LANDOVER, Md. – Robert Griffin III’s concussion was on everyone’s mind as he dropped back on a third-and-6, with the Washington Redskins trying to put the game away.
“I took off running and got to the sideline, thought about running out of bounds – because everyone’s been telling me that lately,” he said with a big smile. “And I felt like I had the guy outflanked, and then I just took off running. And the rest is history.”
Not only did his 76-yard touchdown run put the game away, it also dismissed any thoughts that his first serious shot to the head as a pro was going to stop RG3 from being RG3.
The longest scoring run by an NFL quarterback in 16 years was part of his 138-yard rushing performance in the Redskins’ 38-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“When Robert gets in top gear, it’s like watching a track meet,” receiver Santana Moss said. “And he ain’t coming in second.”
The former college hurdler ran for two scores and threw for another as Washington (3-3) snapped its eight-game home losing streak.
The perennial doormats of the NFC East are becoming relevant again because they finally have a quarterback – a No. 2 overall draft pick able to use his arm and legs to pick apart the Vikings (4-2), who had won three straight and hadn’t allowed more than 23 points this season.
After falling behind 9-0 early and being outgained 148-7, Washington responded with 24 straight points during a stretch in which it outgained Minnesota 225-14.
The Vikings made a game of it with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and were starting to use their timeouts, hoping to get the ball back when Griffin faced third-and-6 at his own 24.
Keep in mind that Griffin left the previous week’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons when he was hit in the head while trying to get some extra yards on a scramble.
He passed the NFL’s post-concussion tests and was cleared to play Sunday, but coaches and teammates hoped that he had learned a lesson about when to keep running and when to slide – or get out of bounds.
Accordingly, Griffin’s second-by-second description of his teammates’ reaction to his touchdown run is priceless.
“I could see guys telling me I got the first, so they were saying, ‘Stay inbounds,’ ” Griffin said. “And then I was running like, ‘I think I can get a little more.’ And it all went from ‘Stop, stay inbounds,’ to ‘Go! Go for the touchdown!’ ”
Redskins head trainer Larry Hess ran alongside down the sideline – “the same 40 I was running,” Griffin said. Tight ends coach Sean McVay told Griffin he felt “a gust of wind” as the rookie ran past. Fullback Darrel Young was chanting “R-G-3!” along with the crowd.
Griffin didn’t stop until he took a seat on the front row, performing what is quickly becoming known as the “Landover Leap.” He said he stayed longer than planned because the fans wouldn’t let him leave.
It was the longest touchdown run by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart scampered 80 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Carolina Panthers in 1996, and Griffin’s rushing total was the fifth highest for a quarterback in NFL history and the most since Michael Vick ran for 166 in 2006.
Griffin said he reined himself in somewhat in the wake of his concussion — he was cheered as he scrambled harmlessly out of bounds on a first-down play in the first quarter — but he again ran some option and finished with 13 carries, including six Redskins offensive plays in a row that included a 7-yard score.
“You try to play smart,” Griffin said. “But stay aggressive.”
He also drew penalties, one on a horse collar tackle and another for roughing-the-passer, one that was perhaps aided by the acting skills Griffin has acquired from doing his commercials. The official didn’t throw the flag for Erin Henderson’s slight shove until Griffin was on the ground making an appeal.
“He hit me good,” said Griffin, laughing his way through the description. “Come on, man. It wasn’t like a basketball flop. I sold it pretty well. I mean, the ball was clearly gone, guys. It was a great job of me and the ref being on the same page.”
He can throw as well. He completed 17 of 22 passes with one touchdown and only his second interception of the season.
The Vikings, meanwhile, paid the price for promising possessions that fell four points short. Drives that got inside the 10 yielded field goals of 20, 27 and 27 yards in the first quarter.
“We’ve got to turn those 3s into 7,” said Adrian Peterson, who ran for 79 yards but at times was limping on his sprained left ankle. “Today, it finally came back and bit us.”
Notes: Christian Ponder went 35 for 52 for 352 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He was also credited with a lost fumble when the ball slipped out of his hand to linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. ... 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. ... K Kai Forbath, making his Redskins debut, made a 50-yarder in his only FG attempt. ... Redskins S Jordan Pugh left the fourth quarter twice with a head injury. The Redskins say he was cleared to return after the first injury, then was diagnosed with a concussion after the second one.