ARLINGTON, Texas — When the Washington Redskins’ team plane touched down in Dallas 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 in central Texas, and went to college less than a two-hour drive away 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.
Griffin’s heroics — along with a 24 carry, 113-yard performance by running back Alfred Morris and a defensive effort that forced three turnovers — gave Washington its first Thanksgiving victory over Dallas in seven tries.
The win was Washington’s second straight — their first two-game win streak since Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2011 campaign — and their second consecutive victory in the NFC East following Sunday’s 31-6 triumph over Philadelphia.
At 5-6, the Redskins now are tied for second place in the division. If the New York Giants lose to Green Bay on Sunday night, Washington would host the Giants on Dec. 3 with a share of first place in the NFC East on the line.
The 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, but then had to weather a 28-point second half by the Cowboys, and required a strong defensive stand to escape victorious.
The Redskins stumbled out of the gate, punting on their first two possessions. On those two series, Washington struggled with penalties and pass protection. The first quarter ended with them trailing 3-0 and having mustered only 46 yards on 14 plays.
Things clicked on the third possession, however, and so began the most prolific quarter the Redskins have orchestrated in 13 years.
Morris gained four yards on the first play, Griffin rolled out and scampered for nine on the next, and Griffin gained 10 yards on the third play.
On the fourth play of the drive, Aldrick Robinson entered the game and lined up split out to the left, but was called for a false start. Backed up five yards, the Redskins went back to the same play, but flipped the formation with Robinson split out to the right. This time Robinson timed the snap correctly and dusted his defender. Griffin froze the defense with a fake handoff to Morris, and then rifled the ball 60 yards in the air. Robinson hauled in the pass at the eight and trotted into the end zone.
It marked the third career touchdown catch, and second in as many weeks, for the second-year wideout and Dallas native out of Southern Methodist University. Last week, Robinson and Griffin connected on a 49-yard touchdown pass.
Washington’s defense promptly got the ball back for the offense when cornerback Josh Wilson forced Dallas receiver Dez Bryant to fumble at the end of an 11-yard reception. Safety DeJon Gomes scooped the ball up for his first career fumble recovery and Washington’s ninth of the season.
The offense returned to the field and marched 49 yards in six plays — the last being a 1-yard touchdown run by Morris, the rookie’s sixth of the season.
The scoring barrage continued. Griffin completed a 59-yard touchdown strike to Pierre Garcon — a play on which the receiver, plagued all season long by a torn ligament in the second toe of his right foot, caught the ball at the Dallas 45, came down, kept his balance and raced the rest of the way untouched until he was shoved in the end zone , to put the Redskins up 21-3.
Then, with time running out in the half, 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 receiver Santana Moss, who toed the line and maintained possession.
Kai Forbath nailed the point-after attempt, and Washington extended its lead to 28-3. The 28-point quarter marked the first by the Redskins since Oct. 3, 1999, against Carolina.
In total yards, Washington out-gained Dallas 226-63 in the second quarter.
The Redskins’ offense went cold after halftime, however, and after holding Dallas scoreless for the better part of three quarters, the defense experienced a letdown.
Dallas managed a field goal on the opening possession of the quarter, and with 3:05 left, Linebacker London Fletcher intercepted Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, the 20th interception of Fletcher’s 15-year career. But the offense had to punt a fourth time in the third quarter alone, and the Cowboys capitalized with an 85-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Bryant to cut the lead to 28-13 with 1:38 left in the period.
The Redskins’ offense finally got back on track in the fourth quarter. Washington went 53 yards in six plays and faced third-and-inches from the Dallas 29-yard line. With the Cowboys’ defenders playing close to the line, preparing to defend a quarterback sneak, right end Niles Paul ran downfield untouched. He made a leaping catch of a pass from Griffin and fell to the ground at the 4-yard line, got up and stepped into the end zone.
But the Cowboys came right back with an 88-yard drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Felix Jones, and Romo scored a two-point conversion on a draw play.
Dallas found the end zone again less than two minutes later. Griffin threw an interception to safety Charlie Peprah, who returned the ball to the Washington 18-yard line. On third-and-3 from the 11, Romo found Bryant in the end zone, and the extra-point attempt pulled the Cowboys within 35-28 with 8:24 to play.
Needing a score to protect their chances, Griffin marched Washington down to the Dallas 30 yard line, but could come no closer. Forbath drilled a 48-yard field goal to put the Redskins up 38-28 with 3:03 left.
The defense held Dallas to a field goal with 18 seconds left, and Hall recovered an onside kick and returned it to the Dallas 2 before sliding to avoid giving the ball back to the Cowboys.
Griffin took the field a final time and knelt to run out the final 12 seconds.