Alfred Morris, Robert Griffin spur Redskins to first NFC East title since 1999

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

Rookie running back Alfred Morris ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Washington Redskins closed out the 2012 NFL regular season with a 28-18 win over the Dallas Cowboys to clinch their first NFC East title since 1999. The 10-6 Redskins won seven straight games to close out the regular season and, as the No. 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs, will host the fifth-seed and equally red-hot Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 6.

Despite a pair of first quarter interceptions by Tony Romo, the Cowboys would draw first blood on the scoreboard. Taking advantage of the officials not noticing an expired play clock, Romo found Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten in the end zone for a nine-yard score with just over eight minutes to play in the second quarter to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead. The Redskins would quickly respond, thanks largely due to the running of Morris, who had four carries for 45 yards on an eight-play, 68-yard drive that ended with him taking it into the end zone from 17 yards out.

Tied at seven with over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Morris again put the offense on his back. The rookie from Florida Atlantic had five straight carries for 44 yards, half of which came on a 22-yard run that put the Redskins in scoring position at the Cowboys' 38-yard line. Griffin hit wide receiver Pierre Garcon 18 and then 13 yards before giving the Redskins a 14-7 lead after a 10-yard touchdown run, the rookie quarterback's seventh rushing score of the season.

Following a 48-yard field goal by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey early in the fourth quarter, Griffin used his legs and arm to move the Redskins into Dallas' territory. Griffin ran around left end for 17 yards and hit Santana Moss for 11 yards to cross the 50-yard line and set up a third-and-one play where Griffin hit Garcon for 15 yards. On the following play, Morris scampered 32 yards for a touchdown that gave the Redskins an 11-point lead with over ten minutes to play.

The Cowboys would not go away quietly. With just under seven minutes left, wide receiver Dwayne Harris broke off a 39-yard punt return before being mauled to the ground by punter Sav Rocca, who was flagged for a face mask penalty that set the Cowboys up inside Washington's red zone. Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Romo found Harris for the two-point conversion that trimmed the Redskins' lead to three points.

As quickly as the Cowboys' special teams unit allowed them to remain in the game, it nearly gave the Redskins an opportunity to extend their lead before they were bailed out by the defense. Following the touchdown and two-point conversion, Redskins tight end Niles Paul returned the ensuing kick 48 yards, setting the offense up near midfield. Griffin broke off a 15-yard run, but would come up limping after being hit on an incomplete pass attempt two plays later. Sacked by Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer on the following play, Griffin remained on the ground and needed to be helped to the sidelines by his teammates as Rocca came on to punt. Taking over at their own 15 and needing a field goal to tie, Romo hit Witten for 14 yards, but "bad Romo" resurfaced on a screen to DeMarco Murray. Romo floated the pass to a well-covered Murray and linebacker Rob Jackson would undercut the route for an easy interception deep inside Cowboys' territory.

Three runs by Morris got the Redskins to the Cowboys' 12-yard line and forced Dallas to burn all their timeouts. The Cowboys would force a fourth down decision by head coach Mike Shanahan, but defensive end Jason Hatcher was flagged for roughing the passer when he hit Griffin in the head area following an incomplete pass to Garcon, giving the Redskins a fresh set of downs in a goal-to-go situation and the clock only stopping for the two-minute warning. Morris would punch the ball into the end zone on a third-and-goal from the one-yard line to seal the win.

While Morris was the offensive star for the Redskins, Griffin was a close second. Playing at less than 100 percent due to a sprained right knee, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft completed nine of 18 pass attempts for 100 yards and added 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on six attempts. Garcon was Griffin's top target, leading the team with three receptions for 46 yards.

Romo finished the night 20-of-37 for 218 yards and two touchdowns, but the key number is "three", his number of interceptions in the latest "must-win" game where the veteran quarterback came up short. In "win or go home" games, Romo is 1-6 as the 8-8 Cowboys missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Cowboys running backs Murray and Felix Jones combined for 100 yards on the ground, while Witten was again Romo's top target, catching seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Witten finishes his season with 110 receptions, a single-season record for NFL tight ends. Dez Bryant had four receptions for 71 yards, but was helped to the locker room in the fourth quarter with a lower back injury. Wide receiver Miles Austin missed a considerable portion of the game with a left leg injury, but would return in the second half and was held without a catch in the loss.

Predictions for 2013 from Yahoo! Sports:

Division-by-division look at NFL 'Black Monday' possibilities
Carmelo insists he and Amar'e Stoudemire can coexist on the court
Detroit's Torii Hunter would be 'uncomfortable' with openly gay teammate video: 17-foot python crashes Florida birthday party

What to Read Next