Early on in Vikings' 38-26 loss to the Washington Redskins, it looked like the game could be a blowout – a blowout on the side of the Vikings. Instead, it was the spectacular play of Robert Griffin III that burned the Vikings and led to the turning point of the game.
The Vikings opened up a 9-0 lead by scoring on their first three drives of Sunday's game, but, thanks to a fourth-down conversion by RG3 early in the second quarter, the Redskins finally got on the board, capping a 13-play drive to cut the deficit to 9-3. But when Griffin took the field with 9:03 to play in the second quarter, he was pinned on his own 10-yard line and the Vikings defense was looking to deliver an early knockout punch.
Instead, it was the rookie phenom who did the damage. Faced with a third-and-4 that could have ended the drive quickly, Griffin zipped a 5-yard strike to veteran Santana Moss to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Griffin and Moss hooked up again for a 30-yard pass play that put Washington into the red zone for the first time. After running the ball on a 7-yard option and doing an NBA-quality flop that picked up a roughing-the-passer penalty on Erin Henderson, the Redskins capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive that ate 6:36 off the clock. Despite being dominated in the first quarter, with 2:27 to play in the first half, Washington led 10-9 and momentum was firmly back on their side of the football.
That momentum grew as, just 14 seconds later, the Redskin defense sparked a turnaround that flipped the script on the Vikings. After Christian Ponder was stripped of the ball by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander plucked the ball out of the air, it took Griffin just one play to capitalize fully. With the ball on the 6-yard line, he flipped a touchdown pass to a wide open fullback Darrel Young for a touchdown.
As inexplicable as it seemed, with three minutes to play in the first half, the Vikings led 9-3. With two minutes to play in the half, the Vikings trailed 17-9 and RG3 was just getting started.
Washington took the opening kickoff of the second half and Griffin decided to take over the game with his legs. After completing passes of 17 and 16 yards to wide receiver Josh Morgan, Griffin let his feet do his talking. Faced with a third-and-11 on the Vikings 38-yard line, Griffin scrambled for 15 yards and a first down. On the next play, he scrambled for four yards, but a horse-collar tackle by Harrison Smith moved the ball to the 7-yard line. From there, he called his own number, taking a QB draw up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown and, in the span of less than eight minutes of clock time, he had rallied his team from desperation mode down 9-3 to putting the heat all on the Vikings with a 24-9 lead.
To their credit, the Vikings rallied for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns that got them back into the game. When Jared Allen sacked Griffin with three minutes to play and the Vikings trailing by five points, 31-26, the comeback wasn't complete, but there was plenty of hope. RG3 would kill that dream on one play.
Faced with third-and-6 from his own 24-yard line, Griffin rolled out on a pass-run option, but it seemed clear immediately that he would be running. He did. The Vikings knew it was coming but seemed helpless to stop it. When Griffin turned the corner near the left sideline, he was alone and off to the races – 76 yards later, he sealed the deal and stuck the dagger in the hearts of the Vikings.
When the Redskins traded three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick to move up four spots to take Griffin, it was clear they had a plan in place for what he could do in the NFL. Sunday he showed those who weren't yet on the RG3 bandwagon what that was.
The Vikings will be kicking themselves over the plays they didn't make, but, in the end, the best player on the field was wearing a maroon No. 10 for the Washington Redskins, who almost singlehandedly created an impressive turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Turning point: RG3 rescues Redskins
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