Harris, defense carry Cowboys past Redskins 31-16October 13, 2013
SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Dwayne Harris and the Dallas defense were so good that Tony Romo didn't have to do it all for the Cowboys.
Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and set up another score with a 90-yard kickoff return, helping the Cowboys hand Robert Griffin III his first loss in his home state with a 31-16 victory against the Washington Redskins on Sunday night.
Romo had just 170 yards passing a week after getting 506 in a wild 51-48 loss to Denver.
That's because Harris had 222 total return yards and Kyle Wilber forced and recovered a fumble on a sack of Griffin that left the Cowboys needing just 3 yards for a clinching score in the fourth quarter.
"Dwayne did a fantastic job," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "Talk about making difference-making plays in the game."
The Cowboys (3-3) gave owner Jerry Jones a win on his 71st birthday.
Dallas kept the defending NFC East champion Redskins (1-4) from building any momentum after a win and a bye following an 0-3 start.
Joseph Randle, playing because running back DeMarco Murray was out with a sprained left knee, got his first career touchdown after Wilber's big play. He scored from the 1 when he stayed on his feet with a defender draped over him and was pushed into the end zone by center and fellow rookie Travis Frederick for a 31-16 lead.
Harris' punt return gave Dallas a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, and the big kickoff return came after Kai Forbath's third field goal pulled Washington to 14-9 in the third.
"They make my job so much easier when they block," Harris said. "I give them all the credit. We worked so hard in practice and it showed in the game."
Romo finished the job after Harris' key kickoff return. He stepped out of a potential sack and threw off balance into the corner of the end zone, where Terrance Williams got two feet down just as he made the catch and was pushed out of bounds by E.J. Biggers for a 15-yard score and a 21-9 lead.
Griffin, who was brilliant in a Thanksgiving win at the Cowboys as a rookie last year, said he was rejuvenated after a bye following the Redskins' first win of the season against Oakland. And he looked it.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor had 246 yards passing and another 77 rushing as the Redskins outgained Dallas 416 to 213.
Alfred Morris, who had a career-high 200 yards rushing when the Redskins beat the Cowboys in a playoffs-or-bust finale last year, was held in check before a 45-yard touchdown run trimmed Dallas' lead to 21-16 in the third quarter. Morris finished with 81 yards.
Morris' touchdown came a play after safety Barry Church was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he hit Griffin as the quarterback scrambled out of bounds. That was the second time in the third quarter that Church was penalized 15 yards for a hit on Griffin along the sideline.
Murray ran 4 yards for a touchdown on Dallas' opening drive, but left early in the second quarter with a sprained left knee.
The Cowboys also lost defensive end DeMarcus Ware before halftime because of a right quad injury.
Redskins linebacker Bryan Kehl left with a sprained left knee, and cornerback David Amerson was ruled out after sustaining a concussion.
There were flags along the Redskins sideline after Harris' punt return with 2:26 left in the first half. But the penalty was for someone not in uniform on the Redskins bench inadvertently bumping into an official during the play. The score stood and the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was enforced on the kickoff.
Another Washington penalty had provided Harris with a second chance at a return. The Redskins were flagged for illegal motion, and Dallas accepted the penalty that forced them to kick again, setting up the fifth-longest punt return in Cowboys history.