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Remarkable Day By Robert Griffin III Leads Redskins Over Vikings

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

LANDOVER, Md. – He sat there smiling, his grin one in a sea of thousands but his nickname the only one being chanted.

Griffin III

Robert Griffin III couldn’t help but take a moment Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. Here he was, resting in the first row of seats behind the west end zone, taking in the ambiance along with his few deep breaths.

“I didn’t want us to get a penalty, so I was trying to get down,” Griffin said. “At the end of the day, I think the refs and everyone understood how big of a moment that was.”

The Washington Redskins had been through their late-game collapses before, but not this time. A week after leaving the game with a concussion, Griffin ran 76 yards for a crucial late touchdown en route to the Redskins’ 38-26 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Not only Griffin help end Washington’s eight-game home losing streak, he emphatically announced he was back.

“That’s a credit to what he does,” fullback Darrel Young said. “That’s his game.”

Washington (3-3) held a five-point lead over the rallying Vikings with 2:56 to play when Griffin, on third-and-6 from his own 24-yard line, was pressured out of the pocket. Rather than try to dump the ball off to his hot receiver, he scrambled forward and took off to his left.

With the memory of the concussion fresh in Griffin’s mind – and in those of his teammates, and his coaches, and his fans – the quarterback decided not to turn out of bounds and take a modest gain. Instead, he looked at Jamarca Sanford after picking up roughly a dozen yards and turned upfield, outracing the Vikings’ safety to the goal line.

“I don’t know if it was Olympic world-class speed,” said receiver Joshua Morgan, who sprung Griffin with a block on cornerback Chris Cook, “[but] it’s electrifying when you see him in the open field like that and turn the speed on.”

The Redskins were pushed to the wire in their season-opening victory at New Orleans and were briefly overcome by Tampa Bay on Sept. 30 before winning on a field goal. Minnesota (4-2), which trailed 31-12 early in the fourth quarter, did the same.

Christian Ponder, who finished 35-for-52 for 352 yards, threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 8:02 remaining and found Kyle Rudolph for the two-point conversion. He then found Rudolph with a one-yard touchdown pass slightly over four minutes later, though his conversion pass failed.

That left the Redskins leading 31-26 before Griffin’s touchdown run, his second of the game. He set the team record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with his first score, a seven-yard run on a quarterback draw with 9:37 left in the third quarter, and had a total of 138 yards to go along with the 182 passing yards he had while completing 17 of his 22 attempts.

The only smudge on Griffin’s afternoon came late in the first quarter, on the Redskins’ second drive, when he tried to force a pass to Morgan. That pass was intercepted by Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield and led to a field goal by rookie kicker Blair Walsh – his third in as many drives to open the game.

Washington then settled down, scoring 17 unanswered points. Kai Forbath, signed earlier in the week, made a 50-yard field goal – the first of his career. Running back Alfred Morris ran one yard for a touchdown, and Griffin found Young for a six-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the second quarter following a fumble by Ponder.

Morris, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the last two games, was held to just 47 yards – the fewest in his young rookie season. But the Redskins, too, limited Minnesota’s rushing attack, holding Adrian Peterson – who tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee on that field not even 10 months ago – out of the end zone and to just 79 yards.

Washington even sustained drives for the first time this season, converting on six of its 12 third-down attempts. It added a defensive touchdown when Madieu Williams returned an interception 24 yards in the fourth quarter, marking the second consecutive game an interception was returned for a touchdown and prolonging a streak of seven consecutive games with an interception – its longest since 2005.

“That’s what you want to have,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “On your football team, you have to make plays.”

That’s what Griffin did as he tore down the left sideline. Teammates and coaches alike told him of their reactions afterward; tight ends coach Sean McVay said he could feel the wind as the quarterback ran by, and head athletic trainer Larry Hess professed to keeping up with Griffin during the entirety of his run.

“You don’t see that too often, man,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’ll make history in this league.”

Did he think Griffin would be caught?

“Oh hell no,” Williams said, laughing. “He was cruising on that one, man.”

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