ARLINGTON, Texas -- A bend-but-don't-break defense and a huge special teams performance carried the Dallas Cowboys to a division win Sunday night.
Two huge returns from Dwayne Harris helped Dallas earn a 31-16 victory over the Washington Redskins before 90,239 fans at AT&T Stadium.
Harris scored on an 86-yard punt return and set up another touchdown, and Dallas (3-3) beat its NFC East rival to remain tied for the division lead with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys play at Philadelphia next week.
Unlike Dallas' shootout loss the previous week against the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys weren't forced to rely on the Tony Romo's arm. Dallas relied on its special teams, while its defense held Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in check.
"We played with the right kind of spirit and relentless," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Coming off a bye week, Washington (1-4) never found a rhythm. The Redskins held sizable advantages in total yardage (433-213) and time of possession (34:32-25:28), but their long drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns.
"We're close on offense, but close isn't enough in this league," Griffin said. "We moved the ball, but we need to do more."
Harris finished with 113 yards on kickoff returns and 109 yards on two punt returns, setting a career high in both categories. He scored on his long punt return late in the second quarter, and a 90-yard kickoff return early in the third quarter led directly to a touchdown and a 21-9 Dallas lead.
"In a game like this, that could be the difference in the game," Romo said. "This game each week comes down a swing play here and there, and Dwayne did a great job."
Both of Harris' long returns followed Washington scores.
"Dwayne did a fantastic job," Garrett said. "Talk about making difference-making plays, he made them."
The Cowboys also won despite losing defensive end DeMarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray to injuries during the game. Ware hurt his right quadriceps, while Murray sprained his left knee.
Griffin led Washington past the Cowboys twice last year on the way to an NFC East title. RG3 had his best rushing outing of the season with 77 yards, more than doubling his total though the first four games, but he threw an interception and lost a fumble inside Washington's 5-yard line to set up a short Dallas touchdown drive.
Griffin completed 19 of 39 passes for 246 yards.
"To win on the road, you have to play a complete game," Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. "We had too many penalties (and were) 0-for-3 in the red zone."
Romo, coming off team-record totals of 506 yards and four touchdowns against Denver, had only 170 yards on 18-of-30 passing Sunday. His only scoring pass, a 15-yarder to Terrance Williams in the back corner of the end zone in the third quarter, followed Harris' long kickoff return.
Alfred Morris gained 81 yards on 16 carries for Washington, more than half coming on a 45-yard touchdown that cut Dallas' lead to 21-16 in the third.
What the Cowboys said
"When you win, it's much better. That's all that matters. When you play the game long enough, that's all you care about." -- QB Tony Romo, on putting up big stats and losing to the Denver Broncos compared to posting modest stats while beating Washington.
What the Redskins said
"There is no quit in this team. You will not see us quit out there." -- QB Robert Griffin, whose team fell to 1-4.
What we learned about the Cowboys
1. Dallas doesn't need to rely solely on Tony Romo. Just a week after Romo almost singlehandedly rallied the Cowboys past the Broncos, he was rather pedestrian against Washington. However, Dallas got big plays on special teams and defense to subdue the Redskins.
2. The Cowboys can gain control of the NFC East next week with a win at Philadelphia. Dallas and the Eagles are tied for the division lead at 3-3. A Dallas win at Lincoln Financial Field would leave the Cowboys 3-0 in the division. "Division games are big, and we'll have a big one next week," coach Jason Garrett said.
What we learned about the Redskins
1. Robert Griffin is starting to look healthier. Though he was far from sharp against Dallas, he did run for a season-high 77 yards on nine carries. RG3 managed a total of 72 yards through the first four games. He looked good Sunday on both read-options and scrambles.
2. The Redskins look painfully devoid of offensive weapons. The receiving corps struggled to get open against what was a previously porous Dallas secondary. Alfred Morris couldn't get much established on the ground. Other than his 45-yard touchdown run, Morris averaged 2.4 yards per carry.