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Pro Football: On Thanksgiving Day, Griffin, Redskins stick fork in Cowboys

WASHINGTON’S ROOKIE QB

RETURNS TO TEXAS, GIVES TEAM

FIRST HOLIDAY VICTORY

SINCE MID-1960S

BY ZAC BOYER

THE FREE LANCE–STAR

ARLINGTON, Texas—With the spotlight again shining at its brightest, leave it to Robert Griffin III to rise to the occasion.

Playing in his home state for the first time as a professional, the rookie quarterback helped the Washington Redskins take an early lead and finish off a victory late, leading his team to its first Thanksgiving victory in nearly four decades in a 38–31 win over the Dallas Cowboys before 90,166 at Cowboys Stadium.

It was an important victory for the Redskins (5–6), who equaled their win total from last season. And, depending on the outcome of the New York Giants’ game against Green Bay on Sunday night, they may have the opportunity to play for first place in the NFC East in a Monday night game against the Giants on Dec. 3.

Washington scored 28 points in the second quarter, and answered the Cowboys’ gradual whittling away at the deficit with an 11-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.

“I told the guys it was probably the drive that saved our season,” said Griffin, who finished 20 for 28 for 311 yards, threw four touchdown passes and ran six times for 29 yards. “You have a huge lead and the other team’s roaring back. They have all the momentum, and then you go out there and you convert third down after third down after third down and you get in field goal range it showed a lot of poise of all the guys on the team to just have that resolve of ‘Who cares what they just did? We’re gonna go get points and we’re gonna end this game.’”

Dallas (5–6), which has hosted a Thanksgiving game annually since 1966, had not lost such a contest in the five previous seasons that Tony Romo has been the Cowboys’ starting quarterback.

Romo, in fact, had not lost any of the previous 14 games he had played at home in November, but that streak unraveled Thursday as he was inconsistent and inaccurate early on.

The Redskins intercepted Romo twice—once in the second quarter, once in the third—and were able to take a 28–3 halftime lead mostly because of the Cowboys’ errors. Romo finished 37 for 62 for 441 yards, with 334 coming in the second half.

Griffin found Aldrick Robinson, who grew up in suburban Dallas and played in college at SMU, for a 68-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that was reminiscent of his wide-open grab against Philadelphia on Sunday.

It began a cascade of scoring for the Redskins, with Alfred Morris running 1 yard for a touchdown, Pierre Garçon scoring on a 59-yard reception and Santana Moss delivering one last blow before halftime with a 6-yard grab.

“We were feeling good, because this was the way we should have been playing all year,” said Morris, who ran for 113 yards on 24 carries. “At the same time, we wanted to stay focused because we had to finish the game. The game wasn’t over.”

The Cowboys emphatically began chipping away at the deficit in the third quarter, with Romo completing an 85-yard pass to Dez Bryant for a touchdown with 1:24 remaining. They then answered a touchdown from Niles Paul with a pair of touchdown passes—one to Felix Jones, then another to Bryant—to pull within seven with 8:18 remaining.

That was when Griffin stepped up again. With family, friends and several other fans in attendance, including Art Briles, his head coach at Baylor, the quarterback helped piece together a back-breaking drive that culminated in Forbath’s field goal.

“He’s kind of like ‘Cool Hand Luke,’” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “He just handles himself and goes about his business.”

Not all went flawlessly for Griffin, who threw his first interception since Oct. 28 in the fourth quarter.

But he did have a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating in the first half for the second consecutive game, and he became the first Redskins quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in consecutive games.

The Redskins, who entered 1–6 in Thanksgiving games and hadn’t won since defeating Detroit in 1973, will now have 10 days to prepare for the Giants—and a shot at reviving a season once considered lost.

“Being 3–6, the character of your team is tested,” Griffin said. “I experienced playing on some teams that had tough years, but it’s how they respond after those losses.

“Hey, we might have thought we could do it. Now we know we can do it—and it’s in our hands.”

Washington 0 28 0 10 — 38

Dallas 3 0 10 18 — 31

First Quarter

Dal—FG Bailey 30, 9:17.

Second Quarter

Was—A.Robinson 68 pass from Griffin III (Forbath kick), 13:47.

Was—Morris 1 run (Forbath kick), 7:00.

Was—Garcon 59 pass from Griffin III (Forbath kick), 2:14.

Was—Moss 6 pass from Griffin III (Forbath kick), :05.

Third Quarter

Dal—FG Bailey 33, 11:48.

Dal—Bryant 85 pass from Romo (Bailey kick), 1:24.

Fourth Quarter

Was—Paul 29 pass from Griffin III (Forbath kick), 12:48.

Dal—F.Jones 10 pass from Romo (Romo run), 9:54.

Dal—Bryant 11 pass from Romo (Bailey kick), 8:18.

Was—FG Forbath 48, 2:58.

Dal—FG Bailey 51, :18.

A—90,166.

Was Dal

First downs 22 22

Total Net Yards 437 458

Rushes-yards 30-142 11-35

Passing 295 423

Punt Returns 2-13 3-17

Kickoff Returns 3-83 4-76

Interceptions Ret. 2-37 1-27

Comp-Att-Int 20-28-1 37-62-2

Sacked-Yards Lost 4-16 2-18

Punts 5-45.2 3-56.7

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1

Penalties-Yards 5-41 7-45

Time of Possession 31:42 28:18

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Washington, Morris 24-113, Griffin III 6-29. Dallas, F.Jones 6-14, Dunbar 1-8, Romo 3-7, Bryant 1-6.

PASSING—Washington, Griffin III 20-28-1-311. Dallas, Romo 37-62-2-441.

RECEIVING—Washington, Garcon 5-93, Morgan 5-48, Moss 4-42, Paulsen 2-11, A.Robinson 1-68, Paul 1-29, Hankerson 1-12, Banks 1-8. Dallas, Witten 9-74, Bryant 8-145, Beasley 7-68, Harris 4-71, F.Jones 3-47, Dunbar 3-21, Vickers 2-11, Holmes 1-4.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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