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Harris' huge returns carry Cowboys past Redskins

The SportsXchange

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.

The Cowboys took a 14-6 lead into the locker room thanks to Harris' touchdown and solid defense in the red zone. Washington managed just two first-half field goals despite two trips inside the Dallas 20 and 166 yards of offense.

Dallas grew stagnant offensively after its first score before Harris sparked the Cowboys with the fifth-longest punt return for a touchdown in franchise history.

The Cowboys mixed pass and run expertly on their opening possession, going 80 yards in 10 plays while taking six minutes off the clock. Murray scored from 4 yards out.

Griffin countered by marching Washington down the field on the ensuing drive. RG3 was stopped short of the goal line on a third-down draw, and the Redskins settled for a 20-yard Kai Forbath field goal.

NOTES: Cowboys LB Justin Durant was active after missing last week's game with a groin injury. Dallas' inactives were RB Lance Dunbar, CB Chris Greenwood, DE Edgar Jones, G David Arkin, C Phil Costa, T Darrion Weems and TE Andre Smith. ... Forbath, DE Jarvis Jenkins, LB Rob Jackson, TE Jordan Reed, TE Logan Paulsen, TE Fred Davis and Morris were active for Washington. Jenkins and Jackson returned after four games away due to suspension. Forbath (right groin) played for the first time since the season opener. Rookie S Bacarri Rambo was inactive for the first time. Also sitting out for the Redskins: QB Rex Grossman, RB Chris Thompson, S Jordan Pugh, LB Brandon Jenkins, G Josh LeRibeus and NT Chris Neild ... Dallas is 18-4 at home against Washington since 1994. ... The Redskins return home to face the Chicago Bears next Sunday.
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