ARLINGTON — He may have come wearing enemy garb, but by halftime Robert Griffin III was once again being hailed as the Lone Star State’s conquering hero.
Playing his first professional game in his home state, having grown up 150 miles south in Copperas Cove, the Washington Redskins rookie sensation walked into the Cowboys Stadium locker room at halftime to the thunderous chants of “RGIII” from adoring fans — many even wearing blue stars.
“I’ve played (in Texas) for a long time so I know there’s a lot of fans of me, my family from what I was able to do at Baylor and Copperas Cove,” Griffin said.“So it feels good that they can chant your name because they feel like at that point, the game is over.”
Six seconds before that moment, Griffin threw his third touchdown in a 28-point second quarter, finishing a perfect 8-for-8 passing in the frame, en route to helping his resurgent Redskins celebrate Thanksgiving in a 38-31 victory Thursday over the hometown Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium.
“I couldn’t have had a better homecoming, or as my dad says, a business trip,” laughed Griffin, who finished 20 of 28 for 311 yards and his second consecutive four-touchdown game.
“I get mad when he throws an incomplete pass,” joked Washington head coach Mike Shanahan. “You’re just hoping that he makes plays and he seems to do that all the time.”
Although he struggled early, including getting called for intentional grounding on the game’s third play, Griffin quickly worked himself into form and by the second quarter was unstoppable.
“I think he learns every game, if there are mistakes made he’s very tough on himself and he works through them and doesn’t make a lot of them, thank God,” Shanahan said.
On the third play of the second quarter, Griffin let it rip, throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson 1:13 into the frame.
That started a second-quarter tear that included two more touchdown passes — a 59-yard catch-and-run by Pierre Garcon over the middle and a 6-yard strike to Santana Moss with six seconds left in the second quarter.
“You just get it to the guys that are open and you trust that they’ll make the play,” said Griffin, who threw 178 yards in the second quarter.
Added Moss: “Robert has a team around him that helps him have that kind of ease. … Collectively he has a lot of guys out there itching to make plays for him (and) he gives us the opportunity.”
Griffin completed 12 consecutive passes between the midpoint of the first quarter and halfway through the third.
His Cowboys counterpart, Tony Romo, wasn’t nearly as consistent. He threw for a season-high 441 yards on 37 of 62 passing and three touchdowns — two to receiver Dez Bryant (8 catches for 145 yards) — including a 85-yard catch-and-run late in the third. That touchdown sparked a Dallas spurt to pull within 35-28 midway through the fourth quarter.
But Romo’s interceptions proved to be the Cowboys downfall.
Four plays and 25 seconds after DeAngelo Hall intercepted a Romo pass at midfield, Griffin rolled right and slung a dart into Moss’s stomach on the edge of the end zone. Griffin’s third touchdown of the quarter gave Washington a commanding 28-3 lead at halftime.
“It was a great catch, you could talk about the throw all you want, I saw it and I was like, ‘I don’t know,’ but he got those little feet (in bounds),” Griffin said.
Everything was working for Griffin and the Redskins in the second, including threaded a back-shoulder pass to Garcon on a crossing patternthat spiraled past the heads of two Cowboys defenders for a 59-yard scoring strike to go ahead 21-3 with 2:14 left in the second quarter.
“I had to throw it to only that spot and you don’t see many guys making catches like that,” Griffin said.
Garcon had a slightly different take: “Man, I got lucky. I just put my hands out and tried to give it the best effort I could and it stuck.”
Even when the tables turned and the Cowboys seemed to have swung momentum in their favor with back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdown drives and 8:18 left, Griffin led the Redskins on an 11-play drive that ate up more than five minutes.
And while it didn’t end in another Griffin score, Kai Forbath’s 48-yard field goal with 2:58 remaining stretched it back to a two-score spread to effectively seal Washington’s second straight victory.
“I told the guys it was probably the drive that saved our season,” Griffin said. “It saved our season and in that moment it showed a lot of poise from guys on the team to have that resolve.”