ARLINGTON, Tex. — When the Washington Redskins’ team plane touched down in Dallas on Wednesday, the day before the team would face the Cowboys for Robert Griffin III’s first game as a pro in his home state, the rookie quarterback sent out a tweet.
“Back in Texas and on a mission,” Griffin’s message said.
The following day, with family and friends and his former college coach in attendance, Griffin carried out his mission, leading the Redskins to a 38-31 victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Griffin, who starred in football and track at Copperas Cove High School and won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor University, looked right at home in Cowboys Stadium. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 311 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and became the first Redskins quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.
“It was good, emotionally, to come back. I got to see my Baylor head coach, Coach Art Briles. Hadn’t seen him in a long time,” Griffin said. “Being back in Texas, I felt like I was back home, where I’ve spent so many years. But it didn’t charge me through the roof. It was a normal game, even though it was a Thanksgiving game. That’s how we approached it.”
Said Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan: “He’s kind of like Cool Hand Luke. He just handles himself and goes about his business, works extremely hard to prepare for a game. . . . He focuses on his job and doesn’t seem to let anything bother him. That’s why he has the success he has, because he’s very disciplined, very determined.”
Griffin’s heroics — along with a 24-carry, 113-yard performance by running back Alfred Morris, a defensive effort that forced three turnovers, and a win-sealing 48-yard field goal from Kai Forbath — gave Washington its first Thanksgiving victory over Dallas in seven tries.
The win was Washington’s second straight — its first two-game win streak since Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2011 campaign — and its second consecutive victory in the NFC East following Sunday’s 31-6 triumph over Philadelphia.
At 5-6, the Redskins are tied for second place in the division. If the New York Giants lose to Green Bay on Sunday night, Washington will host the Giants on Dec. 3 with a share of first place in the NFC East on the line.
Thursday’s nationally televised game had no shortage of fireworks. After a slow start, the Redskins went on a 28-point scoring tear in the second quarter, then had to weather a 28-point second half by the Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 37 of 62 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns. It also took a strong defensive stand for the Redskins to escape victorious.
“I was really proud of our football team,” Shanahan said. “They played extremely hard. It was a little exciting in the second half. We had to make some plays there on that last drive, played eight minutes, had to get a couple first downs. Really impressed with [Forbath] to come up with the big field goal there in the last couple minutes of the game. . . . But more importantly, it was a game we needed, and really pleased with our total effort.”
The Redskins stumbled out of the gate but began clicking on their third possession, beginning the most prolific quarter they have orchestrated in 13 years.
A 68-yard bomb from Griffin to Dallas native Aldrick Robinson ignited Washington, and was followed by an Alfred Morris touchdown run, a 59-yard touchdown strike to Pierre Garcon, and a late-second-quarter six-yard toss to Santana Moss.
Garcon made an impressive catch on his touchdown play. He had to change direction in midair to catch the ball, which was thrown behind him, then stumbled on the way down before regaining speed to reach the end zone untouched.
“I jumped up, closed my eyes and prayed for it. Caught it and stumbled a little, and just tried to give it everything I got and just did what I could,” said Garcon, who had five catches for 93 yards.
With time running out in the half, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall picked off a Tony Romo pass intended for Cole Beasley and returned it 27 yards to the Dallas 33-yard line with 44 seconds left.
Griffin and the offense needed just four plays to find the end zone. On first-and-goal from the 6, Griffin rolled to his right and placed the ball in a tight spot on the back shoulder of wide receiver Moss, who toed the line and maintained possession.
The 28-point quarter marked the first by the Redskins since an Oct. 3, 1999, game against Carolina and put Washington up 28-3 at halftime. Washington outgained Dallas 226-63 in the second quarter.
The Redskins’ offense went cold after halftime, however, and the Cowboys outscored them 28-10 in the final two quarters to make a game of it.