Jim Souhan: D.C.'s newest hero is a breath -- no, a blast -- of fresh air

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 15, 2012 - 11:46 AM

Robert Griffin III wowed the victory-starved home crowd with his arm and his feet.

LANDOVER, MD. — Robert Griffin III doesn't understand the game. The kid's inexperience showed on Sunday.

Long after leaving the Vikings wind-burned and dizzy, Griffin strolled through the underground corridors of FedEx Field. Escalades and Suburbans rolled by, filled with self-described VIPs. Griffin, wearing baggy gray sweatpants, carrying a backpack and pulling a rolling bag, had to step out of their way, like a fan who had swiped a sideline pass.

Most NFL quarterbacks with Griffin's ability are followed by an entourage. Griffin almost got run over by someone else's.

"I just talked to him and told him, 'You have the heart of a champion,'" Vikings star Adrian Peterson said.

And the legs of an Olympian.

There have been running quarterbacks in the NFL who could do what Griffin did on Sunday, ending the Redskins' 38-26 victory with a 76-yard touchdown run during which he looked as if he were riding a souped-up Segway. There have been few who could run so well and pass so accurately while displaying such poise.

"He's unbelievable," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said.

After Griffin ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns and completed 17 for 22 passes for 182 yards and another score, the Vikings were left to wonder where to place the blame.

On Joe Webb, for leading the Vikings to victory last December and costing them a chance to draft Griffin?

On Leslie Frazier, for even trying to win that game?

Or on the doctors who cleared Griffin to play on Sunday, seven days after he suffered a "mild" concussion?

The concussion did not teach Griffin to avoid running, only to avoid running into other people's helmets. He rushed 13 times on Sunday, often on designed plays, but seemed more eager to find the sideline when he ran out of open field.

Early in the game, the Vikings easily corralled him. But when rookie running back Albert Morris started gaining ground, Griffin's play-action fakes and quick passes over the middle riddled a Vikings defense that before Sunday had smothered more experienced quarterbacks this season.

"He was the second pick in the draft for a reason," Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said.

The Vikings' three-game winning streak ended for a variety of reasons. Their play-calling near the goal line in the first quarter was inept. Running plays in the red zone without Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin on the field, at least as decoys, is silly. Jerome Simpson's back injury kept him out of the game and once again left Ponder unable to throw downfield.

It was Griffin who changed the direction of the game, and it was Griffin who finished the competitive portion of the festivities.

Before Sunday, there were two quarterback runs against the Vikings that belonged in the archives: Steve Young's stumbling, pinballing romp that ended with him wearing Joey Browner, and Michael Vick's Usain Bolt impersonation in overtime at the Metrodome.

Griffin earned his own display in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had cut the deficit to 31-26 on Ponder's TD pass to Kyle Rudolph. There was 3:36 left when Griffin took over at his own 20.

Jared Allen enveloped him for a 4-yard sack. Morris rushed for 8 yards, and the Vikings took their first timeout with 2:56 remaining.

The Vikings rushed six. Griffin sprinted up the middle. Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford angled toward him as if Griffin possessed average athletic ability. Griffin veered, beat Harrison Smith to the sideline and engaged cruise control as the fans chanted "R-G-3."

It was the longest touchdown run by a quarterback since Kordell Stewart went 80 yards on Dec. 22, 1996, and it gave him the fifth-best rushing total in a game by a quarterback in NFL history. He and Vick are the only quarterbacks since 1970 to rush for at least 130 yards and two touchdowns in a game.

"I got to enjoy the moment a little bit," Griffin said, before rolling his bag down the hall, and stepping out of the way of the Escalades.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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