MINNEAPOLIS — Five starts into his NFL career with Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater has looked a lot like a rookie throughout much of his time on the field.
With time winding down and the Vikings needing to score, though, he's been at his best.
Bridgewater 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, helping the Vikings spoil the first game back for Robert Griffin III by beating the Washington Redskins 29-26 on Sunday.
"Sometimes you're going to have some slow starts, but it's all about how you finish the game," said Bridgewater, who completed 26 of 42 passes for 268 yards without a turnover and ran three times for 20 yards.
Matt Asiata rushed for three touchdowns for the Vikings (4-5), who sacked Griffin five times, including on three straight plays in the third quarter. They rallied from deficits of 10-0, 20-14 and 26-21.
"Don't try to be perfect. Just play football," coach Mike Zimmer told Bridgewater before the game.
He misfired badly on several deep passes early, including an overthrow to Cordarrelle Patterson in the first quarter when the wide receiver didn't have a defender within 20 yards of him. Griffin, meanwhile, was busy making several crisp passes down the field in his first appearance following a seven-week absence due to a dislocated ankle.
But after Bridgewater's incompletion on fourth-and-2 at the Washington 39 when he could've run past the down marker, the Vikings gave him the ball right back on a diving interception by Captain Munnerlyn. Bridgewater went 3 for 4, finishing with a 20-yard touchdown throw to tight end Chase Ford, who had 66 yards on five catches.
"I love this kid: the way he goes about his business, his demeanor, the way he carries himself in front of the team, the way he carries himself in front of everybody else," Zimmer said. "You couldn't ask for a better guy."
Griffin went 18 for 28 for 251 yards and one touchdown plus 24 yards on seven carries for the Redskins (3-6), who had a rough start and finish to their afternoon.
The two buses carrying players, coaches and other personnel to the stadium crashed on the interstate exit ramp a few blocks away, hard enough to shatter the windshield and cause some minor injuries.
"That didn't affect the game. We're going to have some bruises and some scrapes, but we were able to play," linebacker Trent Murphy said.
A little later, a protest of thousands of people decrying their nickname took place outside the stadium. A report of disharmony in the locker room surrounding Griffin's return to the field also surfaced prior to the game.
"Can't really worry about the negativity that's swirling around. Someday that'll stop. I truly believe that," said Griffin, who, like Bridgewater, took several hard hits.
He had his chance to write a better ending for the story Sunday, but a sack put the Redskins in a third-and-20 situation from the 29 right after the 2-minute warning. Griffin gained 14 yards on a run to give them a manageable fourth down, but his throw to Pierre Garcon across the middle was low and skipped through the wide receiver's legs.
"I could've played better to help us win the game at the end," Griffin said. "I'll still cherish those moments. In the next game that it comes, I'll come through."
With an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by second of two touchdowns by Alfred Morris, who had 92 yards on 19 carries, the Redskins surged ahead. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving the lead at 26-21 at the 9-minute mark.
Yet another powerful plunge through the line by Asiata on third-and-goal from the 1 gave the Vikings the lead back, and his run on the 2-point conversion pushed the lead to three with 3:27 left. Bridgewater was in veteran form on that drive.
"You look at some of those back-shoulder throws and some of the routes they were able to break off because he escaped contain, those are things you have to be ready for when you play a guy like Teddy," Redskins safety Ryan Clark said.
NOTES: Redskins rookie RB Silas Redd Jr. was inactive for the first time this season with back spasms, a casualty of the bus collision. ... The last time the Vikings defense had sacks on three straight snaps was Dec. 28, 2003, at Arizona. ... This was the fifth straight season these teams have played. The Vikings won four. ... DeSean Jackson had 120 yards receiving and a TD for the Redskins.
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