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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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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

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.