ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The Washington Redskins have reached the point where they're winning every other game, a fair reflection of the mix of talent and inconsistency seen from Robert Griffin III and the rest of the team.
That won't be good enough to make the playoffs, even in the NFC East. At 3-5, they need to put together two or three — or more — solid games in a row.
After Sunday's overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers, Griffin said: "The way we won the game, that can be a turning point for us." It's easy to see where he's coming from — it took an inspirational goal-line stand by the defense at the end of regulation to stave off defeat — but the words and emotions become meaningless if the Redskins lay an egg Thursday against the lowly Minnesota Vikings (1-7).
Coach Mike Shanahan hit on that point Monday while discussing his team's success on third down against the Chargers. The Redskins couldn't sustain a drive while trying to hold a lead the previous week against the Denver Broncos, but on Sunday the offense converted 12 of 17 third downs — including 8 of 11 after halftime — for the franchise's best third-down performance since 2005.
"The great quarterbacks are the guys that are consistent on third down," Shanahan said. "And I thought Robert had his best game of the year. Anytime you're over 70 percent on third-down conversions your quarterback is playing extremely well.
"And that's what you've got to do. You've got to do that consistently."
There have been times when Griffin looks like the quarterback who threatened to revolutionize the game during his rookie season in 2012, but there also have been times when he looks like a quarterback who has lost a step and can no longer get the ball to an open receiver.
He was closer to vintage RG3 on Sunday, getting the defense to commit to play action because of his ability to run, and then hitting the big play downfield. Last week, there was team-wide introspection over the fact that Griffin couldn't hit the long ball. On Sunday, he was 4 for 5 for 109 yards on deep throws.
There was also a new wrinkle — a triple option using tight end Jordan Reed, and later receiver Santana Moss. The Redskins put up 500 yards, and, unlike the previous week, there will be no second-guessing about the run-pass ratio: Alfred Morris had season highs in both attempts (25) and yards rushing (121).
The Redskins now lead the NFL in yards per rushing attempt (5.0).
"We've always believed in the running game," Shanahan said. "And we always will."
The Redskins are far from a complete team. The defense had to make the goal-line stand because it allowed the Chargers to march downfield easily in the final two minutes, and the special teams are such a liability that it's a wonder Shanahan doesn't find a way to abandon them altogether. Washington had two field goals blocked Sunday.
Still, the Redskins are one game behind first-place Dallas in the loss column, so a winning streak that leads to a second straight division title is not out of the question.
"The fans want to have something to believe in, and the players want to have something to believe in," Griffin said. "And because of the way our division is set up right now, we have something to believe in and we know we can control our own destiny. So we need another win on Thursday, take that miniature bye week, and then come back against — I don't know who it is — look at it one game at a time."
NOTES: Shanahan said LB London Fletcher had a knee drained Monday but will be fine to play Thursday. Fletcher was listed as "limited" in practice even though the Redskins didn't do any work on the field. "When you don't practice, it's really hard to put an injury report out," Shanahan said. "Nobody practiced, so I could've put the whole team on there." ... Shanahan said K Kai Forbath was to blame for both blocked field goals. "Both kicks were too low," the coach said. ... With no home game until Nov. 25, the Redskins are re-sodding the turf at their stadium. The quality of the turf was an issue in last season's playoff loss, when Griffin tore multiple ligaments in his knee.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP