The Washington Redskins' post-bye week surge and quest for the playoffs continued another week, but this time with even more dramatic flair, as the team survived the loss of star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and pulled off a last-second comeback to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 31-28, Sunday.
With Griffin on the sideline nursing what appeared to be a hyper-extended right knee, backup Kirk Cousins led the Redskins on the game-tying drive, throwing a touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garcon, then rushing for a two-point conversion. Rookie Richard Crawford then ripped off a huge overtime punt return and first-year kicker Kai Forbath nailed a 34-yard field goal for the win.
The Redskins' fourth consecutive victory improved their record to 7-6. It marks the first time since 2008 that the Redskins have orchestrated such a win streak, and the first time since that year that the team has owned a record above .500 in December.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin's knee is "quite sore ... But we won't know [the extent of the injury] until we have an MRI."
Later, Griffin said he did not believe his ACL was torn. "It shouldn't be [an] ACL. I know what an ACL feels like," Griffin said to reporters in front of his locker. At the podium a short time later, Griffin said "It was just a freak play. After I was getting down, my leg got hit. It was pretty painful. Prayerfully, I'll be OK.
"I'm not a doctor," he added, "but it doesn't feel like an ACL. Hopefully we can have some positive results."
After falling behind 28-20 on a 7-yard Ray Rice touchdown run with 4:52 left in regulation, Washington got the ball at its own 35. The team dodged a bullet when return man Niles Paul fumbled on the runback, and Baltimore's David Reed appeared to recover as he slid out of bounds. But the replay showed that he bobbled the ball, and Washington took over.
Seven plays later, facing second-and-19 at their own 27 with 1:56 left, Griffin took off and gained 13 yards. But as he was tackled, Baltimore's Haloti Ngata drilled Griffin, whose knee appeared to hyper-extend.
Griffin was helped to the sideline and watched as Cousins threw an incompletion, but a pass interference call on the play gave Washington new life. Griffin came back in and completed two of his next three passes, but went to the ground again after the fourth play - an incompletion and intentional grounding call - and Cousins came back in.
Cousins connected with receiver Leonard Hankerson on second-and-20 for a 15-yard pickup, then found a wide-open Garcon in the end zone with 29 seconds left. The two-point conversion run forced overtime, and Baltimore won the toss. But the Redskins defense held and the Ravens had to punt.
Crawford, who took the place of a de-activated and struggling Brandon Banks, returned the punt 64 yards to the Baltimore 24-yard line. After running four plays, Washington sent on Forbath for the game-winning kick, and the first-year player delivered, hitting his 14th consecutive field goal as a Redskin.
The late-game heroics were necessary even though Washington opened the game in impressive fashion. The Redskins scored tochdowns on their first two possessions, before their offense went cold and they fell behind 21-14 at halftime. The defense yielded three touchdown passes and was gashed by the Ravens' rushing attack.
Takeaways on two consecutive third-quarter defensive stands gave the Redskins new life, however.
Outside linebacker Rob Jackson rushed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco from his blind side and stripped him of the ball on the Ravens' first possession of the second half. The Redskins went on to pull within 21-17 on a 48-yard field goal by Forbath.
After allowing the Ravens to march 54 yards to the Washington 11-yard line, the defense buckled down once again. On third-and-6, Jackson's counterpart, Ryan Kerrigan, came untouched and hit Flacco as he let go of the ball, and inside linebacker London Fletcher picked off the pass.
Washington put together another drive, but came up short by a yard on third-and-7 at the Baltimore 36. Forbath then made a 49-yarder to trim the lead to 21-20 with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, Washington's defense suffered a letdown. Faced with third-and-4 at the Redskins' 35-yard line, Flacco completed a 28-yard pass to receiver Anquan Boldin, who also had two touchdown receptions. Hall rode Boldin's back for 11 yards, trying to poke the ball from his grasp before tackling him at the 7. Rice then drove into the end zone after a 7-yard run to give the Ravens some breathing room.
But Washington responded with the collective effort that led to the comeback and pulled off another victory.