ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Robert Griffin III will always be RG3. That didn’t stop Washington coach Mike Shanahan from trying something a little different after his rookie quarterback was equal parts sparkling and steady in his Texas debut.
“He’s kind of like ‘Cool Hand Luke,’” Shanahan said. “He doesn’t get too upset about anything.”
The Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor threw for three touchdowns in a dazzling second quarter, then calmly quelled a Dallas rally reminiscent of a comeback that made Cowboys vs. Redskins on Thanksgiving famous, leading Washington to a 38-31 victory Thursday.
Griffin told anyone who asked he didn’t think his first pro game in his home state on Thanksgiving would overwhelm him. He wasn’t kidding.
“I knew I had that feeling that I was back home where I had spent so many years, but it didn’t drive me through the roof emotionally as far as getting charged up for the game,” said Griffin, who grew up a Denver Broncos fan in Central Texas. “It was a normal game, even though it was a Thanksgiving Day game.”
Griffin finished with 311 passing yards and four TDs, and made Dallas look like an overmatched college team in building a 28-3 halftime lead thanks to a 28-point second quarter, the first for the Redskins (5-6) in 13 years.
After Tony Romo threw the longest touchdown of his career — an 85-yarder to Dez Bryant late in the third quarter — Griffin answered by becoming the first Redskins quarterback with four TD tosses in consecutive games.
When the Cowboys (5-6) got within a touchdown and really had people thinking back to Clint Longley’s miracle TD to Drew Pearson in the final seconds of a one-point Dallas victory over Washington on Thanksgiving in 1974, Griffin calmly led the Redskins on a clock-killing drive to a field goal for a 38-28 lead.
“Really, I have to almost pinch myself to realize that he was out there playing against Texas Tech about a year ago, and here he is really doing a number on us,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in referring to a Baylor win at Cowboys Stadium in which Griffin played just half the game because of concussion-like symptoms. “I was in awe of RG3, and the plays that he was making.”
Romo lost for the first time in six starts on Thanksgiving, despite a career-high 441 yards and three second-half touchdowns. After the long TD to Bryant, who matched his career high from last week with 145 yards receiving, Romo threw a TD to Felix Jones, ran in the 2-point conversion and threw another scoring pass to Bryant to help Dallas close to 35-28 with 8:24 remaining.
“I thought we had a good chance,” said Romo, who tied a career high with 62 pass attempts.
Griffin, who threw just his fourth interception the previous possession, responded by completing three passes for first downs — including a third-and-1 near midfield — and the Redskins ran nearly 5½ minutes off the clock before Kai Forbath’s 48-yard field goal with 3:03 remaining.
“I told the guys that that was probably the drive that saved our season,” Griffin said. “You have a huge lead, the other team’s roaring back, they have all the momentum, and then you go out there and you convert third down after third down after third down and get in field goal range.”
Dallas drove to a field goal with 23 seconds left, but DeAngelo Hall easily picked up the onside kick and ran untouched before sliding down short of the goal line, clinching Romo’s third loss in three career 400-yard games. It also was the Cowboys’ first loss to the Redskins in seven games on Thanksgiving.
“That quarterback is obviously a very good player, and they use him well,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We didn’t do enough offensively to keep up with them in the first half.”
The Cowboys actually contained Griffin in the first quarter, getting a sack and forcing an intentional grounding penalty that gave them good enough field position for an easy drive to a 3-0 lead.
Everything changed on Griffin’s first big NFL play in Texas. He hit Aldrick Robinson in stride for a 68-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead. Griffin’s next big throw wasn’t nearly as accurate, but Pierre Garcon somehow came down with it and outran the Dallas defense the final 45 yards on a 59-yard score for a 21-3 lead.
“As Pierre is running on his long touchdown, and I was like, ‘Man, that was a great catch.’” Griffin said. “I had to throw it to only that spot, and you don’t see many guys make catches like that.”
Romo’s first interception in four games gave the Redskins a chance to get one more score before halftime when Hall returned it to the Dallas 33 with 30 seconds left. Out of timeouts at the Dallas 6 with 10 seconds left, the Redskins trusted Griffin to try to get a touchdown, and Santana Moss kept both feet in while falling out of bounds for a 28-3 lead with 5 seconds left.
Griffin completed 12 straight passes from the middle of the first quarter to the middle of the third and finished 20 of 28.
It was hard to tell from his final numbers, but the Cowboys did manage to put some pressure on Griffin. They sacked him four times, forced him to sprint out of the pocket a number of times and delivered hard hits after several throws.
The Dallas offense, playing most of the game without Miles Austin after he injured a hip early, never could answer in the decisive second quarter. The Cowboys had only two first downs while the Redskins were scoring four touchdowns.
Alfred Morris had 113 yards on 24 carries and one of Washington’s second-quarter scores.
NOTES: Redskins LB London Fletcher, who also had an interception, extended his consecutive games streak to 235 and made his 190th straight start. He left the game later after re-injuring the ankle that put his streak in jeopardy. … The Cowboys had three injured defenders that didn’t return: LB Bruce Carter (elbow), DE Jason Hatcher (concussion-like symptoms) and DB Orlando Scandrick (hand/wrist).
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd
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