MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Robert Griffin III threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Washington Redskins to a 24-14 halftime lead over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
Griffin completed 16 of 21 passes and also ran for 21 yards. Alfred Morris rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries against Minnesota's banged-up, beleaguered defense.
Christian Ponder completed 10 of 13 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Vikings. Adrian Peterson ran for 44 yards and a touchdown.
While the game was going on inside, hundreds of American Indians and their supporters gathered outside the Metrodome to protest the Redskins nickname. Calls have grown increasingly louder this season for owner Dan Snyder to change the team name, which critics call offensive to Native Americans. Snyder has called the name "a badge of honor" but also said he respects the feelings of those who are offended.
Griffin has been uneven while working his way back from a knee injury, but he sure was sharp in the first half on Thursday night. After not quite connecting with two receivers to spoil a first-and-goal at the 1 on their first possession, Griffin settled in against the worst pass defense in the NFL. He hit Pierre Garcon on an 8-yard screen pass for a score to put the Redskins up 10-7 in the first quarter, then used a pretty pump fake on third-and-goal to get Jordan Reed open over the middle for an 11-yard scoring strike in the second for a 17-14 lead.
Griffin's 12-yard run to the goal line set up his third TD pass, a 1-yarder to Logan Paulsen.
Ponder has done little to show he is capable of being Minnesota's long-term answer at quarterback, and he couldn't have gotten off to a worse start on Thursday after lofting a deep pass into double coverage and being picked off by Brandon Meriweather.
But Ponder quickly recovered, completing 10 of his first 11 passes for 85 yards and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson.
This is right about the time the Redskins made their move last season, and they're hoping to follow a similar path this season. They lost six of their first nine games last season before ripping off seven straight victories to surge to the NFC East title. They came into the game at 3-5, but in the underwhelming division where the Cowboys' 5-4 record is good enough for first place, a repeat is well within reach.
Griffin has been predictably up and down while coming back from a torn ACL. He said this week that he feels as if he's getting closer to the dynamic dual threat he was when he burst into the league as a rookie last season.
The Vikings were missing five starters due to injury: cornerback Chris Cook, safety Jamarca Sanford, right tackle Phil Loadholt, left guard Charlie Johnson and tight end Kyle Rudolph and only had 45 players dress for the game.