One week after his first NFL concussion, Robert Griffin III ran more, ran smarter, ran bigger.
He left the Minnesota Vikings in his wake, never more so than on his 76-yard touchdown run that put the game away for the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter. His final rushing tally: 13 carries, 138 yards, two touchdowns. His passing numbers: 17 for 22 for 182 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 97.2 rating.
The scoreboard: Redskins 38, Vikings 26. The soundtrack: Chants of "RG3!"
"I told the team," Griffin said, "I wasn't going to leave them hanging."
Griffin was upset that he wasn't there for his teammates after a shot to the head forced him to leave the seven-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons a week earlier, and it was fair to wonder whether the hit — and the NFL-required battery of post-concussion tests that followed — would stop RG3 from being RG3.
No way. He did run out of bounds a couple of times, and he slid once to avoid a tackle, but the former college hurdler also produced the longest touchdown run by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart scampered 80 yards for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Carolina Panthers in 1996 — as well as the fifth highest rushing total for a quarterback in league history and the most since Michael Vick ran for 166 in 2006.
"You try to play smart," Griffin said. "But stay aggressive."
Coach Mike Shanahan wasn't about to rein in the rookie. Quite the contrary. The coach figured that Griffin's designed runs made the game safer for the quarterback because otherwise the vaunted Vikings pass rush would have blitzed away on passing downs and piled up a few bone-jarring sacks.
"Robert, by doing what he does, keeping the defense off balance, really gives him a chance, in my opinion, to stay healthier," Shanahan said.
During one stretch, Griffin ran on six consecutive Redskins offensive plays, including a 7-yard score. He has six rushing touchdowns on the year, already surpassing the previous single-season franchise record of four.
And he's just six games into his career.
The win broke an eight-game home losing streak for Washington (3-3). The Redskins fell behind 9-0 early after being outgained 148-7, then responded with 24 straight points during a stretch in which they outgained the Vikings 225-14.
Minnesota made a game of it with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and was starting to use its timeouts, hoping to get the ball back, when Griffin faced third-and-6 at his own 24 with just under 3 minutes to play.
Griffin dropped back to pass and saw an open lane. The Redskins needed a first down to keep eating up the clock. RG3 gave them more.
"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."
Griffin didn't stop until he took a seat on the front row, performing what is quickly becoming known as the "Landover Leap."
"When Robert gets in top gear, it's like watching a track meet," receiver Santana Moss said. "And he ain't coming in second."
He also drew two penalties in the game, one on a horse collar tackle and another for roughing-the-passer, although the roughing call was perhaps aided by the acting skills Griffin has acquired from doing 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."
The Vikings (4-2) had their three-game losing streak snapped, paying 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 had a chance to go up 21-nothing," receiver Percy Harvin pointed out, "and we didn't do that."
That's a big mistake, especially when Griffin is the other team's quarterback.
"He's a gifted player. Like I told him, just talking to him, looking him in his eyes: He's got the heart of a champ," said Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who ran 17 times for 79 yards. "That's easy to see."
NOTES: Minnesota's 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.
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