IRVING, Texas — Robert Griffin III, the Texas-bred quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, comes to his home state for the first time as a pro for the most traditional of Thanksgiving rivalries — Cowboys vs. Redskins.
Hold on a minute with all that drama and emotion building for Thursday’s game. The Washington rookie grew up in Central Texas rooting for the Denver Broncos.
‘‘It’s one game and that’s what we’ve got,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘We’ve got the Dallas Cowboys, and that’s what I’m going to play like.’’
Hold on another minute before deciding he is completely blowing off the pretty cool idea that he’s coming home for a big game on a unique stage. He gets it.
‘‘It will be fun. I’ll see a lot of familiar faces,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘It’s Cowboys-Redskins or Redskins-Cowboys, whatever way you want to put it. Me being a Texas kid, I know how big the rivalry is and I get my fair shot at it.’’
Griffin has practical reasons for approaching Thursday’s game as one Washington needs to win.
The Redskins (4-6) kept themselves in the playoff conversation by coming off the bye with a 31-6 blowout of Philadelphia, sparked by 14-of-15 passing and four touchdowns from Griffin. A win for the Cowboys (5-5) puts them a half-game behind the Giants in the NFC East five days after they risked ruining their season against last-place Cleveland before winning, 23-20, in overtime.
The Cowboys have played the Redskins more than any other team in their annual Thanksgiving home game, and Dallas has won all six previous meetings. The Cowboys also are trying to win their fourth straight against Washington, which would be the longest streak in eight years.
But the Redskins haven’t brought a quarterback like Griffin into this game in a long time. Statistically, he’s ahead of the other four rookies who began the season as starters, and he’s right there with most of the veterans. He’s one of six quarterbacks with a rating of at least 100, completing 67 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
The Redskins lost six of eight after Griffin’s remarkable debut in a win at New Orleans, so maybe it was easy to forget about him. He sort of reminded everyone by picking apart the Eagles. He’s also in the top 20 in rushing with 613 yards.
‘‘You can’t really go into a game worried about this guy scrambling because it will slow you up and probably put you in a worse situation than just trying to go after him,’’ said Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears. ‘‘Obviously, we have to have awareness of where he is and where he can escape.’’
Griffin isn’t the only runner the Redskins have. Another rookie, Alfred Morris, is fifth in the league with 869 yards, and Washington is one of four teams with two games of 200-plus yards on the ground.
The Dallas running game is struggling through the extended absence of starter DeMarco Murray and an offensive line that is also battling injuries.
Murray is likely to miss his sixth straight game and backup Felix Jones is battling a knee injury that could limit him.
The Washington defense has lost several starters to injury, and even linebacker London Fletcher is in danger of missing a game for the first time in his 15-year career. He’s tied with Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber for the league’s longest active streak at 234 straight games, but he injured an ankle last weekend and faced the short week of recovery time.