The Dallas Cowboys played a long game, and now faces a short week. And Washington's Robert Griffin III is on his way in for the most appropriate of Thanksgiving games — Cowboys vs. Redskins, the first NFL game in Texas for the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor.
It's safe to say the sigh of relief was brief for Dallas after Sunday's 23-20 overtime win over last-place Cleveland.
"We are going to enjoy this one for another 10 minutes or so and then get on to the Redskins," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said after the game.
There are several issues for the Cowboys to consider in the roughly 96 hours between Dan Bailey's winning field goal in overtime and the kickoff against the Redskins.
Start with the offensive line, which essentially ended up with three replacements against the Browns after left tackle Tyron Smith injured an ankle early and didn't return. Tony Romo absorbed a career-high seven sacks, and a fumble on one of them triggered a wild ending that the Cowboys were fortunate to file under "happy."
Smith said Monday he had a high ankle sprain and would be a game-time decision. He says he played through the injury once in college at USC. If the former first-round pick isn't back, undrafted free agent Jermey Parnell, a third-year player, is likely to fill in again.
With Phil Costa and Ryan Cook out, Mackenzy Bernadeau had to move from guard to center, where he made his first start for Dallas against Cleveland. Derrick Dockery took Bernadeau's spot at right guard.
"It's just the nature of it, and you have to be able to just plug the next guy in and come up with the right combination and move on and find some things that those guys are able to do well enough to execute ball plays," Garrett said Monday. "It was a challenge for us last week going into the game. It was more of a challenge during the game. And it'll be a challenge this week as we get ready for the Redskins."
Another part of Romo's problem Sunday was he didn't have much help from the running game. The Cowboys had just 17 yards rushing at halftime — all by Felix Jones — and 68 for the game. Jones missed some time after re-injuring his knee and didn't play in overtime. He was a limited participant in practice Monday.
DeMarco Murray didn't practice, but Garrett didn't rule out his return from a five-game absence with a sprained foot. If Jones and Murray can't play, undrafted rookie Lance Dunbar could end up with most of the carries against the Redskins. After Dallas had eight straight pass plays on its first overtime possession, Dunbar did get three carries on the winning drive, including a 7-yard run that put the Cowboys in field goal range.
"He had a few plays I had to get on him a little bit. It was just a couple of small mistakes," Romo said of Dunbar. "I told him afterward, 'We will correct these. We'll get them right but we have to lock in.' The kid has some ability and he showed that today."
The Cowboys are 1-1 against rookie quarterbacks who began the season as starters as they prepare to face Griffin. They lost badly to Seattle and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson in Week 2 and were headed in the same direction against Brandon Weeden and the Browns.
Weeden led three straight scoring drives as Cleveland built a 13-0 halftime lead, and he completed five straight passes late in the fourth quarter, including a 17-yard touchdown to Benjamin Watson that put the Browns ahead 20-17 with 1:07 remaining.
Griffin was 14 of 15 for 200 yards with four touchdowns in a 31-6 victory over the Eagles.
"You can see that as the season progresses that they grow," Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. "They're still learning the game as rookies, but at the same time they have a lot of upside. They have a lot of ability to go out there and lead their teams."
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