IRVING — The Dallas Cowboys get another shot at Robert Griffin III after he put them through their worst quarter of the season in a loss on Thanksgiving.
They aren’t talking all tough about how it will be different this time around for Washington’s dynamic rookie quarterback in a Sunday night game that will decide the NFC East champion.
Dallas might not even be surprised if the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor goes 8 of 8 for 178 yards with three entirely different types of touchdown throws. That’s what he did in the second quarter last month to give Washington a 28-3 lead in a 38-31 victory.
“No, I don’t say he can’t do that again because he can,” Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said. “He can create so many plays and get himself out of trouble a lot, which in turn helps him make a lot of the plays where you look and say, ‘Man, how did that happen.’”
Griffin’s first big NFL play in Texas was a perfect deep throw to Aldrick Robinson for a 68-yard touchdown. He threw a ball behind Pierre Garcon — but just beyond the reach of Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter — on a 59-yard score. A sideline throw that only Santana Moss could catch in the final seconds of the half finished the first 28-point quarter for the Redskins (9-6) in 13 years.
When the Cowboys (8-7) pulled within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, Griffin had three first-down throws on a time-consuming drive to a field goal that essentially sealed the win.
“Obviously you see the guy out there making plays and you don’t like that,” Spears said. “A lot of that was stuff that we didn’t do very well either. At any rate, it’s more from how is he going to try to attack us and hurt us this second time.”
Spears says Griffin makes it easy to forget about another rookie, running back Alfred Morris. He leads first-year backs with 1,413 yards, and his 113-yard game against the Cowboys was the first of three straight during a six-game winning streak that vaulted Washington from an also-ran to sole possession of the division lead.
Morris scored the other touchdown in the big second quarter and set up Griffin’s final TD toss with a first-down run to the Dallas 6.
“RG3, everybody’s enamored,” Spears said. “It’s not like he’s back there alone. He can hand the ball off to a guy that can make plays.”
Still, Griffin wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday night because he was handing off. And that’s not what the Cowboys took away from the Thanksgiving game.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones was still talking about Griffin’s game at Cowboys Stadium when asked last weekend about the Sunday night showdown. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t need to see Griffin live to believe he could pick through the Dallas defense the way he did.
“We thought he was pretty darn good in college, and we thought he was pretty darn good in the early part of the season,” Garrett said. “We had a tremendous amount of respect for what they were doing on offense going into our ballgame when we played them on Thanksgiving.”
With so much talk about Griffin’s mobility — he’s just 30 yards shy of the top 10 in the league in rushing — it’s easy to overlook his 20 passing touchdowns against just five interceptions. Those are rare numbers for a rookie, but he did the same thing at Baylor for three years.
“I don’t think people pay attention to how well the guy throws the ball,” Spears said. “He could play in a system where it was a five-step drop and he didn’t have to run. He throws the ball that well.”
The Cowboys did pressure Griffin in the Thanksgiving loss, even though it didn’t really look like it with his 132.6 rating on 20-of-28 passing for 311 yards and four touchdowns with one interception.
Spears and Anthony Spencer, who had two of the four sacks of Griffin, will be chasing again with a defense even more compromised than it was a month ago. The Cowboys are missing five starters, and linebacker DeMarcus Ware is trying to play through hamstring, elbow and shoulder problems.
“It’s no secret we’ve got a lot to defend on our end of the ball,” Spears said. “With that being said, we feel like we left some plays out there the first game and we have to do a better job of playing and keying around the football this time around.”