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When Healthy, Griffin Dominates On D-Line

The play seems so insignificant amid the disappointment of the Redskins' once-promising season. With the Eagles eying a touchdown on a 3rd-and-1 play, a yard from the end zone, Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said not so fast.

He stuffed Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter for a two-yard loss, forcing a field goal try that gave the Eagles a 17-point third quarter lead.

The Redskins lost, 27-3, in the Nov. 12 game at Lincoln Financial Field and fell to 3-6, as their playoff hopes took a major jolt. But if nothing else, Griffin's play exemplified that he and his teammates have no plans to exit early from the season.

"No matter how bad it gets, we're never going to give up," Griffin said afterward in a dejected Redskins locker room. "We're going to swing. If we get hit in the mouth a couple of times, we're going to swing back with all we've got. We may not rock them, but we'll hit them with something. That's how we've got to be."

Griffin is frustrated over the cruel turn of events this season that had his defense rated as one of the worst units in the league through the Eagles game, after it finished third in 2004 and ninth in 2005 and was the envy of the NFL. The defense has yielded big play after big play, while allowing offenses to convert numerous third downs.

"We've got to play better, it's as simple as that," he said. "I've been saying all year long, we've got to get off the field on third down, we've got to play better on second down. No deep ball over the top. We've got to get more turnovers, more sacks. Stop the run. That's what we're not doing. There's a lot going on."

Despite its problems, the Redskins' defense is much better when the 6-3, 300-pound Griffin, now in his seventh season, is on the field. He missed losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis with a hip injury heading into the bye week.

But he returned against the Cowboys at FedExField on Nov. 5 and made a then-season-high nine tackles in the Redskins' 22-19 win. He also sacked quarterback Tony Romo for a nine-yard loss while crawling on the ground. Last week against Philadelphia, Griffin logged another six tackles.

The victory over the Cowboys marked only the fourth time this season that Griffin and fellow tackle Joe Salave'a, who's also been banged up with injuries, lined next to each other. Both are considered great run stoppers.

"He just wants to be out there healthy," Redskins defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn said of Griffin. "That's the one thing he wants to do. When he's healthy, he can't be stopped. I tell him that, everybody tells him that. He works hard. He's just got to try to stay as healthy as he can because when he's healthy, even when he's not 100 percent, he helps the defense."

Griffin was one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the NFL in the past two seasons after joining the Redskins as a free agent. In 2004, he led the team in sacks (six) and posted 96 tackles, and was named The Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year and a Pro Bowl alternate.

He missed several games around the middle of the 2005 season due to injury but recorded multiple tackle and sack games in the Redskins' late-season five-game winning streak that clinched a playoff berth. He was also stellar in the playoffs.

"I am a better coach when Cornelius is playing," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. "He is an impact-type player when he is in there. He is a very productive when he is in there. You don't see a lot of tackles taht are around the ball as much as he is. He creates those negative yardage plays that puts the offense on its heels and lets' the defense tee off."

The anger that emanated from the normally quiet giant after the Eagles game made his first two seasons in Washington seem like a distant memory.

In simple terms, he explained the solution to the Redskins' woes: "Win the game. I don't care what it takes. We've got to get a win here. It's going to take everybody sticking together, coming out fighting. Just stay together, give it your best shot, play your heart out, lay it on the line."

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