BALTIMORE – Robert Griffin III said during the week, five times in fact, that Sunday’s game wasn’t going to be about him. As it turned out, he was right for the wrong reasons.
The focus started on Griffin, but the Ravens‘ rushing attack stole the show as Gus Edwards barrelled for 130 yards, defense and special teams combined for 10 points and the Ravens earned the best record in franchise history with a 28-10 win over the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
The win was Griffin’s first as a starter since the 2016 season.
“All week I talked about it’s not about me, and it’s not about me,” Griffin said. “But we were able to, I believe, finish the season with the best record in Ravens’ history at 14-2. That means everything. To keep our winning streak going, that means everything.”
Griffin didn’t have his best day from the pocket, and finished 11-of-21 passing for just 96 yards and an interception that shouldn’t rest on his shoulders. He also rushed for 50 yards on a rainy, sloppy, ugly day for football.
What he did do, however, was lead an offense without five of its starters (including Lamar Jackson) to a win over a division rival with everything to play for.
“He made some big runs for us, operated the offense – there are a lot of complications to our offense in terms of calls and things like that – against a defense that’s really creative and was doing a lot of different things out there to stop us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “So, he just played the position excellent.”
Griffin had thrown just 23 passes since his last start on Jan. 1, 2017 against the Steelers. That day, he couldn’t lead a one-win team over a playoff-bound Steelers team. Sunday, he led his playoff-bound Ravens team to a win over a Steelers team headed home for the postseason.
Faced with significant pressure, Griffin handled the week as well as could be expected.
“I’m seven years in now, I think, and people ask me, ‘Are you in shape? Are you going to be able to do the whole game and do all that?'” Griffin explained. “I just thought the guys in the building – the weight staff, the training staff, the support staff – they’ve been helping me stay ready because I’ve always been one play away. So, this week comes up, and I’m starting and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God. I’ve got to do all this new stuff.” No, I really don’t.”
Third-string quarterback Trace McSorley played early in the first quarter, but the show was Griffin’s for the day. With a rookie behind him on the depth chart, and an MVP candidate at quarterback, the odds for Griffin making a significant contribution in Baltimore aren’t likely.
But he at least proved that he’s able to command an offense with at least some success, especially without the team’s top weapons.
“He’s a family man, and he’s done a great job as a team member first,” Harbaugh said. “And here’s a player that’s been at the pinnacle. And to come in here and contribute to the team the way he does, it just speaks to his character. It also speaks to his ability as a player to play that well.”
Griffin’s career has seen peaks and valleys, as he’s gone from a No. 2 overall pick and Rookie of The Year, to out of the league in a matter of five years. Then Griffin found the Ravens who gave him another shot at the NFL.
The unique part of this chapter of Griffin’s story, however, is that him seeing meaningful snaps in any remaining game this season would almost certainly be due to a catastrophic reason. It’s his job to backup Jackson and be ready when called, and what’s best for the Ravens means Griffin stapled to the bench.
But for one day, he proved that he’s still got a little bit left in the tank should his number be called.
“I just wanted to make sure we enjoyed it,” Griffin said. “I talked to the guys; with a team like the Steelers, they’re a physical group. We just had to match that. My intensity on those plays was to try to just give the team some energy, and our defense was doing a great job giving us energy. That turnover before the half that allowed us to go in and score some points, get seven, was big. It was all part of it.”
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Robert Griffin III caps Ravens regular season with excellent performance originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington