Pierre Garcon looks more like the wideout Redskins need

November 22, 2012

Wide receiver Pierre Garcon returned to the Washington Redskins’ lineup Sunday and once more resembled the big-play wideout the Redskins desperately needed in their convincing triumph here Thursday over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins weren’t even certain Garcon would be able to play Thursday because of the pounding his injured right foot might absorb on the artificial turf at Cowboys Stadium. But he played, and played well, with five catches for 93 yards in the Redskins’ 38-31 victory, their first ever on Thanksgiving Day over Dallas.

Garcon had four catches for 91 yards in the first half, as the Redskins sprinted to a 28-3 halftime lead with four second-quarter touchdowns. It was their first 28-point quarter since an October 1999 game against the Carolina Panthers. And Garcon was a key figure in it, with a 59-yard touchdown catch.

“We didn’t know if I was going to play because coach didn’t want to set it back or make anything worse,” Garcon said. “But it was kind of like, ‘It’s up to you.’ And I was like, ‘I came to play, man, so just go out here and gut it out.’ ”

Garcon was impressive during the preseason and early in the Redskins’ season-opening victory at New Orleans, before he suffered a torn ligament near the second toe in his right foot that threatened to sideline him for the year.

This was the version of Garcon that the Redskins thought they were getting when they signed him to a five-year, $42.5 million contract on the opening day of free agency in March. It was the wideout on display when he quickly established himself as the favorite target of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III during the preseason, the speedy receiver who had the Redskins dreaming of big things with an 88-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of the opening win over the Saints.

But Garcon felt a pop in his foot on his touchdown against New Orleans. He missed the Redskins’ next two games, then played two games in which he totaled only four catches for 44 yards. Garcon missed four more games and said he and team officials would have to decide whether he would undergo season-ending surgery.

Garcon resumed practicing after the Redskins’ bye week and played in Sunday’s 31-6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. He had three catches, but they yielded only five receiving yards.

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said after Sunday’s game he remained confident that Garcon would provide big plays for the team’s offense during the remainder of the season. Garcon said this week he thought he could contribute more.

But there was cause to wonder whether Garcon’s foot would allow him to be a major factor in the offense again, and Shanahan expressed some concerns during the week about Garcon playing this game on artificial turf.

Any concerns that the Redskins had dissipated, however, by the time Garcon sprinted the final 45 yards to the end zone on his second-quarter touchdown. Griffin got the ball to Garcon in the middle of the field. After making the catch, Garcon turned and outran the Dallas secondary to the end zone. He also drew a 15-yard penalty on Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins for a hit on Garcon at the end of the play.

“I got lucky, man,” Garcon said. “I just put my hands out and tried to give the best effort I could, and it stuck. And I stumbled and got lucky and kept my balance. I ran as hard as I could and I’m glad I kind of got up to full speed a little bit. I haven’t ran that fast in a long time.”

It was a good day all around for the Redskins receivers. Wideouts Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss also had second-quarter touchdown catches. Robinson got open behind the Dallas secondary for a 68-yard touchdown, and Moss kept his feet in bound nimbly along the sideline in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown just five seconds before halftime. Niles Paul, a tight end, scored on a 29-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

“Robert has a team around him that’s really out there helping him have that kind of ease,” Moss said of Griffin. “When you look at it, he can’t do it by himself. Sometimes he does. But collectively he has a lot of guys out there that’s itching to make plays for him. He gives us the opportunity.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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