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Morris, Defense Carries 'Skins to Playoffs

Cowboys didn't have an answer for Alfred Morris

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30: Alfred Morris #46 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball against the defense of Eric Frampton #27 of the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

    We talked about it in the week leading up to the most important game in the Mike Shanahan era: the Redskins, even with a less-than-100-percent Robert Griffin III, could run on the Cowboys.

    And while RGIII might not be responsible for most of those rushing totals, it wouldn't matter as long as the other rookie was alongside him in the backfield.

    During the first 'Skins-Cowboys get-together over Thanksgiving, Griffin ran for just 29 yards but threw four touchdowns. Morris, meanwhile, went for 113 yards in a game Washington won easily.

    On Sunday, Morris was just getting warmed up when he hit the 113 mark, and by the time it was over, he had rushed for 200 yards on 33 carries (that's a nifty 6.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. Griffin, who suffered a sprained right knee against the Ravens in Week 14 was limited as a runner -- relatively speaking, anyway (he still managed 63 yards on the ground on six carries, including a touchdown) -- but the threat of the read-option confounded the Cowboys' banged-up defense all night.

    "I told our guys that to win as many games as we have it means a lot of people are playing at a Pro Bowl level," coach Mike Shanahan told reporters after the game. "But I separated (Morris) in the locker room. I said of all the guys to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, that was Alfred. For him to play at that level for a full 60 minutes … really is a testament to not only him but to the guys blocking for him."

    But for all that Morris did, the Redskins' defense deserves a ton of credit, too. The group had three interceptions, none more important than Rob Jackson's pick with 3:06 to go while clinging to a 21-18 lead. Instead of the Cowboys mounting a potential game-winning drive, the Redskins took over at the Dallas 25, and six plays later Morris scored his third touchdown on the night.

    The 'Skins' D also harassed Tony Romo all game, blitzing him in virtually every third-down situation.

    "We did something that we haven't done and we thought we'd have a chance to keep the (Cowboys) off-balance and it worked," Shanahan said. "Tony (Romo)'s a heckuva football player and you got to keep him a little off-balance because if he knows what you're going to do he'll tear you apart like he has for the last half of the season. We felt very fortunate to be able to keep him a little off-balance and (it) was the difference between winning and losing the game."

    So now the Redskins look ahead to next week, when they'll host the No. 5 seed Seahawks, who know something about phenomenal rookie quarterbacks. The biggest question is RGIII's status. Namely: will he be ready to go after looking less than 100 percent Sunday night.

    "(Griffin) always tells me he's fine and you could see that he was hurting a little bit, even though he won't admit that to me," Shanahan said. "But that shows you what type of competitor he is to play at the level he did and to orchestrate that type of performance. But I didn't see that during the week … but he made enough big plays to give us a chance to win."

    And when RGIII was asked after the game how he felt, he offered this: "My knee's fine," he said. "I was better this week than I was last week, and I look forward to being better next week against Seattle."

    Sounds about right.