LANDOVER, Md. – This, of course, is the sort of thing everyone associated with — and rooting for — the Washington Redskins worries about: Robert Griffin III limping to the sideline after a knee-spraining hit.
With the Redskins driving while trailing the Baltimore Ravens late in the fourth quarter of a game Washington would wind up winning 31-28 in overtime Sunday, Griffin was slow to rise after being tackled at the end of a 13-yard scramble.
"I screamed. Like a man, of course," Griffin said with a laugh, before acknowledging: "It hurt really bad."
He left for one play, then returned for four more. But by then, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL draft was hopping on his left leg, keeping all weight off his injured right one. Eventually, Griffin knelt on the turf, unable to continue.
"I knew I needed to get out at that point," said last year's Heisman Trophy winner, who had an MRI exam later Sunday that didn't show significant ligament damage. "I couldn't move. At some point, you have to do what's right for the team. And if I'm playing the rest of that game, I probably would have hurt myself even more."
Said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan: "I could see that he was hurting the second time he came out. You could see his face."
So whatever euphoria the Redskins (7-6) and their fans might have been feeling following a fourth consecutive victory was mixed with concern about the sight of the man they call RG3 hobbling around on the sideline with a thick, black brace on his right knee as Kai Forbath kicked a 34-yard field goal to end the game.
"We're happy that we won, obviously," left tackle Trent Williams said. "But that is concerning, knowing he went down. Everyone wants to know how he's doing."
About three hours after the game, an answer arrived: Team spokesman Tony Wyllie said the MRI showed that while Griffin sprained his knee, "everything is clear" in terms of a major knee injury. Wyllie specifically ruled out a season-ending ACL tear, such as the one Griffin had on the same knee while playing in college at Baylor in 2009.
Still, because a sprained knee, by definition, means at least one of the several ligaments is damaged in some way, it's not clear what Griffin's status for next week at the Cleveland Browns will be.
"Everybody's praying for me. I feel pretty good right now about the whole situation," said Griffin, who left a game earlier this season because of a concussion.
With Griffin done for the day, and Baltimore — now 9-4 after its first consecutive losses since early in the 2009 season — leading 28-20, fellow rookie QB Kirk Cousins stepped in. Cousins, a fourth-round pick who only played in one other game this season, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon with 29 seconds remaining in regulation, then ran a quarterback draw for the tying 2-point conversion.
"He's ice. Like they used to say about Larry Bird, he got ice water in his veins. That's the best thing you can say about Kirk," receiver Joshua Morgan said.
Griffin heard the call for Cousin's draw through his headphones while getting treatment on the sideline.
"It was awesome," said Griffin, who was 15 for 26 for 246 yards and a touchdown pass, along with 34 yards on seven carries, adding to his single-season record for rushing by a rookie quarterback.
Ravens safety Ed Reed said his defense was ready for that 2-point play, actually, but "we didn't execute."
The Ravens got the ball first in overtime but went three-and-out. Yet another Redskins rookie, Richard Crawford, returned the punt 64 yards to set up Forbath, who is now 14 for 14 to start his NFL career; each got a game ball from Shanahan.
While Washington remained one game behind the New York Giants (8-5) in the race for the NFC East title, the Ravens wasted a chance to clinch the AFC North — and even missed out on an opportunity to assure themselves of a playoff berth.
Joe Flacco completed 16 of 21 passes for 182 yards and three first-half TD passes that built a 21-14 lead. But Baltimore's first four drives of the second ended with Flacco's fumble, his interception deep in Washington's territory, and two three-and-outs.
"As a leader on this team I like to finish teams out," said Ray Rice, who finished with 121 yards on 20 carries but picked up a left hip pointer. "I don't want to be known as, 'Yeah, we get them close in the fourth quarter, and the Ravens are going to give it away.' That's never been us. That's not going to be us."
Rice's 7-yard touchdown run with 4:47 to play in the fourth quarter put the Ravens up by eight points, before Griffin started the trying drive — and Cousins finished it.
Forbath's winning kick prompted a wild on-field celebration by many Redskins. Not Griffin, though. He gingerly walked toward the locker room, a brace on his knee, and flashed a thumb's up to raucous spectators in the stands.
Later, around the Redskins announced the results of his good-news MRI, Griffin tweeted: "Your positive vibes and prayers worked people!!!!"
NOTES: Cousins completed both passes he threw. ... Ravens RG Marshal Yanda sprained his right ankle and was wearing a black walking boot on that foot in the locker room. Other injuries for Baltimore: LB Jameel McClain had a neck injury, but X-rays were negative. ... Washington's 186 yards were the most by any NFL team in the first quarter this season and the most by the franchise in that quarter since 1997. ... The Redskins hadn't won four games in a row since 2008.
Connect with Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL