Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris help Redskins to NFC Division title
Griffin and Morris lead the way as Washington's new generation of stars dominate the Cowboys
"R-G-3!" was all Redskins fans needed to chant when they wanted to express their love for Robert Griffin III. For the lesser-known rookie, they opted for his whole name: "Alf-red Mor-ris!"
It's a new generation that has Washington atop the NFC East for the first time this millennium. There's Griffin - the vocal leader, the first-round draft pick, the Heisman Trophy winner, the team captain. And there's Morris - the out-of-nowhere sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic who merely ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the division-clincher and broke the franchise single-season rushing record.
"These," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, "aren't ordinary rookies."
The Redskins claimed their first division title since 1999, beating arch-rivals the Dallas Cowboys 28-18 in a winners-take-all finale to end the NFL's regular season.
"I was nine years old in 1999," said Griffin, sporting a black baseball cap commemorating the title. "So I stand before you at 22, and the Redskins are the NFC East champions. To me, talking to Alfred after the game, it's the first time the Redskins have been champs since '99 and we came in and we did it in one year. The sky's the limit for this team."
Griffin, gradually regaining his explosiveness after spraining his right knee four weeks ago, ran for 63 yards and a touchdown for the Redskins (10-6), who finished with seven straight wins after their bye week. They became the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 and make the play-offs since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.
"I've been here for the 4-12, the bad times, almost being the joke of the NFL," veteran defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. "But to do this with this group of guys - the old and the new - it's good to be here."
Certainly, this night was mostly about the new. Morris had touchdown runs of 1, 17 and 32 yards and was so dominant that the Cowboys - missing their five best run defenders from injuries - fell hook, line and sinker nearly every time the Redskins faked the ball to him. He finished with 1,613 yards for the year, topping Clinton Portis' 1,516 in 2005.
"I'll tell you what: Alfred Morris became a star tonight," Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said. "He deserved it. He's a phenomenal football player."
To which Morris answered: "I'm never a star. I'll never be a star. Other people might think I'm a star, but I'm just Alfred."
He won't have much choice if he keeps this up.
The Cowboys (8-8), meanwhile, will miss the play-offs for the third straight season, having stumbled in a make-or-break end-of-regular-season game for the third time in five years.
Tony Romo threw three interceptions - matching his total from the last eight games combined. A poor throw was picked by Rob Jackson when the Cowboys had a chance to drive for a winning score in the final minutes. "I feel as though I let our team down," Romo said.
Romo completed 20 of 31 passes for 218 yards, and his career is now further tainted by post-Christmas disappointments, including week 17 losses to the Philadelphia Eagles (44-6) in 2008 and the New York Giants (31-14) last year. He's also 1-3 in play-off games.
"Your legacy will be written when you're done playing the game," Romo said. "And when it's over with, you'll look back ... It's disappointing not being able to get over that hump."