MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Christian Ponder threw for 174 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with an injury to help the Minnesota Vikings take a 28-27 lead over the Washington Redskins after three quarters Thursday night.
Adrian Peterson ran for 56 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings, who trailed 27-14 early in the third quarter. Ponder left after he was hit on the left shoulder by DeAngelo Hall at the goal line. Officials initially ruled it a touchdown, but replays showed the ball was out of bounds at the 1.
Matt Cassel replaced Ponder, who was ruled out for the rest of the game, and handed the ball to Peterson for the go-ahead score to cap a wild first three quarters. Ponder completed 17 of 21 passes and threw an interception.
Robert Griffin III completed 20 of 29 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns for the Redskins. Alfred Morris ran for 112 yards and the Redskins scored on their first five possessions of the game against Minnesota's beleaguered defense.
Pierre Garcon had seven catches for 119 yards and a touchdown for Washington.
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 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. Carlson's 28-yard catch and run cut the deficit to 27-21 in the third quarter.
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 and he sure looked like it against the Vikings.
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.
The injuries were most evident in the secondary, with fill-in safety Andrew Sendejo getting steamrolled on a regular basis by Morris, Garcon and the physical Redskins offense.
In their last two home games, the Vikings defense had given up points on 13 straight possessions in which the opposing offense did not take a knee. Two weeks ago, the Packers didn't punt in a 44-31 drubbing of Minnesota and the Redskins scored on their first five possessions before punting late in the third quarter.
Even then, the Redskins called for a fake, but a false start penalty ultimately forced them to punt.