Among the many weapons the Dallas Cowboys faced last week in their historic matchup with the Denver Broncos was kick returner Trindon Holliday. While Holliday did not run one back on the Cowboys, he’s dazzled audiences across the NFL nation with his amazing kick returns.
This week, the Cowboys made opponents aware that they have a special teams weapon of their own.
Dwayne Harris tallied 222 return yards on both kick and punt returns, and contributed to two of Dallas’s three touchdowns in a 31-16 victory over their bitter rival, the Washington Redskins in an exciting Sunday night game at AT&T Stadium. With time winding down in the 1st half, Harris took a Sav Rocca punt 86 yards to the house to put the Cowboys up 14-3. Before the Cowboys’ first 2nd half possession, by which point the Redskins had trimmed the gap to 14-9, Harris took Kai Forbath’s kick from the end zone 90 yards, setting up the Cowboys up on the Washington 15. QB Tony Romo found WR Terrence Williams two plays later to put the Cowboys up 21-9.
With the win, the Cowboys enjoy a bit of revenge for last year’s pair of defeats to the Redskins, the first time Washington had swept the season series since 2005. While the much maligned defense gave up 413 yards, they forced two key Washington turnovers and sacked QB Robert Griffin III three times for a total of 29 yards. Griffin, along with fellow super sophomore RB Alfred Morris, were mostly held in check by the Dallas defense, after the duo posted big numbers against the Boys last season. Griffin would finish the game 19-39, with 246 yards and an interception. Morris did rush for 81 yards on 16 carries, but a majority of that came on a 45 yard touchdown run that shrunk Dallas’s lead to 21-16 in the 3rd quarter. On all his 15 other carries, Morris ran for a pedestrian 36 yards. Griffin also fumbled twice, the latter of which was forced and recovered by DE Kyle Wilber at the Washington 4. It was the first sack of the 2nd year Wilber’s career. CB Orlando Scandrick accounted for the interception that essentially put the game out of reach.
On the offensive side of the ball, Romo didn’t exactly have a record breaking day like he did last week, but he was effective nonetheless. While did throw one interception, a tipped pass that landed into the hands of LB Rob Jackson (who caught Romo’s ill fated final pick last December in Washington), but for the most part his return to a conservative offense was a success. He finished the day 18-30 for 170 yards. WR Cole Beasley led all Cowboys receivers with 44 yards, while Dez Bryant caught 5 passes for 36 yards.
The Cowboys did suffer some casualties in the win. DE DeMarcus Ware (3 tackles) left the game with a right quad injury and RB DeMarco Murray (7 carries, 29 yards, 1 TD) exited with an MCL sprain. While the status for both players is uncertain (they are both scheduled for MRI’s on Monday), the Cowboys’ bench rose to the occasion in the meantime. After Wilber, who finished the game with 3 tackles, stole the ball from Griffin, rookie RB Joseph Randle punched it in from two yards out. The 5th round pick out of Oklahoma State scored his first NFL touchdown with a little help from a fellow rookie, first round C Travis Frederick, who pushed Randle over the goal line for the final score of the night.
With the win, the Cowboys exit the week exactly how they entered it, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East with identical 3-3 records. As luck would have it, the Cowboys head to the City of Brotherly Love next week to face the Eagles in a battle for first place (1:00 EST, FOX). Much like the Cowboys this week, the Eagles will be seeking revenge for a series sweep. Before a 38-33 win at AT&T Stadium in December, the Cowboys went to Lincoln Financial Field last November 11, where they took a 38-23 decision from the Birds. It was last year’s game in Philadelphia where Harris established himself as Dallas’s primary return man, as he took former Cowboys Mat McBriar’s punt 78 yards for a score. Not only was it Harris’s first career touchdown, but it also gave the Cowboys a lead they would never give up.
Check back Friday for my prediction and preview for Sunday’s big showdown!