Redskins Pluck Cowboys, Win Wild Thanksgiving Battle
by Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC East Beat Writer/Recovering Tryptophan Addict
The Washington Redskins had held 12 halftime leads of 25+ points since 1958. Not too surprisingly, the Skins are 12-0 in those games.
Thanksgiving Day provided no exception, although things got more heated than they needed to be in the second half.
The Redskins prevailed over the Dallas Cowboys 38-31, even through they led at halftime 28-3.
This game ended the futility for the Redskins in Big D on Thanksgiving, as they were previously 0-6 against the Cowboys on turkey day.
Washington's 38-point showing is the most points Dallas has given up on Thanksgiving since 2003, when the Dolphins routed them 40-21.
Both teams are now 5-6, and each a game and a half out of first place in the NFC East.
1. RG3 Dangerous Once More
Robert Griffin III may not have posted a perfect passer rating like he did against Philadelphia on Sunday, but he was about as on-point as he needed to be in guiding the Redskins to victory.
His rating for the day was 132.6, good for the third highest output of his young career. It may have been higher if not for an interception that sailed over his receiver's head, and into the hands of Charlie Peprah, in the fourth quarter, but the number is impressive in and of itself.
As impressive are 4 touchdown passes to 4 different receivers, just like last week. Over the past 2 games against division foes, RG3 has thrown 8 TD passes, 1 INT, and completed over 79 percent of passes.
So successful was RG3 passing the ball, and building that lead in the first half, that Griffin restricted his runs to just 6 carries for 29 yards, which ties for his second lowest total of the season.
Alfred Morris would do the damage in the running game, putting up 113 yards on 24 carries, and scoring Washington's second touchdown. After Marshawn Lynch and Michael Turner, he's the third running back in 2012 to go over 100 yards on Dallas.
2. Turnovers Costly for Cowboys
Although the real pros care more about wins and losses than statistics, leaving numbers for the TV analysts and fantasy geeks, I do wonder if Tony Romo felt good about Philip Rivers passing him on the interception totals list.
Romo had slowed the gain on his 13 picks, not having thrown one in any of the 3 games since October 28, after New York reaped 4 of his sows.
But that turnover specter came back in the worst way at home vs. the Redskins, as he coughed up 2 interceptions to a feisty Redskins defense.
Down 21-3 with 30 seconds left in the first half, Romo tried to engineer a drive to get something, anything, before the break. What he found was the waiting hands of DeAngelo Hall, whose interception return set up Santana Moss' touchdown catch in the waning seconds. The 28-3 hole seemed insurmountable.
Romo's other pick came late in the third quarter, as the immortal London Fletcher snagged in Redskins territory to halt another drive. This time, Washington would go 3-and-out, but the stop was effective itself.
Dez Bryant also contributed to the mistakes, coughing up a fumble near midfield early in the second quarter. That led to an Alfred Morris run-and-score, which put the Skins ahead 14-3.
3. Deep Threats for Washington Make Their Mark
RG3's proficiency at connecting on long bombs to his diverse receiving corps has been one of Washington's great staples this season.
6 of Griffin's 16 touchdown passes this season have been 40 yards or more, with 4 of them topping 60 yards.
2 of those homing missile strikes came in Dallas on Thanksgiving; one from Aldrick Robinson for 68, and the other went for 59 yards to Pierre Garcon.
Robinson badly burned double coverage en route to scoring the game's first touchdown. The emerging second year star also scored on a 49-yarder in Philadelphia last week after Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen were apparently confused by the scheme.
Counting Kirk Cousin's touchdown pass of 77 yards in relief to Santana Moss against the Falcons, Washington's 5 touchdown passes of 60 yards or more this season leads the league. Jacksonville is, amazingly, the next closest team with 3, while all the remaining teams have 2 or less.
Despite a well-rounded defense that can bring pressure, the Cowboys D allowed 6.48 yards per pass attempt coming into the game, thirteenth worst in the league.
The Redskins also went 6 for 12 on third down, with 15 of their 21 overall first downs coming on passing plays; a slap in the face of the Cowboys' impressive 34.65 percent success rate at stopping such plays.
4. Good Cowboy Efforts Fall Short in Second Half
Despite the topsy-turvy first half, Dallas hung in there and made a fierce comeback in the second half. Although it ultimately fell short, Dallas provided Washington with some tense moments and a number of scares down the homestretch.
Among the unfortunately wasted efforts were those of Romo himself.
When you get past his horrific and disastrous first half, you're left with a second half that a quarterback would be proud to have as his statline for the entire game.
From the third quarter to the bitter end, Romo went 24 of 41 for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns, with just 1 interception, in his all-out comeback effort. That's good for a clean 100.0 passer rating.
Aiding in the inflation of Romo's statistics was Bryant, who had to pick up more slack with Miles Austin injured early. Bryant caught 2 of those TDs, one of them for 85 yards. In all, he'd snag 8 passes for 145 yards.
Jason Witten helped with the relief as well, reliably catching 9 balls for 74 yards. Young Cole Beasley figured into the picture with 7 catches for 68 yards.
Anthony Spencer looked best on defense, sacking Griffin twice. In a bad twist, emerging star Bruce Carter injured his elbow in the later stages of the game; the second major injury to the linebacking corps after Sean Lee.
5. The Road From Here
Both teams have 11 days off, which will be used to rest up, as well as plot a way to win at least 4 of their remaining 5 games in an attempt to break the playoff barrier.
The losers draw Philadelphia, whom they smacked around 38-23 less than 2 weeks ago. This time around, they'll likely get Nick Foles for an entire game, barring a miracle recovery for Michael Vick. The Eagles have not won since September 30.
As for the Redskins, their road to .500 involves hosting the Giants, who snuck out a victory over them on October 21. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz connected on a crucial last minute touchdown, and Washington damaged themselves with many costly fumbles.
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