If you're looking for one player to help jump start the Redskins' defense down the stretch, Cornelius Griffin may be your guy.
Slowed by a hip injury, Griffin missed Weeks 8 through 11, except for a cameo appearance on Oct. 30 versus the Giants at the Meadowlands. He returned last week and helped get pressure on Drew Brees in the game the Redskins lost to San Diego 23-17 in overtime at FedExField.
Griffin wasn't expected to play significant minutes in last week's game, but he rose to the occasion when the defense needed him most.
"It was funny to see some of the Chargers' offensive linemen's eyes when Cornelius trotted out there the first time," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "[Defensive coordinator-defensive line coach] Greg Blache did a good job with how he played him last week. When you've been off for that long, just from fatigue and an endurance standpoint, you have to watch for getting re-injured.
"We tried to put him in on as many passing downs as possible early on to get him back into the flow of things. He's a difference-maker when he's in there, regardless of whatever you're doing with schemes. He can just overpower people with his athleticism and sheer, raw power."
Griffin is hoping to become a catalyst as Washington heads into St. Louis with designs on ending its three-game losing skid. It will be a battle of 5-6 teams Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome, with the loser left on the outside of the postseason picture.
Griffin's role on Sunday will be even more vital due to a practice injury to defensive tackle Cedric Killings on Friday. Killings injured his groin and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game. Along with Killings, defensive tackle Joe Salave'a is doubtful for Week 13 with his persistent foot problem.
Griffin knows the Redskins are facing a now-or-never task as they try to turn around their season. But he emphasizes that the old adage about taking games one at a time is the only perspective to have.
"The Rams are up first. We're not looking past them," says the 6-3, 300-pound defensive tackle. "That's who is important. If we don't win this game, the rest of them don't mean anything."
Adds Griffin: "We just have to take care of our responsibilities this week, play hard and get the 'W.'"
When he's been on the field in 2005, Griffin has been a dominant player. In the Redskins' 28-21 setback at Kansas City, for instance, Griffin produced nine tackles and a sack of Chiefs quarterback Trent Green.
During the recent three-game skid, the Redskins have had trouble finishing off games. It's Griffin who has been one of the team's key finishers during his two years in Washington. In the win over Chicago last season and again over the Bears in this year's opener, Griffin was as his best in the final moments of the game.
Asked about the Redskins' inability to close out games, Griffin, the six-year NFL veteran and former New York Giant, said: "If we make the plays we're supposed to make, we'll win the game. We can't leave plays out there on the field."