The Washington Redskins staved off a Dallas Cowboys comeback 38-31 to notch their first Thanksgiving Day win since 1973.
In a game highlighted by the homecoming of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the rookie completed 20 passes on 28 attempts for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns and an interception to finish with a passer rating of 132.5. He earned his fifth win of the season to tie the Redskins with the Cowboys at 5-6.
Things did not start optimistically for Griffin. He earned an intentional grounding penalty on his first series, a 3-and-out, as Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware converged on him at his own 10 yard line. The Cowboys turned the favorable field position into three quick points to take a 3-0 lead, their only lead of the holiday.
In the second quarter, the Redskins offensive line gave Griffin what he had against Philadelphia last week: time and space in the pocket. With it, he found rookie wide receiver Aldrick Robinson for a 68-yard bomb to go up 7-3 on the home team.
After Dez Bryant’s fifth fumble on the year on a slant route, the Redskins scored another touchdown in six plays. Alfred Morris gained 6 yards on first down, and then two more on 2nd down. On 3rd and 2, Griffin found Santana Moss for 9 yards and a first down. Morris gained 7 yards on first down, and then Pierre Garcon caught a 19-yard slant to take it to the Cowboys’ 6. A pass interference call on Brandon Carr against wide receiver Leonard Hankerson put the ball at the Cowboys 1 yard line, where Alfred Morris punched it in to put the Redskins up 14-3 after the extra point.
Same old Cowboys.
After a Cowboys 3-and-out, the Redskins again took the ball down for a touchdown in only 5 plays. Spencer sacked Griffin to make things optimistic, and then Alfred Morris ran for 7 yards. Wide receiver Brandon Banks atoned for his punt returning stupidity and converted the 3rd and 4 with an 8-yard catch. On 1st down, Cowboys rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne blew up Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan for a 3-yard loss on a wide receiver screen. But it was all for naught as Pierre Garcon caught a 59-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run on play action to put the Cowboys down 21-3 with the two-minute warning approaching.
After the two-minute warning, Tony Romo threw his 14th interception of the year to DeAngelo Hall, who grabbed and shoved Cole Beasley to gain inside position. It only took the Redskins four plays and a 6-yard pass to Santana Moss to go up 28-3 before halftime.
To put this into the perspective of the original Thanksgiving, this would be like if Squanto kneecapped William Bradford, licked all of the dishes, and shot his dog. This wasn’t Thanksgiving. This was Thankstaking.
The good news was the Cowboys had the Redskins right where they wanted them: overconfident and without the ball the start the second half. Dallas drove down to the Washington 15 in 10 plays and could only muster a field goal to cut the deficit to 22.
Interestingly, in their franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys had come back from a deficit of 21 points before only twice — never a deficit of 22.
The hot Redskins went 3-and-out after that, but so did the Cowboys. Thankfully, the Redskins weren’t able to do anything after getting the ball back in 6 plays. Sadly, Tony Romo threw an interception on the next drive.
At this point, Tony Romo had 2 interceptions and was 51.9 in his passer rating. He would finish the day at 84.1. After the Redskins were unable to score any points off the turnover and backed up the Cowboys to their own 15, Tony Romo threw a quick pass to Dez Bryant that he took 85 yards on a catch-and-run. Dwayne Harris helped seal the sideline, as Bryant crossed the goal line and put Dallas at 13 points pending the extra point.
Would there be a successful comeback?
Going into the fourth quarter, Griffin led the Redskins on 7 plays for 82 yards that culminated in a 29-yard touchdown pass to Niles Paul, a backup tight end who was so wide open on the 3rd and inches throw that he rolled into the end zone. Ernie Sims was suckered by the play action fake worse than your gullible grandmother by a claim to renew her expired car warranty.
The Cowboys drove the field again going 88 yards in 8 plays, resulting in a 10-yard Felix Jones touchdown catch. On the next series, free agent safety Charlie Peprah picked off Griffin and took the ball to the Redskins 18. On 4th down, Tony Romo threw a fade route to Dez Bryant in the end zone for a touchdown that was followed up by a two-point conversion from a Romo shotgun draw.
It was 35-28. We had a ball game. All the Cowboys needed was stop.
They wouldn’t get it, of course. With 8:18 left in the contest, starting at their own 20, the Redskins went back 1 yard on an Alfred Morris run. Then, Santana Moss burned the Cowboys for a 23-yard catch. The Redskins kept scratching away with yards and melting the clock. Ultimately, Kai Forbath kicked a 48-yard field goal with 3:03 left to put the Redskins up 38-28 with the Cowboys only having 1 timeout and the two-minute warning left. They couldn’t get a quick score, and had to settle for a 51-yard Dan Bailey field goal with 23 seconds left and hope for a recovered onside kick.
The onside kick was so bad that DeAngelo Hall took the ball and nearly pulled a Randall Williams, stopping short of the goal line so Griffin could kneel and run out the clock with 12 seconds left. The Cowboys elected not to use their final timeout, and Robert Griffin became the first rookie quarterback to defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
Tony Romo threw the ball 62 times, his second time to do so this season, and completed 37 passes. He threw for 3 touchdowns, but had 2 interceptions. The running game existed only in theory as the Cowboys only attempted 11 runs for 35 yards. Compare that to the Redskins’ 30 attempts for 142 yards and a touchdown, and there’s nothing to be thankful about.
Dez Bryant again had 145 yards, but on 8 catches this time. He had two touchdowns as well. Jason Witten caught 9 balls for 74 yards. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley stepped up in the absence of Miles Austin, lost for the game due to injury, as Harris had 4 catches for 71 yards and Beasley had 7 catches for 68 yards.
Anthony Spencer pushed his sack total to 6 on the year as he earned 2 sacks. Jason Hatcher got a sack, and rookie Tyrone Crawford finally notched his first sack in the NFL.
The Cowboys and the Redskins are knotted up at 5-6 with the Giants awaiting to play the Packers this Sunday night in the Meadowlands. At 6 losses, the Cowboys need help in addition to the insurmountable task of winning out against teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. With the mounting injuries, like Bruce Carter, Orlando Scandrick, and Miles Austin both leaving the game, with DeMarco Murray, Phil Costa, and Ryan Cook indefinitely out, with Tyron Smith and Jay Ratliff day to day, and with three defensive starters lost for the year, getting to the postseason is as likely as you getting that last turkey leg from your corpulent cousin, or winning an argument with your third-party voting uncle. The Cowboys only have their pride to play for in these remaining games, and of that there seems to be not enough.