It's usually easy to tell when an analyst is going off of a box score as opposed to watching a game. I remember reading and listening to several such people panning Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after he completed just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception in a Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. If you weren't watching the game, and you chose to go off the box score alone, your narrative was clear: A great NFL defense put a promising rookie quarterback in his place.
True to a degree, but what the box score didn't show were the five passes from Wilson that were outright dropped by his receivers, despite being on target. Wilson could have easily had four or five more completions for 100 yards and at least one touchdown had his receivers done their jobs. And the score of that 13-6 game could very well have been different.
However, when it comes to rookie quarterbacks with grievances against their receivers, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins stands apart and alone after a Week 8 debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that 27-12 loss, depending on the source of your numbers, RG3's targets dropped anywhere from nine to 12 passes that should have been caught. And as it was with Wilson, you heard a few "experts" telling you that the Steelers had finally given the NFL a blueprint to stop the explosive Griffin. If all you saw was the stat line -- 16 of 34 for 177 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback who had completed more than 70 percent of his passes before -- you might have thought the same thing.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan did not think the same thing, and made it very clear that his receivers were the source of the trouble.
"It's been a long time since I've had a game like this, relative to that many opportunities that you didn't take advantage of when guys were open. I was disappointed," Shanahan said after the game. "I don't care where the placement is. As long as it hits your hands, you had better catch it or else you won't be in the National Football League for very long."
Griffin, showing a poise and professionalism many veterans fail to exhibit, said that it's all about a process, especially with Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis out of the picture with injuries.
"It's just about execution, and whether you have a drop or a bad play here or there, they have to know that I'm going to come back to them, because these are the guys I have to play with," Griffin said. "If I make a bad pass, the coaches aren't going to stop calling pass plays. I have to go out there and make a good play throwing the ball. I think that's the main thing you tell them, that I'm going to come back to them no matter what happens, and I need them to make plays for me."
We counted nine examples against the Steelers in which Griffin's receivers did not make plays for him. And in many of those cases, the drops were embarrassing. Thanks to our friends at NFL.com, we can review each one and detail just how right on RG3 actually was against a Steelers defense determined to keep him bottled up and in the pocket.
Yes, that's nine times in which RG3's receivers couldn't match up. NINE TIMES.