The Washington Redskins’ day started with a frightening bus crash that coach Jay Gruden estimates was about 5 feet away from being catastrophic. And it only got worse from there.
Thousands turned out at TCF Bank Stadium to protest the Redskins nickname, franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III was again hounded by reports that his presence has divided the locker room and the Minnesota Vikings handed Washington a demoralizing 29-26 defeat on Sunday that dropped them to 3-6 heading into the bye.
“Can’t really worry about the negativity that’s swirling around,” Griffin said in reference to two ESPN reports that claimed owner Dan Snyder forced Gruden to start him over Colt McCoy, who led the Redskins to back-to-back victories in the previous two weeks. “Someday that’ll stop. I truly believe that. I believe someday the negativity will stop and people will stop trying to tear us down from the outside in and make it look like it’s coming from the inside.
“I believe that.”
After missing more than six games with a dislocated left ankle, Griffin was in the second of two early buses on the way to the stadium on Sunday morning when his bus, carrying most players, slammed into the lead bus, which was carrying mostly coaches and staff.
Backup running back Silas Redd Jr. was deactivated for the game because of back spasms he suffered after the crash, but everyone else escaped with only minor aches and pains.
“A lot of guys had their lives flash before their eyes,” said Griffin, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown. “Not a good moment.”
The team appeared to gather itself and started strong against the Vikings (4-5). Griffin hit his first six passes to help Washington take a 10-0 lead, but Captain Munnerlyn picked off an errant pass at the Washington 46 with less than a minute to play in the first half. Four plays later, Teddy Bridgewater hit Chase Ford for a 20-yard touchdown pass to get the Vikings on the board and set up a back-and-forth second half.
“We can’t throw a pick there,” Gruden said. “Can’t throw an out-breaking route to the inside. Can’t ever happen.”
But Gruden vehemently disputed any notion that teammates and coaches weren’t backing Griffin. He called the reports “amateurish” and “fiction.”
“We are in D.C. and it is Robert Griffin,” Gruden said. “They’re always going to try to tear him down and tear us down for whatever reason, but we’re going to stay united as a locker room and that’s that. We’re not going to let anybody get to us.”
Receiver DeSean Jackson, who had four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, treaded lightly around the subject.
“He’s their guy. I feel comfortable and confident with him back there,” Jackson said. “Regardless of who was on board or who wasn’t on board, as players that’s not our decision. We just have to go out there and do our job.
“So for whoever (it was) to feel any way about that decision, it’s really past their ability to say because you’ve got to go out and focus on your job and play to your best ability, if that makes any sense.”
Equally troubling was the play of the Redskins defense, which was coming off a dominant effort against the Cowboys last week. After sacking Tony Romo five times, they only got to Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater twice.
Bridgewater threw for 268 yards and a touchdown, numbers that could’ve been much better had he not missed several wide open receivers deep down the field early in the game. The defense also gave up two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, both ending with scoring runs by Matt Asiata, who scored three times.
“That was unacceptable football,” Gruden said.
Griffin took some hard hits, including a low one by Anthony Barr that bent his left leg awkwardly backward. But he showed Bridgewater a thing or two about throwing long, hitting Jackson for 45 yards on the first play of the second drive and 56 yards in the fourth quarter to set up Alfred Morris’ second TD of the game that gave Washington a 26-21 lead.
Griffin had the ball with 3:27 to play and a chance to tie or take the lead, but his throw to Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-6 was at his feet and sealed the defeat.
“The way I look at it is I could’ve played better to help us win the game at the end,” Griffin said. “I’ll still cherish those moments. In the next game that it comes, I’ll come through.”
NOTES: Morris finished with a season-high 92 yards rushing. … TE Logan Paulsen left the game with plantar fasciitis, but was able to return. LB Keenan Robinson injured a shoulder. … This was the fifth straight season these teams have played. The Vikings won four.
Redskins’ day marred by crash, protests, loss
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