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Harris, defense carry Cowboys past Redskins 31-16

(AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

By SCHUYLER DIXON

AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Tony Romo enjoyed the view from the bench for the biggest plays in a win for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dwayne 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 he threw a costly interception during a 506-yard performance, setting up the winning field goal for Denver in a wild 51-48 loss to the Broncos.

The Cowboys said all week they had Romo's back as their quarterback faced another round of criticism over late-game flubs.

Harris showed it, as did Kyle Wilber and the rest of a depleted Dallas defensive line that lost DeMarcus Ware to a quad injury in the second quarter.

"Dwayne did a great job and almost allowed us to kind of just sit over there as an offensive unit and rack up all his yards as if we did it without doing much work," said Romo, who made Harris' long kickoff return pay off with his only touchdown pass of the night a week after throwing five.

Harris had 222 total return yards and 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 and kept the defending NFC East champion Redskins (1-4) from building any momentum after a win and a bye following an 0-3 start.

"It's a great way to win a game," Jones said. "Boy we'll take it."

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 433 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 Ware before halftime.

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.

NOTES: The Cowboys sacked Griffin three times after getting just one sack combined the past two games against Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning. ... Redskins LB Rob Jackson intercepted Romo in the first half. He had the clinching interception in last year's finale when Romo had a chance to lead a tying or winning drive late in the game.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Updated October 14, 2013

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