LANDOVER, MD. - Their lead, which had been in double digits not that long before, was down to five points. They were facing third-and-6 at their own 24-yard line with more than three minutes remaining. After eight consecutive losses at home, impending doom couldn't have been far from their minds.
But until this season, the Washington Redskins have never had a player like Robert Griffin III. The sensational dual-threat rookie quarterback, who had been knocked from last Sunday's loss to Atlanta with a mild concussion, saw the middle of the field open up when he couldn't find an open receiver. A cut to the home sideline and his world-class speed put Griffin in the end zone with the 76-yard touchdown that sealed the Redskins' 38-26 victory over the Vikings on Sunday at FedEx Field.
"We kind of thought they were going to pressure us," said Griffin, who leaped into the crowd after scoring his second touchdown of the day and his sixth of the year. "If they don't hit the blitz, I'm going to run for the first [down]. They missed it. I took off running, got to the sideline, thought about running out of bounds because everyone's been telling me that lately [because of the big hits he has sustained]. I felt like I had the guy outflanked and I took off running and the rest is history. I got to enjoy the moment a little bit."
So did Griffin's teammates.
"Nobody was going to catch him once he got to that edge and took off," said reserve linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who set up Griffin's second-quarter touchdown pass to fullback Darrel Young by recovering Christian Ponder's fumble at the Vikings 6.
Pro Bowl linebacker London Fletcher, a 15-year veteran who dresses next to Griffin in the Redskins Park locker room, used the word "wow" twice in describing the huge play by the 22-year-old Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor.
Said Fletcher, "Nothing's too big for him."
And the Redskins believe more with every week that giving St. Louis three first-round picks and a second-rounder in order to move up four spots to draft him second overall in April wasn't too big a price for a franchise that made the playoffs just four times the previous 20 years while starting 21 quarterbacks.
Griffin came into the game as the NFC's third-rated passer and the NFL's top rushing quarterback and was 17-for-22 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Minnesota while running 13 times for 138 yards and the two scores.
"Not too many quarterbacks can outrun defensive backs," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of the 76-yard jaunt. "That was a heck of a play. You don't see that very often."