Robert Griffin III didn’t know what quarter it was and he wasn’t sure what the score was. That meant that Kirk Cousins would have to come in and make his NFL debut.
Griffin was hit hard (but apparently legally) by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and tackle Jonathan Badineaux as he was scrambling near the goal line in the third quarter. It was Weatherspoon’s contact that appeared to do the most damage as he hit Griffin high as the rookie quarterback was going to the ground.
Griffin stayed on the ground for a moment before getting up slowly and being helped to the sideline. Billy Cundiff kicked a 23-yard field goal to give the Redskins a 10-7 lead.
It quickly became apparent that Griffin had suffered a concussion. “At that time, he wasn’t really sure what the score was or wat quarter it was,” said coach Mike Shanahan. “We knew he had a mild concussion—at least according to doctors.”
Per the NFL concussion protocol once the doctors said that Griffin had a concussion he could not return for the game.
Cousins, meanwhile, had told the trainers to keep him posted. A short time later the trainers told gave him the word. “They said you’re going to go and you’re going to finish it,” said Cousins.
Cousins’ first pass was complete to Josh Morgan for 4 yards but the Redskins couldn’t get anything going. On Atlanta’s ensuing possession Matt Ryan arched a perfect pass to Julio Jones in the end zone and the receiver just got both feet in for the touchdown and a 14-10 Falcons lead.
It didn’t last for long. On third down from the Washington 23, Cousins went deep down the middle to Moss, who had gotten behind the safeties. Moss grabbed the pass near midfield and easily outran the secondary to the end zone.
“It’s a progression where we alert him and if he ends up popping [open] you take him otherwise you progress on,” said Cousins. “Obviously, he popped open.”
That put the Redskins ahead 17-14 with 2:24 left to play. But that would be the high water mark for the Redskins.
The Falcons drove for a tying field goal and, after a Redskins three and out, went 69 yards in seven plays and took a 24-17 lead on a 13-yard Michael Turner touchdown run with 2:52 left to play.
Cousins and the Redskins had two more possession to try to tie it up but both ended in interceptions.
“Both of them we were just trying to do too much. I’ll learn from it,” said Cousins. “You get in a two-minute situation you want to come back and you try to do too much.”
Cousins finished the day completing five of nine passes for 111 yards with the touchdown and two interceptions.
Griffin was having a quiet day by his standards before leaving the game. He was 10 for 15 for 91 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns before his last play, which came with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Griffin, second on the team in rushing coming into the game, ran just once for seven yards.