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RG3 the star but others contribute

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RG3 the star but others contribute

In summary: The Vikings parlayed each of their first three possessions into field goals, and the visitors led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. But as Robert Griffin III has proved time and again this season, the Redskins are never out of a game when he’s on the field.

Griffin accounted for three of the Redskins’ touchdowns, including a 76-yard scoring run that turned a tenuous five-point lead into a 38-26 victory that ended the team’s eight-game losing streak at FedEx Field.

Washington’s maligned defense also did its part – finally. With a classic bend-but-don’t-break performance, the unit produced two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. Madieu Williams’ 24-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, in fact, was the Redskins’ biggest play until Griffin’s scintillating scamper down the sidelines in the closing minutes.   

“The defense kept us in the game,” Griffin said. “If we hold teams field goals, it’s huge. Because we can come back.” 

Here are eight additional notes, quotes and observations from Landover:

Turning point: With the Redskins clinging to a 10-9 lead late in the second quarter, they needed someone to make a play. That someone turned out to be Lorenzo Alexander, who recovered a fumble by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder at the Minnesota 6-yard line. One play later, Griffin hit Darrel Young for a touchdown, capping a 17-0 run by the Redskins to end the first half and put the home team firmly in control.

“Some of that was being in the right place at the right time,” Alexander said of the fumble, which was caused when Perry Riley pushed Adrian Peterson into Ponder as the quarterback released the ball. “I wish I could have scored.”

Alexander, a reserve who played a significantly larger role on defense than he has the first five games, was awarded a game ball by Coach Mike Shanahan for his efforts. Alexander also recorded a sack and a half.

“I am just a blue collar, hard–nosed guy,” Alexander added. “And good things happen to good people who play hard.”

Offensive play of the game: In just six games, Griffin already owns an extensive collection of highlights. Now he’s got one that fans still will be talking about years from now.

With the ball on the Washington 24 yard line and less than three minutes left in a game that suddenly had grown uncomfortably close, the Redskins’ rookie recognized the Vikings’ blitz and opted for a keeper. After reaching the secondary, he showed a former sprinter’s speed as he outraced everyone down the sideline.

“I took off running, got to the sideline, thought about running out of bounds because everyone has been telling me that lately,” Griffin said with a smile. “The rest is history.”

Defensive play of the game:Williams, a former safety for the Vikings, picked off Ponder with a diving catch at Minnesota’s 24-yard line early in the fourth quarter, jumped to his feet, sprinted the width of the field and followed teammate Josh Wilson’s blocking all the way to the end zone.

The score – the defense’s fourth of the season – put the Redskins ahead 31-12. The last time the defense accounted for as many scores was 1999.

“We were keying the quarterback,” Williams said. “Got up, saw my teammates ding a great job of blocking. Looked to my right, saw Josh Wilson blocking two people over there, I figured I’d take my chances going over to that side.”

Special teams play of the game:Kai Forbath, kicking in a regular season game for the first time, put his only attempt between the uprights from 50 yards out early in the second quarter. He also put five of his seven kickoffs in the end zone, four touchbacks.

After witnessing Billy Cundiff’s struggles the previous two weeks, the capacity crowd greeted Forbath a boisterous ovation.

“It’s huge for your confidence,” Forbath said. “That’s all kicking is: going out there with confidence.”

Quote of the day: After throwing the ball out of bounds in the second quarter, Griffin absorbed a late hit from Minnesota linebacker Erin Henderson. After complaining to the ref – and perhaps a little embellishment  – Griffin drew a flag.

“He hit me good,” Griffin said, laughing. “It wasn’t like a basketball flop. I definitely sold it pretty well. The ball was clearly gone. It was a great job of me and the ref being on the same page.”

Quote of the day, Part 2: Upon returning to the sideline following his long scoring run, Griffin got ribbed by a few teammates. “A couple of guys, Rex [Grossman] in particular, came to me and said ‘Hey, you can stop smiling by Wednesday.’ I was all smiles. It was a special feeling and I’ll definitely watch [the replay].”

Injury report: Pierre Garçon (right foot) did not suit up after participating briefly in warmups while wearing game pants. The wide receiver was not listed on the injury report on Wednesday or Thursday but showed up on the list Friday, presumably after suffering a sretback. There could be an update on his status Monday afternoon when Shanahan meets with reporters at 3 p.m.

Reserve safety Jordan Pugh was evaluated for a concussion after twice going down in the fourth quarter and needing help to get off the field.

Game ball: Although Trent Williams could have gotten it for his performance on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who recorded a sack late, how can the ball go to anyone other than Griffin?

By the numbers: After going 0 for 4 on third downs to start the game, the Redskins finished 6 for 12. They were 3 for 20 in their previous two games. Griffin’s fourth quarter touchdown came on a third-and-6.

“You try to get that monkey off your back,” Griffin said. “It makes everybody feel better, to get some relief, a lot of relief off your shoulders.”

Record book: With 138 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 13 attempts, Griffin joined Michael Vick as the only quarterbacks to rush for at least 130 yards and two touchdowns in a game since 1970, according to the Redskins. Griffin’s total also shattered the previous team record for a quarterback of 82, set by Griffin in St. Louis.

