Two fumbles. Same place on the field. Two very different results.
The most exciting moments of Monday night's 17-16 Redskins victory over the Giants at FedEx Field both took place right around the Giants' 10-yard line near the Redskins' sideline as Redskins runners lost control of the ball in the first and third quarters. The first one resulted in one of the oddest touchdowns of the season and the second one of the most vicious pileups.
Robert Griffin III was running toward the end zone, having already converted a second-and-2 from the 28 on a keeper around the left side, when Stevie Brown was able to tackle him and pop the ball out. Griffin swiped at the loose ball as he was landing on his backside and batted it into the air -- right to wide receiver Josh Morgan, who caught it and ran the remaining 13 yards for the game's first touchdown.
Had Griffin held onto the ball for a split second more, he would have been ruled down. Had he actually pitched the ball to Morgan and not inadvertently (or maybe not so inadvertently) knocked it to him, he would have been flagged for an illegal forward pass. Instead, it was just a serendipitous bounce for the Redskins and proof that even when he errs, Griffin does it in spectacular fashion.
"I just knew he was going to be there ready for it," Griffin said. "Josh did a good job making sure he was in the spot he needed to be."
"It was an option play," said Morgan, who was running parallel but outside and slightly behind the initial Griffin run. "I just stayed and kept my pitch relationship on the option. It just so happened that the ball came out of there. That's the way the ball bounces."
It bounced another way in the third quarter. This time Griffin had just converted a third-and-1 with a 46-yard run and Alfred Morris took a handoff around the left side. Chase Blackburn drilled him and forced him to cough the ball up and Keith Rivers pounced on it quickly. Although the pile lasted an inordinate amount of time, Rivers said he never lost control of the ball.
Above Rivers, however, a melee was ensuing with players diving in and others pulling people off. Linval Joseph saw Redskins center Will Montgomery dive on the pile and tried to pull him off by his ankle, a move Montgomery took exception to and retaliated to with a kick to Joseph's groin. Joseph then stomped on Montgomery, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Later, while officials still were digging down to reach Rivers, Rocky Bernard and Kory Lichtensteiger got into a dustup. This time it was the Redskins who were hit with an unsportsmanlike flag (or hat, since at that point the officials had exhausted their flag supply and were throwing anything they could find).
The penalties wound up offsetting and the Giants recovered the fumble. All they could do with it was settle for a field goal, though, after a pass to Hakeem Nicks at the goal line was incomplete (he appeared to stop his route short) and a pass to Victor Cruz was dropped (he did not appear to be expecting the ball). Lawrence Tynes came on for his third field goal of the night and a 16-10 lead that would not withstand the fourth quarter.