ARLINGTON, Texas — In a six-second blur of fingertips and churning legs, Pierre Garcon returned.
Gone was the wide receiver frustrated by an injured right foot that had him considering season-ending surgery three weeks ago.
Instead, Garcon showed the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday why the Washington Redskins heaped $42.5 million over five years on him during the offseason. And in the midst of a 59-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that silenced 90,166 once-deafening fans inside Cowboys Stadium, Garcon provided a glimpse of how his speed can transform an offense.
“He’s here for that,” fellow receiver Santana Moss said. “We’re happy to have that kind of threat out there. That gives everybody more opportunities to go and be special.”
Since the preseason, Garcon, who finished with five catches for 93 yards Thursday, hadn’t been right. The six-year veteran signed as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts in March to give the Redskins a badly needed No. 1 receiver with sure hands who could stretch defenses.
But a bruised right foot during the preseason lingered. An 88-yard touchdown grab in the season-opener against the New Orleans Saints only distracted from the problem. Garcon’s speed and explosiveness, the core of his game, eroded.
A series of visits to doctors eventually revealed not a bruised foot but a plantar plate tear on the bottom of his foot.
Doctors told Garcon he couldn’t injure the foot more seriously by playing. It became a matter of pain tolerance. But Garcon felt like he couldn’t run full speed. He didn’t feel like himself.
Fear entered for Garcon. He didn’t want to undergo surgery. Could playing on the foot cause a dislocation? Or would he overcompensate and somehow injure another part of his body?
Finally convinced the foot wouldn’t get worse on the field, Garcon played Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, his first game since Oct. 7. Garcon caught three passes for 5 yards, more decoy than deep threat.
“He’s been missed in this offense for a while,” running back Alfred Morris said.
On the field for 21 of the Redskins’ 53 snaps, Garcon’s foot didn’t feel close to normal. But there weren’t any setbacks.
One question remained for Garcon: How would his foot handle the artificial surface at Cowboys Stadium against the NFL’s sixth-ranked pass defense?
Garcon started the game and, a few minutes later, snagged a 6-yard pass. Then he turned a short toss into 7 yards. If anything, the artificial surface, instead of aggravating the injury, made him appear quicker.
“It all came down to how the turf felt,” Garcon said. “I wanted to play. I wanted to go out there and gut it out and I did that, really.”
Ten minutes into the second quarter, when the Redskins unloaded 28 points in a period for the first time since 1999, Garcon lined up on second-and-12.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s short pass snuck over a defender’s outstretched arms. Cutting to his right in the middle of the field, Garcon jumped and spun the other way. He snagged the ball with his fingertips, arms extended as far as his 6-foot frame allowed. His right foot landed. Then his left. The ball never snuck out of his grip.
Garcon recovered his balance and streaked the remaining 45 yards into the end zone where, after exiting, Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins greeted him with a hearty shove into the blue padding surrounding the field.
The snag-and-sprint took six seconds.
No limping or favoring the ailing foot. Just the man the Redskins hoped they acquired, transforming an innocent pass into a game-breaking play and providing the sort of explosiveness after the catch only matched on the roster by Griffin.
Six seconds that screamed Garcon is back and quieted a stadium.