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Unheralded rookie running back leads Redskins into postseason

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Photo by Daniel Kucin. Redskins running back Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Photo by Daniel Kucin. Redskins running back Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Published on: Friday, January 04, 2013

By Brandy L. Simms

Washington Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris ran wild in Sunday’s 28-18 victory over the Dallas Cowboys that clinched the franchise’s first NFC East division title since 1999.

Morris also became the franchise’s single-season rushing leader, surpassing former Redskin Clinton Portis.

“It was special. It never was really on my mind about the record,” Morris said. “I don’t want to discredit it. It was special to pass Clinton Portis’ record. He was a great (running) back. I actually looked up to him. I guess you can call myself a fan of Clinton Portis. He told me before the game, ‘I want you to break the record.’ It was just an honor. Coming from where I came from, I am just thankful. And it is just a humbling experience, and I am thankful to be here.”

Portis set the franchise’s single-season rushing mark during the 2005 season when he finished with 1,516 yards.

“I think all records are meant to be broken,” said Portis, “and for it to come to somebody so humble, so professional, it’s a great feat. I think I became a fan of his early on from hearing our running backs coach (Bobby Turner) talk about him.”

Morris helped the Redskins finish 10-6 and earn their first playoff berth since 2007. Washington was 5-1 against NFC East opponents and swept the Cowboys for the first time since the 2005 season.

“I think they’ve been pretty effective all year long running the football,” said Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. “They’re the No. 1 rush team in the National Football League. They do a lot of different things. Certainly, having a quarterback and a variation of things they do off of their basic running game helps their running game. But he’s been very effective all year long against a lot of different defenses.”

Against Dallas, Morris rushed 33 times for 200 yards with three touchdowns, all career highs. The win marked the Redskins seventh consecutive victory after posting a 3-6 record during the November bye week. What’s more, Morris’s performance came against the franchise’s archrival with high stakes on the line. The Redskins needed a win to secure a spot in the playoffs, and Morris delivered right on time.

“We put a lot of pressure on him,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. “I thought he stepped up and played at an exceptional level. Not too many guys can rush for a couple hundred yards. We put the majority of the work on him.”

Morris, a sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University, has taken the league by storm. The 5-foot-9, 218-pounder finished the regular season as the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

Morris amassed 1,613 yards on the ground and rushed for 13 touchdowns this season. Only Houston’s Arian Foster had more rushing touchdowns than Morris. The exploits of the Florida native has impressed not only fans but teammates alike.

“I get a front row ticket man,” offensive tackle Trent Williams said. “He just straight out bruises people. He’s so hard to tackle, and he’s such a pain to tackle. I’m glad I’m not on defense going against him.”

The Redskins went into the bye week on a three-game losing skid after a 3-3 start. Washington had suffered consecutive losses to the Giants, Steelers and Panthers heading into the midseason break.

During the November bye week, who believed the Redskins would be able to register such a miraculous turnaround?

“We definitely believed,” said Morris, who broke the franchise’s rookie record for total touchdowns in a season, surpassing Hall of Famer Charley Taylor. “All odds were against us. We had faith in each other, and we put self in the background. We became a selfless team, and we put ourselves in a playoff situation, taking one win at a time to get to the playoffs and we are here now. We believe in ourselves, even if no one else believed in us.”

Portis is one believer. The former Redskins running back was in attendance at the Dallas game and had some words of encouragement for the organization.

“Whoever thought they would win the division this year?” Portis said. “Everybody counted them out, so for them to come in and win the division this year shows how special this organization is becoming again.”

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