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If Redskins really are still evaluating Kirk Cousins, Sunday was a bad performance

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If Redskins really are still evaluating Kirk Cousins, Sunday was a bad performance

If the Redskins truly need to evaluate Kirk Cousins over the final half of the 2017 season, the quarterback did himself no favors on Sunday. 

Cousins played his worst game of the year against the Chargers, and it's not even close. Nobody played well for the Redskins, save for maybe punter Tress Way, but Cousins performed particularly poor against his baseline for the season. 

He delivered his lowest yardage total (151 pass yards), completion percentage (55 percent) and QB rating (68) of the year, and by a wide margin. Cousins missed throws high and long, and again seemed to struggle to hold onto the ball while getting hit. 

The good news for Cousins, however, is since being named starter in 2015, there haven't been many performances like this. Generally, Cousins is never this bad, and maybe that's why the performance in L.A. stands out so much. 

RELATED: HOW HOT ARE SEATS GETTING AT REDSKINS PARK?

"I’m not here to throw stones at anybody on the offense, I know from what we expect offensively, it wasn’t even close to what we want or what we should look like from an efficiency standpoint," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said on Monday. 

At this point, the evolving contract situation between the Redskins and Cousins clouds everything going on with the team. In just three more games, Cousins will again be a free agent, and team president Bruce Allen will need to decide if the team will use a transition tag, a franchise tag, get a long-term deal done or let their quarterback walk. 

The tags carry a tremendous salary cap hit, though a long-term deal will probably do the same. Letting Cousins walk carries a possible severe penalty, but not on the salary cap. 

Over the past 10 days, national analysts have begun to question Cousins' leadership skills, and Dan Patrick even suggested Redskins' receivers don't like Cousins as their quarterback. The assertion came that Cousins throws too many dangerous passes for his wideouts, causing big hits. 

Whether or not that assertion is true, Cousins did throw multiple high passes over the middle against the Chargers. Those are the exact passes that cause big hits on receivers. 

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It's worth pointing out, almost every QB does that to some degree. For his part, Cousins said that certainly it was not intentional.

"I’m sure I’ve led people into traffic. I know I led Pierre Garcon into some big hits in the past, but I think it also is a part of playing the receiver position and it’s tough," Cousins said on 106.7 the Fan on Monday.

Asked specifically about the high passes, Gruden only talked about inaccuracy. 

"He was not quite as accurate as he has been, obviously," the coach said. "He missed some throws that he normally makes. He threw behind a couple of guys on some deep balls and he threw a couple over some guys’ heads from time to time."

It's hard to think one game could sway the opinions of the Redskins front office about their quarterback. If one game could, however, it could have been Cousins' performance against the Chargers.

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Need to Know: How hot are seats getting at Redskins Park?

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Need to Know: How hot are seats getting at Redskins Park?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, December 12, five days before the Washington Redskins play the Cardinals at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Broncos @ Redskins Christmas Eve (12/24) 12
—Redskins @ Giants (12/17) 19
—NFL Draft (4/26/18) 135

Four Downs

First down

In their last two games, both blowout losses, the Redskins have had one play that went for 30 yards or more. They are not that different from most other NFL teams in that they aren’t going to consistently grind out touchdown drives; there are too many chances for errors. “We’re not making any plays,” said Jay Gruden when asked why the team has struggled. “Offensively we made a couple of plays to get six points on the board but after that we missed throws, we didn’t target some runs right, we didn’t block at the point of attack correctly, we didn’t tackle, we didn’t make any spectacular plays, athletic plays like you are used to seeing this team make. When that happens, your offense is going to sputter.”

Second down

How hot are seats getting at Redskins Park? While it’s difficult to read the tea leaves there, I don’t think that we are looking at wholesale changes in coaches or upper management. Jay Gruden just signed an extension. Greg Manusky has only been on the job for a year. Doug Williams hasn’t even been through a draft or free agency cycle in his new personnel job. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica’s changes have played well the last two years and certainly, injuries played a key role in the struggles there this year. While it might be tempting to do some house cleaning after a disappointing season, the likely outcome is that the injuries give everyone a pass and we see what happens next year.

Third down

Bashaud Breeland didn’t exactly get benched against the Chargers but Quinton Dunbar did play more as the No. 2 cornerback. Dunbar played 47 of the 72 snaps and Breeland played 28. This could be one of the first moves we’ve seen with an eye on 2018. Breeland will be an unrestricted free agent and Dunbar will remain under team control as a restricted free agent. The conventional wisdom is that Breeland will be gone next year as he will command a contract in the $8 million to $10 million range. Dunbar has played plenty of snaps and has been in games during many key situations during his three years here so the move wasn’t that eye-opening. Putting in Dunbar was not as risky a move as putting in, say, Fabian Moreau would have been. The rookie has played just 54 defensive snaps all year.

Fourth down

Kirk Cousins’ 151 yards passing were the fewest he has had in a game that he started and finished in his NFL career. It was as unproductive a game as we’ve seen from him. After scoring a touchdown and then losing the ball on downs in Chargers territory in the second quarter, the Redskins had seven straight drives that ended with punts from their own territory. Of course, the problem wasn’t just the offense. As Dan Steinberg pointed out, this was the first game since 1978 that the Redskins allowed more than 480 yards while gaining less than 210. This team isn’t tanking to try to get a better draft pick but if they were, the Chargers game is what it would look like.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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