses.
Baltimore is in good shape to clinch a playoff berth for the fifth consecutive season and could sew up the AFC North this weekend, pending the results from other games. The Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, but they are currently the NFL’s best bounce-back team, winning 15 in a row following a defeat since their last two-game losing streak in 2009.
“There’s always a little bit of extra urgency after a loss, for whatever reason,” Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or a good thing. But we are always calm, cool and collected and confident around here.”
While the Ravens have a bit of a cushion in their division, the Redskins have been playing in must-win mode since dropping to 3-6 last month. After a trio of intense games against division rivals, Washington can now find motivation in winning the Beltway Bowl against its neighbor to the north.
“This is for all the bragging rights right here,” Redskins tight end Niles Paul said, “because we see these guys, we’re friends with these guys.”
That’s not a universal feeling in the locker room, however. After all, it’s hard to build a rivalry between teams that play only once every four years.
“We’ve got enough rivalries as it is,” Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We’ve got a whole division of rivalries, so I don’t think we can accept any more applications.”
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