Washington Redskins

Dominant Ground Game Seals NFC East for Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:   Alfred Morris #46 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball against the defense of  Ernie Sims #59 of the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

Forty-two runs for 274 yards and four rushing touchdowns. That's how much the Washington Redskins running game dominated the Dallas Cowboys.

Like they've done all season, the Redskins used their prolific ground attack to baffle a defense and win a game. They trampled all over the Cowboys, en route to a decisive 28-18 victory.

Their latest success on the ground sealed their first NFC East title since 1999 and first playoff berth since 2007. That's the reward for a seven-game winning streak. In each of those wins, the Redskins have run the ball more than they've thrown it.

The Cowboys certainly had no answer to head coach Mike Shanahan's famed zone-running game. Shanahan was merciless in exposing a Dallas defensive front ravaged by injuries.

Without inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter and star nose tackle Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys have been soft against the run. That meant they couldn't stand up to a heavy dose of Washington's bruising rookie-runner Alfred Morris.

He set two more franchise records as part of his 33 carries. Morris gained 200 yards and powered his way in for three scores.

That means he has set a new franchise record for touchdowns by rookie, with 13. Morris broke Charley Taylor's mark that had stood since 1964.

He also set the Redskins record for rushing yards in a single season. Morris eclipsed the total posted by Clinton Portis in 2005. Morris finishes the 2012 season as the NFL's rookie rushing leader with 1,613 yards.

His instincts for attacking the cutback lanes created by the Redskins' zone-blocking were flawless. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan used trap blocks by tight ends and the threat of Robert Griffin III to confound Dallas.

The tactic worked to perfection. Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were routinely fooled on the edges.

When they slanted inside too early to attack Morris, Griffin simply kept the ball and went around the outside. The star rookie quarterback contributed 48 yards and a rushing touchdown of his own.

This was just another week showcasing the proficiency of Washington's versatile rushing attack. Griffin and Morris are a lethal combination that the first line of any defense simply can't ignore.

By the time a defense has deciphered all of the games the Redskins run in the backfield, the designated ball-carrier is past the first wave.

The zone-stretch remains the go-to play in Washington's rushing arsenal. However, the variations on that theme have increased, producing a dizzying mix no defense can currently stop.

It's been good enough to carry the Redskins back to the playoffs and NFL relevance.

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