MINNEAPOLIS — A second-half lead dissipated and a sometimes-impressive offensive performance went to waste as the Washington Redskins squandered a chance to craft their first two-game winning streak of the season. They lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 34-27, on Thursday night at Mall of America Field in a game in which the Redskins once seemed firmly in control.
The Redskins (3-6) have the same record they had after nine games last season before putting together a seven-game winning streak to capture the NFC East title. This time, they fell two games behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys.
Their bid for a tying touchdown in the final minute fell short. Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw a pass to wide receiver Santana Moss in the end zone on a fourth-down play from the Minnesota 4-yard line. Moss made the grab but was ruled not to have gotten both feet inbounds for a legal catch.
“I thought I had it. I drug one foot. I guess I didn’t get the other one down,” Moss said.
The incompletion with 28 seconds left gave possession back to the Vikings, who ran the final seconds off the clock.
“I was really disappointed we didn’t pull that thing out,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said.
Griffin threw three touchdown passes, all in the first half, and the Redskins had a 27-14 lead after Kai Forbath’s third-quarter field goal. But it all unraveled from there.
The offense suddenly turned unproductive and the Vikings (2-7) scored 20 straight points.
“It hurts,” Griffin said. “This loss definitely hurts. But we’ve got to pick it back up.”
Tailback Adrian Peterson ran for a pair of touchdowns for the Vikings and quarterback Christian Ponder threw touchdown passes to rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end John Carlson. Ponder completed 17 of 21 passes before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Matt Cassel finished the game at quarterback.
Griffin threw for 281 yards in a 24-for-37 passing performance. His touchdown passes went to wide receiver Pierre Garcon in the first quarter and tight ends Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen in the second quarter. Garcon had 119 receiving yards and tailback Alfred Morris ran for 139 yards.
The Redskins amassed 288 yards in the first half and produced three touchdowns and a field goal on their four possessions in the half to build a 24-14 lead.
They had been hoping to build on Sunday’s overtime triumph over the San Diego Chargers at FedEx Field, a game in which the defense stopped San Diego on three plays from the 1-yard line in the final minute of regulation to force a tying field goal after the Chargers had a go-ahead touchdown overturned by an instant-replay review.
It was a quick turnaround for both teams but particularly so for the Redskins, who had to travel here Wednesday after a couple days of light practices at Redskins Park. All NFL teams must play once per season on a Thursday following a Sunday game, and the Redskins were crossing their fingers that they could get out of here with a win and then have this weekend to rest, recuperate and savor being back within a game of .500.
This time, it was the Redskins who couldn’t get into the end zone from the 1-yard line early on. After safety Brandon Meriweather intercepted a deep pass by Ponder, thrown into double coverage, on the Vikings’ opening possession, the Redskins moved down the field on their first drive. A pass interference penalty in the end zone gave the Redskins a first down at the Minnesota 1-yard line. But they had to settle for a field goal by Forbath after Morris was stopped for no gain on first down and Griffin threw a pair of incompletions.
Defense became virtually nonexistent from there as the two offenses combined for touchdowns on four straight drives. Peterson provided an 18-yard touchdown dash by cutting to his left, around Meriweather, and running through a tackle attempt by cornerback Josh Wilson near the goal line. Griffin replied with an eight-yard scoring pass to Garcon on a screen pass to his left, immediately after a 26-yard run by Morris.
Ponder rolled to his right and threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Patterson on a drive aided by a personal foul on Redskins linebacker Perry Riley. Griffin again had a swift answer, this time hanging tough in the pocket and absorbing a hit as he delivered an on-target throw to Reed for an 11-yard touchdown. The Washington defense finally forced a punt, and Griffin’s third touchdown throw of the half came on a one-yard pass to Paulsen with no Minnesota defender in the vicinity and 10 seconds left before the intermission. Griffin had taken a heavy hit on a 12-yard scramble on the previous play.
Forbath’s 40-yard field goal upped the lead to 27-14 early in the third quarter, but Ponder found Carlson for a 28-yard touchdown to get the Vikings back in contention. The Redskins finally punted, but only after an apparent incomplete pass thrown by punter Sav Rocca on an attempted fake was nullified by a false start penalty called before the snap. No matter. The Vikings started their drive in Washington territory anyway, thanks in part to a personal foul on the Redskins’ Darrel Young, and Peterson scored on a one-yard run just after Ponder was hurt on a scramble initially ruled a touchdown but negated by a replay review that put the ball just shy of the goal line.
The Redskins punted again, and Vikings kicker Blair Walsh connected on a 39-yard field goal. Walsh added a 40-yard field goal with just more than 31 / 2 minutes to play.