Thom Loverro: Redskins finally taking the road better traveled by

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The path to Sunday night's de facto NFC East title game at FedEx Field between the 9-6 Washington Redskins and the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys began on a Monday night at the stadium three years ago, when a swinging gate helped end this franchise's dysfunction.

Newly hired general manger Bruce Allen was at the stadium when then-Redskins coach Jim Zorn called the infamous swinging gate fake field goal play not once but twice, failing miserably both times in a 45-12 loss to the Giants.

Allen was watching from a private box -- but not owner Daniel Snyder's box, where his predecessor, franchise gravedigger Vinny Cerrato, always sat.

Yes, it can be seen as a metaphor: The swinging gate that had existed between Snyder's office and the players, contributing to the business of chaos at Redskins Park, finally was closing.

The path to Sunday night's game also is rooted in the conditioning drills of the Redskins' $100 million free agent disaster, Albert Haynesworth, who dominated headlines during training camp in 2010.

New coach Mike Shanahan took on Haynesworth, the biggest wallet in the locker room, and declared that this wasn't business as usual anymore for the Redskins.

It was an important moment -- one embraced by hard-working players such as London Fletcher, who had lived with the dysfunction surrounding him -- showing that there truly was a culture change going on in this franchise and that nobody was going to get a free pass anymore.

The path to Sunday night's game has been paved by a sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic -- almost an afterthought when 2012 training camp began at Redskins Park.

Alfred Morris didn't impress many at the NFL Combine last winter. Here's one scouting report: "Morris is a bit of a tweener -- not big enough to be a physically imposing back in the NFL but far from fast or athletic enough to impress with his athleticism. He is a serviceable runner."

That "serviceable runner" is about to set the Redskins' single-season rushing record. He has 1,413 yards, 104 away from breaking the record held by a $50 million-plus diva who was quite his opposite, Clinton Portis.

Of course, the path to this game rests heavily on the decision to trade three No. 1 draft picks and a second-rounder for the chance to select quarterback Robert Griffin III in the NFL Draft.

By shutting the swinging gate, leveling the biggest wallet and putting the ball in the hands of the hungriest players, the Redskins have put themselves in position to play for the NFC East title.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner