UPDATED: November 3, 2014 3:40 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Washington Redskins were coming off of a surprising victory over Dallas and had franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III back in the huddle for the first time in seven games, momentum seemingly at their backs with a bye week looming.
All that momentum came to a crashing halt before the team even reached the stadium to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, when two team busses collided on an exit ramp and left those involved shaken.
Griffin’s solid return to the starting lineup was overshadowed by the pregame crash, a robust protest of the Redskins’ nickname and a resilient Teddy Bridgewater in the Vikings’ 29-26 victory.
“Guys fought really, really hard. But we know how bad we need wins right now and we didn’t do it today,” said Griffin, who completed 18 of 28 passes for 251 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “I have to play better for that to happen, regardless of any box score, any stats. I know I can play better. I know we can play better. And we’re going to do that after this bye week.”
Bridgewater got off to a poor start, missing several wide open receivers deep down the field. But the rookie threw a touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half and made four first-down throws on the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter to help deliver a much-needed win for the Vikings (4-5).
Bridgewater completed 26 of 42 passes for 268 yards, Matt Asiata ran for three touchdowns and the Vikings sacked Griffin five times while rallying from deficits of 10-0, 20-14 and 26-21.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys the way they fought,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “They handled an awful lot of adversity throughout the ball game. I felt like our team grew up today in a lot of different ways because they could have folded the tents early.”
Griffin, who had not played in more than six games because of a dislocated left ankle, was on an early bus to TCF Bank Stadium when it rear-ended a bus carrying Redskins coaches and staff. The collision shattered the second bus’ windshield and almost sent the first bus careening over a guard rail.
“We saw the bus hit the bus and we both thought we were going to fly out the (windshield),” Griffin said. “Everybody got a little bit of whiplash, I believe.”
Griffin shook it off and completed his first six passes of the game, helping the Redskins take a 10-0 lead. But a costly interception just before halftime set up Bridgewater’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Chase Ford that got the Vikings’ offense going.
Bridgewater engineered two touchdown drives over 70 yards in the fourth quarter, the last ending with a plunge from Asiata with 3:27 to go that dropped the Redskins to 3-6.
NICKNAME PROTEST: Organizers estimated the crowd around 5,000. The event began with a march through the University of Minnesota campus to the stadium, where Native American leaders, local politicians, former sports stars and other speakers voiced their disdain for Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his refusal to change the nickname they’ve derided as derogatory and racist.
REDSKINS DEFENSE: After sacking Tony Romo five times in the win over Dallas last week, the Redskins got to Bridgewater just twice. They also blew several coverages in the secondary, leading to wide open receivers running free. “That was unacceptable football,” coach Jay Gruden said.
DIVIDED LOCKER ROOM?: A report by ESPN before the game cited anonymous sources in saying that Griffin alienated some teammates and also the decision to start him came from Snyder and not Gruden. The coach vehemently denied those reports, calling them “amateurish” and “fiction.”
CHASING TDS: The Vikings’ offense had been without Adrian Peterson since the first game of the season while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas and took another huge hit when tight end Kyle Rudolph was lost for six to eight weeks with sports hernia surgery. But little-known Chase Ford has filled in admirably for Rudolph, and he had five catches for 66 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown against Washington.
VINTAGE RG3: Some questioned Gruden’s decision to go back to Griffin after Colt McCoy helped the Redskins win two straight games. But on the first series, Griffin showed everyone why he’s the franchise quarterback. On third-and-7, he spun out of a sack by Chad Greenway, eluded Everson Griffen, rolled to his left and hit Roy Helu Jr. for 24 yards and a first down.
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