Who will win this weekend?
In summary: The Vikings parlayed each of their first three possessions into field goals, and the visitors led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. But as Robert Griffin III has proved time and again this season, the Redskins are never out of a game when he’s on the field.
Griffin accounted for three of the Redskins’ touchdowns, including a 76-yard scoring run that turned a tenuous five-point lead into a 38-26 victory that ended the team’s eight-game losing streak at FedEx Field.
Washington’s maligned defense also did its part – finally. With a classic bend-but-don’t-break performance, the unit produced two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. Madieu Williams’ 24-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, in fact, was the Redskins’ biggest play until Griffin’s scintillating scamper down the sidelines in the closing minutes.
“The defense kept us in the game,” Griffin said. “If we hold teams field goals, it’s huge. Because we can come back.”
Here are eight additional notes, quotes and observations from Landover:
Turning point: With the Redskins clinging to a 10-9 lead late in the second quarter, they needed someone to make a play. That someone turned out to be Lorenzo Alexander, who recovered a fumble by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder at the Minnesota 6-yard line. One play later, Griffin hit Darrel Young for a touchdown, capping a 17-0 run by the Redskins to end the first half and put the home team firmly in control.
“Some of that was being in the right place at the right time,” Alexander said of the fumble, which was caused when Perry Riley pushed Adrian Peterson into Ponder as the quarterback released the ball. “I wish I could have scored.”
Alexander, a reserve who played a significantly larger role on defense than he has the first five games, was awarded a game ball by Coach Mike Shanahan for his efforts. Alexander also recorded a sack and a half.
“I am just a blue collar, hard–nosed guy,” Alexander added. “And good things happen to good people who play hard.”
Offensive play of the game: In just six games, Griffin already owns an extensive collection of highlights. Now he’s got one that fans still will be talking about years from now.
With the ball on the Washington 24 yard line and less than three minutes left in a game that suddenly had grown uncomfortably close, the Redskins’ rookie recognized the Vikings’ blitz and opted for a keeper. After reaching the secondary, he showed a former sprinter’s speed as he outraced everyone down the sideline.
“I took off running, got to the sideline, thought about running out of bounds because everyone has been telling me that lately,” Griffin said with a smile. “The rest is history.”
Defensive play of the game:Williams, a former safety for the Vikings, picked off Ponder with a diving catch at Minnesota’s 24-yard line early in the fourth quarter, jumped to his feet, sprinted the width of the field and followed teammate Josh Wilson’s blocking all the way to the end zone.
The score – the defense’s fourth of the season – put the Redskins ahead 31-12. The last time the defense accounted for as many scores was 1999.
“We were keying the quarterback,” Williams said. “Got up, saw my teammates ding a great job of blocking. Looked to my right, saw Josh Wilson blocking two people over there, I figured I’d take my chances going over to that side.”
Special teams play of the game:Kai Forbath, kicking in a regular season game for the first time, put his only attempt between the uprights from 50 yards out early in the second quarter. He also put five of his seven kickoffs in the end zone, four touchbacks.
After witnessing Billy Cundiff’s struggles the previous two weeks, the capacity crowd greeted Forbath a boisterous ovation.
“It’s huge for your confidence,” Forbath said. “That’s all kicking is: going out there with confidence.”
Quote of the day: After throwing the ball out of bounds in the second quarter, Griffin absorbed a late hit from Minnesota linebacker Erin Henderson. After complaining to the ref – and perhaps a little embellishment – Griffin drew a flag.
“He hit me good,” Griffin said, laughing. “It wasn’t like a basketball flop. I definitely sold it pretty well. The ball was clearly gone. It was a great job of me and the ref being on the same page.”
Quote of the day, Part 2: Upon returning to the sideline following his long scoring run, Griffin got ribbed by a few teammates. “A couple of guys, Rex [Grossman] in particular, came to me and said ‘Hey, you can stop smiling by Wednesday.’ I was all smiles. It was a special feeling and I’ll definitely watch [the replay].”
Injury report: Pierre Garçon (right foot) did not suit up after participating briefly in warmups while wearing game pants. The wide receiver was not listed on the injury report on Wednesday or Thursday but showed up on the list Friday, presumably after suffering a sretback. There could be an update on his status Monday afternoon when Shanahan meets with reporters at 3 p.m.
Reserve safety Jordan Pugh was evaluated for a concussion after twice going down in the fourth quarter and needing help to get off the field.
Game ball: Although Trent Williams could have gotten it for his performance on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who recorded a sack late, how can the ball go to anyone other than Griffin?
By the numbers: After going 0 for 4 on third downs to start the game, the Redskins finished 6 for 12. They were 3 for 20 in their previous two games. Griffin’s fourth quarter touchdown came on a third-and-6.
“You try to get that monkey off your back,” Griffin said. “It makes everybody feel better, to get some relief, a lot of relief off your shoulders.”
Record book: With 138 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 13 attempts, Griffin joined Michael Vick as the only quarterbacks to rush for at least 130 yards and two touchdowns in a game since 1970, according to the Redskins. Griffin’s total also shattered the previous team record for a quarterback of 82, set by Griffin in St. Louis.