For the first time since 1999, the Washington Redskins (10-6) are champions of the NFC East, after beating the Dallas Cowboys (8-8) by the score of 28-18 in a do-or-die match Sunday night at FedEx Field.
Whether nerves, the nagging injury to his right knee or a combination of both factors impacted Robert Griffin III in a game that had all the elements of a playoff match, it appeared the rookie quarterback was not quite 100 percent. However, thanks in part to Alfred Morris – who rushed for 200 yards over 33 carries – and in part to Tony Romo – who threw three interceptions on the night – Griffin did not have to post record-breaking numbers to send the Cowboys packing for Dallas.
Three times Morris ran the ball into the end zone. Before the Redskins etched another win into the books, Morris tallied 1,613 yards to end the season and re-write the Redskins’ single-season rushing yards record previously set by Clinton Portis in 2005.
As a whole, the Burgundy and Gold outran Dallas with 274 rushing yards compared with the Cowboys’ meager 100. Taking into account the Cowboys’ ailing defense, the Redskins required few highlight-worthy tosses by Griffin, who completed just nine of 18 passes for 100 yards.
As many had anticipated before Sunday’s kickoff, however, turnovers decided the game – and the Redskins effectively cashed in on costly errors by Romo and company.
On the Cowboys’ first possession, Romo attempted a pass to Miles Austin but it bounced onto the field, which itself has seen better days. On his next attempt, Romo tossed up the middle to Kevin Ogletree, but instead, the ball landed into the hands of Washington cornerback Richard Crawford for the first of Romo’s interceptions thrown.
However, the Redskins weren’t yet clicking. They advanced the ball only 52 yards over nine plays on their next possession, which included only short runs by both Griffin and Morris.
Then, the seemingly impossible happened.
From just 37 yards away, Kai Forbath bounced a field goal attempt off the right upright, marking his first career miss. Both the Redskins and Cowboys failed to score before the end of the quarter and it quickly became clear the Redskins would continue to look to designed runs despite Griffin’s knee woes.
The second quarter brought an end to the scoring drought, but not by much.
On the opening drive, the Cowboys played small ball to advance downfield and send Jason Witten into the end zone with a nine-yard touchdown.
But, as was so often the case in Sunday night’s matchup, Morris helped lead a rebuttal for the Redskins.
After back-to-back runs for 13 and 14 yards respectively during the Redskins’ next possession, Morris later carried the ball another 17 yards for the tying touchdown to make it 7-7 all.
That score held until late into the third quarter when Griffin picked up his own rushing touchdown to give the Redskins an underwhelming 14-7 lead into the final quarter.
The Cowboys’ Dan Bailey took an early crack at trimming Washington’s lead with a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, but once again, Morris answered – this time in the form of a 32-yard touchdown run to give the Redskins a reassuring 21-10 lead.
On the Cowboys’ next possession, Romo failed to connect with both DeMarco Murray and Dwayne Harris and instead, came face-to-face with London Fletcher on third and 10 from Washington’s 37-yard line for an 18-yard sack.
With 6:35 remaining, Sav Rocca managed to punt 43 yards to the Dallas 30-yard line, only to hand the Cowboys’ yards by committing a costly – and pointless – face mask penalty enforced at Washington’s own 31-yard line.
Romo and the gang took advantage of the field position by completing a touchdown in less than 45 seconds of playing time, and suddenly the Cowboys found themselves within three points of catching the Redskins for the playoff berth.
But, it was Romo himself who literally handed the Redskins the division. WIth 3:33 left to play, Romo succombed to pressure from Perry Riley and underthrew the ball to Murray, just in time for Rob Jackson to swoop in for the game-sealing pick.
For further insurance, Morris carried the ball into the end zone on the Redskins’ next drive to give Washington a 28-18 win and the opportunity to host the Seattle Seahawks in postseason play next Sunday.