MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings found a way to stop Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, showing late resolve after a series of final-minute collapses.
Adrian Peterson ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns, and the Vikings forced Griffin into three straight incompletions from the 4 to hold on for a 34-27 victory Thursday night.
After losing three games this year in the final minute, the Vikings finally pulled one out.
“There were many times during the course of that game where they could’ve gone, ’Oh, no, here we go again,” coach Leslie Frazier said.
Christian Ponder went 17 for 21 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Minnesota before leaving late in the third quarter with a dislocated shoulder on his non-throwing left arm. John Carlson had seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson also had a scoring reception for the Vikings (2-7).
“We just played the way we were supposed to,” Ponder said. “We executed like an NFL team is supposed to, especially a 10-6 playoff team like we were last year. We really needed that, to help out with our confidence, and now that’s our expectation for the rest of the year.”
Griffin was 24 for 37 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers for the Redskins (3-6), who led 27-14 early in the third quarter. He also ran seven times for 44 yards, but the Vikings took him down for four sacks for 39 yards in the second half including 2 1/2 by Kevin Williams.
The Redskins committed eight penalties for 63 yards.
“You can’t do that,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “You’ve got to keep your poise. You make mistakes like that and so often it will cost you the game.”
With the Redskins out of timeouts, Griffin ran for 12 yards on fourth-and-1 at his own 49 right after the 2-minute warning. After a run to the 4, the Vikings stopped the clock. Wide receiver Greg Jennings was livid on the sideline, but Frazier defended the timeout to give the drained defence a rest and allow at least a few seconds for a comeback in case the Redskins scored.
But Griffin’s next two passes were incomplete, for Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon. On fourth-and-goal with 32 seconds left, his throw to the corner of the end zone was caught by Santana Moss with only one foot in bounds.
“It felt like we were in control and when you walk off the field with a loss, it’s very disheartening,” Griffin said, “but I don’t think anyone on this team is going to quit.”
The Vikings didn’t.
“That was an awesome feeling,” Peterson said, adding: “Through the adversity we’ve been through, guys just continued to fight.”
Blair Walsh kicked two fourth-quarter field goals for the Vikings after Peterson’s second score gave them a 28-27 lead late in the third quarter.
That drive started at the Washington 41, thanks to an unnecessary roughness call. Ponder scrambled and slung a third-and-12 laser to Jarius Wright for a first down at the sideline and later said Wright was so wide open he laughed as he threw the ball. Then, Ponder took off for the 14-yard run that knocked him out of the game, and an official replay reversed the touchdown call after he dived at the pylon and rolled out of bounds.
“Nothing seems to faze him,” Carlson said, adding: “He showed a lot of heart.”
Matt Cassel came in, and Peterson scored to give the Vikings the lead on the next play.
“We can’t let a team like that score that many points. It’s totally on us. We were sleepwalking at times,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
The Redskins scored on their first five possessions with broken tackle after broken tackle. They converted seven of eight third downs in the first half and held the ball for more than two-thirds of the elapsed game time.