LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Robert Griffin III dropped back, waited a beat, then quickly took off. A first down on third-and-6 might have been enough to put the game away.
Instead, the Washington Redskins rookie left the Minnesota Vikings defense behind as he streaked down the left sideline for 76 yards. He didn’t stop until he took a seat on the front row, performing what is quickly becoming known as the “Landover Leap.”
He might have suffered his first NFL concussion the week before, but RG3 was still RG3. The Heisman Trophy winner rallied his team from an early hole, ran for 138 yards and threw for 182 on Sunday in a 38-26 victory that snapped the Vikings’ three-game winning streak as well as the Redskins eight-game run of futility at home.
After falling behind 9-0 and being outgained 148-7, the Redskins (3-3) responded with 24 straight points during a stretch in which they outgained the Vikings 225-14. Minnesota (4-2) paid the price for promising drives that produced 3s instead of 7s, with four field goals from Blair Walsh accounting for all their points through the first three quarters.
The Vikings finally found the end zone on Michael Jenkins’ 9-yard catch with 8:02 to play and Kyle Rudolph’s 1-yard snag — set up by Josh Wilson’s pass interference penalty — with 3:36 to go to cut the Redskins’ lead to 31-26.
But Griffin, sporting a huge gray bandage on his chin, responded with the longest touchdown run by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart scampered 80 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Carolina Panthers in 1996. The Vikings had started to use their timeouts, hoping to get the ball back with a chance to win, but Griffin dispelled that notion to put the Redskins up by 12 with 2:43 remaining.
Griffin left last week’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons when he was hit in the head in the third quarter while trying to get some extra yards on a third down scramble. He passed the NFL’s post-concussion tests over the following days and was cleared to play, but coaches and teammates hoped that he had learned a lesson about when to keep running and when to get out of bounds.
Accordingly, the fans cheered when he darted to the sidelines on the first play of the second series, but by no means did it indicate that he had gone soft. He still ran the option. He still looked for the extra yard when it meant something. He had two rushing touchdowns to give him six on the year, already surpassing the previous single-season franchise record of four. And he’s just six games into his career.
During one stretch, Griffin ran on six straight times, starting with a 15-yard scramble. Then he scrambled for three more before being brought down by a horse-collar tackle, adding a half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty to the gain.
Why mess with what’s working? On the next play, Griffin took off for the end zone, running for 7 yards and stretching the ball over the goal line with his right hand as he was tackled by cornerback Chris Cook.
He also drew penalties. In addition to the horse collar call, he turned a slight shove from Erin Henderson into a roughing-the-passer call, the flag emerging from the official’s pocket only after Griffin had tumbled to the turf and appealed for the call.
And, yes, Griffin can throw as well. He completed 17 of 22 passes with one touchdown and only his second interception of the year. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris added a 1-yard scoring run, fullback Darrel Young caught a 6-yard TD pass, and former Vikings safety Madieu Williams returned an interception 24 yards for Washington’s fourth defensive touchdown of the year. The Redskins scored only 43 points off turnovers last year; they already have 49 this year.
The Vikings hadn’t allowed more than 23 points in a game this year, one of the reasons they’ve been an early season surprise. In this game, they were let down by both sides of the ball.
The offense made it look easy on Minnesota’s first three possessions — until it hit the red zone. Drives that got inside the 10 yielded field goals of 20, 27 and 27 yards. There was another field goal in the third quarter.
Christian Ponder completed 35 of 52 passes for 352 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and was credited with a lost fumble when the ball slipped out of his hand as he went back to pass. The ball floated into the hands of linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, setting Young’s touchdown in a sequence in which the Redskins scored 14 points in 13 seconds.
Adrian Peterson, who at times appeared to be limping on his sprained left ankle, had 79 yards on 17 carries for the Vikings.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)