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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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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

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Jay Gruden presser recap: Enough is on Chris Thompson's plate already

Here is a recap of Jay Gruden’s press conference on Wednesday:

—The injuries are covered in a separate post here. Jordan Reed was the only non-participant. Gruden said his status is “wait and see.”

—Gruden doesn’t see them playing Chris Thompson more than they do now. He noted that in addition to being the third-down back he also returns kicks and comes in on second and long plays. “It’s important for us to keep him healthy,” said Gruden. “He’s not a guy that I personally want to give him 30 carries a game.”

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—In a year, Matt Ioannidis has gone from being on the practice squad to being a key member of the defensive line. Gruden was impressed with his play against the Rams. “Against the Rams, he played very well,” he said. “He had pressured the quarterback four or five times, he hawked down Tavon Austin on a jet sweep, which was a big play on the first play of the game. If he gets out of there, it could’ve been a 70-yard touchdown.” Gruden said that work in the weight room with help from fellow DL Ziggy Hood helped in Ioannidis’ transformation.

—Gruden said that the Rams game might have been the best of Jordan Reed's career despite gaining just 48 receiving yards on six catches. “Yeah, Jordan was awesome,” he said. “I thought he had the best all-around game he’s had in a while. I think, not just route-running, but blocking. He was outstanding in blocking. Had a key block on the touchdown Chris Thompson had on the second series of the game, was physical and did a great job.”

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—The Su’a Cravens situation was dismissed rather quickly. The Redskins will not be adding another safety to the roster. “No, we have Fish [Smithson] already as our fifth guy on the practice squad and he’s doing a good job, so we’re OK at safety spot,” said Gruden. “As far as Su’a’ is concerned, we just have to put it behind us, move forward and let him take care of his personal life and let us take care of this season.”

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