Rick Snider: In Redskins' biggest game, Morris carries the load

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Maybe NFL voters should reconsider which Washington Redskins player should be rookie of the year.

For all the honors quarterback Robert Griffin III garnered throughout the season, sixth-round sidekick Alfred Morris carried the Redskins to the playoffs Sunday with a 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys before 82,845 at FedEx Field. Morris finished with 200 yards and three touchdowns en route to becoming the team's single-season rushing leader with 1,613.

Griffin wasn't consistently sharp against Dallas, but Morris steadily moved the offense all the way to the postseason.

Over the decades, Larry Brown, John Riggins, Terry Allen, Stephen Davis and Clinton Portis made the Redskins a traditional running power, but Morris is now ahead of all of them. Washington even surpassed its team rushing record from 1983.

"I'm never a star. I'm just Alfred," Morris said. "I couldn't change even if I wanted."

The Redskins (10-6) won their first NFC East title since 1999 and will host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday in the opening round. The winner will play either Atlanta or San Francisco the next weekend. It will be Washington's first playoff appearance since 2007.

It was the biggest regular-season game in the stadium's 16-year history. The parking lots were full hours before the NFL's finale, with tailgaters huddling a little closer to the grills in the blustery cold. There were clearly fewer Cowboys fans than in past years. The crowd overflowed with energy.

Indeed, Redskins fans never seemed more eager to roar, chanting "RGIII" during the coin toss and after several early big plays. Yet it took until the second half before he started clicking. After a bunch of poor throws that caused the Redskins to go to Morris more often, the tandem finally worked together in the third quarter to forge ahead.

Morris scored in the second quarter and twice in the fourth. Griffin ran one in during the third. Sometimes the crowd chanted "Alfred Morris." Sometimes it was "RGIII."

"[Morris] takes runs that are blocked for 3 yards into 7 yards," Griffin said. "We always told [Morris] he'd get 200 if he'd break a couple long ones."

And sometimes it was the defense, which intercepted Dallas quarterback Tony Romo three times and consistently harassed him in the second half during the Cowboys' attempted comeback. Yet Romo threaded a 10-yard touchdown pass over a Washington defender, then beat double coverage for the two-point conversion to close the Cowboys within 21-18 with 5:55 remaining.

Surely it would be close at the end, just like the 1979 finale. That year Dallas won the division title in the final seconds 35-34, eliminating the Redskins from the postseason. Nothing ever comes easy for this franchise.

But after the Redskins punted, linebacker Rob Jackson snared Washington's third interception of the evening off Romo. Washington then ran down the clock, trying to keep Dallas from one last comeback. Morris created a moment's drama when he fumbled at the goal line, but officials ruled he already had crossed into the end zone to seal the victory.

They may be rookies, but Griffin and Morris led Washington to its seventh straight victory -- and to the playoffs.

"This is the best feeling I've ever had," Griffin said.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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