On the biggest thanking day of the year, the Washington Redskins had much to be thankful for. The Dallas Cowboys served up three turnovers, Redskins’ thorn in the side Miles Austin was knocked out of the game early and Dallas shot themselves in the foot with penalty killing drives. Meanwhile Robert Griffin III gobbled up yards and led the team on a 28-point scoring spree. He also served up a game-saving field goal drive.
The Redskins were also grateful their defense bent but did not break and stuffed the Cowboys when it mattered. The result was a 38-31 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, which improved their record to 5-6, good enough for a tie with Dallas for second place in the division. It was just a few weeks ago at 3-6 that they were only thought of as playoff leftovers. (OK, I’m done with the Turkey Day puns. I just had to get them out of my system.)
In the first quarter, Redskin linebacker London Fletcher set the tone for the Redskins early, by delivering a bone-crushing hit on Austin, which saved a touchdown. Following Fletcher’s lead, safety Madieu Williams applied his own ball-dislodging hit on Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter with less than a minute to play and the game on the line. Both times the Cowboys had to settle for field goals.
In between, RGIII turned Doug Williams-like and led his team on a second quarter 28 straight point pounding of the Cowboy defense. Unlike the team in which Williams led on a second quarter 35-point-scoring bonanza in the 42-10 win over Denver in Super Bowl XXII, this team still has glaring defensive weaknesses. Those flaws showed up in the second half and permitted Tony Romo and the Cowboys (5-6) to stay in the game with shoddy tackling, allowing Bryant, who had eight catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns, way too much room to run downfield.
On a positive note, the Redskins defense, which has had its struggles with giving up big plays this season, did force a Bryant fumble when cornerback Josh Wilson applied a helmet-to-ball hit. This second quarter turnover resulted in a Washington touchdown. The defense also surrendered only three points in the first half.
Dallas had their own chance to set the tone for the game early but a first and goal at the seven-yard line turned into a first and goal at the 15-yard line after a penalty. They had to settle for a field goal and 3-0 at the 9:17 mark of the first quarter. More false start penalties would hurt them in the first quarter when their offense was on the move.
The second quarter turned out to be the difference in the game as the Redskins scored 28 straight points and took a 28-3 lead going into halftime. The fireworks started with a 68-yard scoring strike from RGIII to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson who beat Dallas defenders by 10 yards and never broke stride as he ran into the end zone. Rookie running back Alfred Morris, who finished with 113 yards on 24 carries, including key gains in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, scored on a one yard run for the second Washington touchdown of the quarter.
Next, Pierre Garcon made a twisting, acrobatic catch and run for a 59-yard touchdown. Redskin’s fans have been waiting for the Garcon-Griffin connection to come alive since the first game of the season, but Garcon has been nursing a foot injury and has seen only limited action. The fourth touchdown of the quarter was scored by Santana Moss who tap danced in the right side of the end zone for a six-yard scoring pass. Moss would also provide key catches in the fourth quarter to help Washington hold off a Dallas comeback.
A second quarter Romo interception by DeAngelo Hall aided the Redskins scoring barrage. It was Romo’s 14th interception of the season. Hall would also provide another instrumental play in the game when he scooped up a Dallas fourth quarter onside kick and returned it, sliding just short of the end zone to ensure that the Cowboys would not get the ball back.
Romo finished the game with a career-high 441 yards passing. He completed 37 of a staggering 62 passes with two crucial interceptions and made sure the Cowboys would not go away quietly. They scored 10 points in the third quarter to make the score 28-13, while providing Cowboy fans a glimmer of Romo magic. They were helped more by a Redskin defense that allowed Bryant to run right past them for an 85-yard touchdown. RGIII and the Redskins responded with a third down 29-yard scoring pass to tight end Niles Paul, who was so wide open after a great third down play fake by Griffin that he was able to roll into the end zone. It was Griffin’s fourth touchdown pass of the game. He would finish the game 20-28 for 311 yards, with one overthrown pass interception.
On this day, Washington was thankful they took advantage of those two second quarter turnovers and converted them into touchdowns because Romo and company scored 18 fourth quarter points of their own to make the game respectable. Touchdowns came on a Felix Jones 10-yard pass, which included a Romo two-point conversion, and a Bryant 11-yard reception. Washington was able to take the punches and respond with a game clinching 48-yard field goal drive with 2:58 to play, a clutch defensive play and a recovered onside kick.