Washington scored 28 points in the second quarter then had to hold off a late rally by Dallas to beat the Cowboys 38-31 in front of a crowd of 90,166 at Cowboys Stadium Thursday.
Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, passed for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s kind of like Cool Hand Luke. He just handles himself and goes about his business,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said of Griffin. “He knows how to avoid distractions. That’s why he has the success that he has because he’s very disciplined, very determined.”
The Cowboys, falling behind 28-3 at halftime, pulled within 35-28 midway in the fourth quarter but couldn’t complete the comeback.
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“We got behind and they made some big plays,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “We didn’t do enough on offense to keep up with them to stay in the game.”
Dallas and Washington are both 5-6 in the NFC East. The New York Giants are 6-4.
Without a running game, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo completed 37 of 62 passes for 441 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Dez Bryant caught eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85-yarder in the third quarter.
“We gave ourselves a chance at the end,” Garrett said.
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening series, the Cowboys drove 37 yards in nine plays with Dan Bailey making a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at the 9:17 mark of the first quarter.
The game settled into an exchange of punts as the fast-paced first quarter ended.
On the second play of the second quarter, Griffin connected with former SMU star Aldrick Robinson on a 68-yard touchdown pass for a 7-3 lead with 13:47 left in the first half. The touchdown capped a 5-play, 93-yard drive.
Dallas fumbled away its next possession after Bryant caught a slant pattern and was hit by Josh Wilson and fumbled. DeJon Gomes scooped up the ball and returned it to the Cowboys’ 49.
Six plays later, Alfred Morris scored on a 1-yard run to make it 14-3 with 7 minutes left in the first half.
Dallas was forced to punt again and Washington followed with a 71-yard, 5-play drive with Griffin connecting with Pierre Garcon on a 59-yard, catch-and-run touchdown for a 21-3 lead at the 2:14 mark.
“We had too many bad sequences in this game,” Garrett said. “We dug ourselves a big hole.”
The Cowboys drove to their 46 where Romo was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall, who returned the ball to the Dallas 33 with 30 seconds to go.
Four plays later, Griffin rolled right and threw a 6-yard touchdown to Santana Moss for a 28-3 halftime lead. It was the first time the Redskins scored 28 points in a quarter since Oct. 3, 1999.
“When they’re running that read option and you want to get aggressive up front and make some plays, make some big hits, and they hit you for deep ones. That’s brutal. That was a tough quarter,” Dallas linebacker Dan Connor said. “We came back in here at halftime, regrouped, had a lot of guys down, but came together and said we’re going to fight to the end. I think a lot of guys showed a lot of character. We went down swinging.”
Dallas began the second half with a 10-play, 65-yard drive with Bailey making a 32-yard field goal to make it 28-6 at the 11:48 mark.
Dallas forced a punt after a review of a first-down catch by Joshua Morgan was overturned after the Cowboys challenged the spot.
However, the Cowboys’ next two possessions ended with a punt and a London Fletcher interception.
The Cowboys struck quickly on an 85-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Bryant, who got a downfield block from Dwayne Harris to clear the way on the touchdown. Romo had to scramble out of the pocket before hooking up with Bryant on the play to make the score 28-13 at the end of the third quarter.
"Tony was phenomenal trying to make those plays and us fighting at the end, but it's just too hard. You get away from your plan. All the work you put in during the week, studying the formations and how you're going to attack them, that goes out the window,” Dallas tight end Jason Witten said.
Washington answered with a seven-play, 84-yard drive with Griffin throwing a 29-yard touchdown to Niles Paul on a third-and-inches play for a 35-13 lead with 12:48 left in the game.
Then the Cowboys went 88 yards in eight plays with Romo throwing 10 yards to Felix Jones for the touchdown. Romo scored the two-points on a draw to make it 35-21 with 9:54 left in the game. The drive took only 2 minutes, 54 seconds.
On the second play after the kickoff, Charlie Peprah intercepted Griffin and returned the ball 27 yards to the Redskins’ 18.
Three plays later, Romo threw an 11-yard touchdown to Bryant on fourth down to make it 35-28 with 8:18 left to play. The drive took 41 seconds.
“We finally woke up and tried to dig out the hole once again. Time ran out before we could finish what we were doing,” Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr said.
Washington moved into field goal position for Kai Forbath’s 48-yard field goal that made it 38-28 with 2:53 left in the game.
“It was tough for us to come back after that,” Garrett said.
Dallas followed with a 51-yard field goal to pull within 38-31 with 18 seconds to go.
On the onside kick, Hall scooped up the ball and ran to the 2-yard line and fell down. Griffin took a knee and the game was over.
“I was always told that the offense closes the game. That’s the best formation, or the best plays, to be able to take a knee,” Hall said. “I was surprised it was that wide open. The ball was kind of bouncing and took that one good bounce.”
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