LANDOVER, Md. -- Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's once and present quarterbacks met Sunday, and the one who finished upright prevailed in one of the wildest games of the year. Roy Helu's third touchdown run of the day, a 3-yard burst with 45 seconds left, lifted Washington a 45-41 victory over visiting Chicago after Bears backup Josh McCown engineered a rally that had given the visitors the lead.
McCown, who hadn't played since the 2011 finale, took over when Jay Cutler was sidelined with a groin injury with 5:52 to go in the second quarter and the Redskins leading 17-10. McCown's 7-yard scoring toss to tight end Martellus Bennett with 3:57 left put the Bears ahead 38-34.
NFL Network reported immediately after the game, citing two unnamed sources, that Cutler's injury "could be bad."
Robert Griffin III (18 of 29, 298 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 84 yards on 11 carries), led the Redskins on the winning 12-play, 80-yard drive. That score came against a Bears' defense shorthanded because of injuries to Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee).
"We had to win a shootout and we did," said Griffin, who delivered his best performance since returning last month from January knee surgery. "I felt like we were in sync for the first time (on offense). We've been though a lot of adversity. We needed that breakthrough. We still got a hole to get out of. The momentum we have from this win against a quality team can definitely help us."
Washington, which travels to unbeaten Denver next week, stayed with the pack at 2-4 in the NFC East. Dallas leads the division at 4-3.
"We gotta tighten up," said Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall. "When you knock a starter out, you expect to dominate the backup, not vice-versa."
Chicago's Devin Hester tied the NFL record with his 19th career return touchdown and running back Matt Forte scored three touchdowns, including a 50-yard gallop in the third quarter that made it 24-24, but the Bears slipped to 4-3, behind Green Bay and Detroit (4-3, but with a win over Chicago) in the NFC North.
"They had the ball one more series than we did," said Bears coach Marc Trestman. "We were able to move the football pretty effectively (after halftime), but RGIII kept making the plays and moving the football. Defensively, we just didn't make the plays today that we needed to make."
After Forte's 6-yard score with 12:44 remaining, Griffin's 45-yard touchdown pass to reserve receiver Aldrick Robinson just 1:49 later gave Washington a 38-31 edge.
Robbie Gould's 49-yard field goal at the 8:39 mark brought Chicago closer.
On the game's second play, Griffin, drafted second overall by Shanahan in 2012, raced around right end for 23 yards before he found rookie tight end Jordan Reed for 38, but Washington still had to settle for Kai Forbath's 38-yard field goal.
Forte gave the Bears a 10-3 lead with a short scoring run, but the Redskins responded with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive with Morris and Griffin doing most of the damage with their legs before backup running back Helu scored from 14 yards out 1:16 into the second quarter.
On Chicago's next play, when receiver Alshon Jeffery couldn't snatch Cutler's pass with safety Reed Doughty -- who later left with a concussion -- draped over him, the ball bounced into the hands of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who ran 29 yards for his first career touchdown. With 14 points in just 17 seconds, Washington led 17-10.
When the Bears got the ball back, Redskins reserve defensive end Chris Baker sacked Cutler, who lay on the ground for a while before being helped to the training room.
Chicago scored next on Hester's 81-yard punt return. Washington took a 24-17 lead into the locker room when Reed finished an 11-play, 74-yard march with a nifty 3-yard catch in the right back corner of the end zone with 27 seconds left in the half.
Notes: Orakpo's touchdown was the fourth for Washington's defense, matching its total of last season. ... Reed's 134 receiving yards were a Redskins rookie tight end record. ... Rookie middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic made his first career start for Chicago in place of D.J. Williams, who was placed on injured reserve last week with a torn pec. ... Washington's 45 points were its most since Week 7 of 2005 while its 41 points allowed were its most since Week 15 of 2009. ... WR Earl Bennett was Chicago's emergency quarterback.