Go crazy, Redskins fans. Your team is NFC East Champions.
The Washington Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 28-18, tonight at FedExField to claim their first NFC East title since 1999 — while sending the rival Cowboys home for good in the process. Washington (10-6), winners of seven straight, will play host to the Seattle Seahawks at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at FedExField in the first round of the playoffs.
The Redskins won tonight with a key performance from rookie running back Alfred Morris, who broke Clinton Portis’ single-season Redskins’ rushing record in the third quarter with a 10-yard run. Morris finished his day with 33 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cowboys began the fourth quarter with a 48-yard field goal from kicker Dan Bailey. The kick came after a nice defensive stop that ended with a quality play in coverage by cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was physical with wide receiver Dez Bryant all the way.
The Redskins began the ensuing drive from their own 26-yard line. They eventually faced a 3rd and 1 from the Dallas 47-yard line when quarterback Robert Griffin III found wide receiver Pierre Garcon across the middle for a 15-yard gain. On the very next play, Morris ran 32 yards for the touchdown. It capped a six-play, 74-yard drive that took 3:37 off the clock with 10:32 remaining in the fourth quarter and sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy.
But Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has excelled these past few weeks with large fourth-quarter comeback performances. He began the ensuing drive with a 15-yard completion to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, which was followed up with a 17-yard completion to Bryant. But three plays later, Romo and the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 10 from the Washington 31-yard line. The quarterback dropped back out of the shotgun and was immediately brought to the ground by London Fletcher for his second sack of the day, as outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive end Stephen Bowen also brought the pressure up the middle.
What a clutch play by Fletcher, the 37-year old captain who has been hobbled by an ankle injury for a majority of the season. He did a much-deserved sack dance after that play.
Washington began the ensuing drive from its own 24-yard line and handed off to Morris twice before facing a 3rd and 8 from their 27. Griffin III’s pass intended for Joshua Morgan was slightly overthrown and fell to the grass, forcing a punt. The kick was returned on the Washington side of the field before punter Sav Rocca brought down returner Dwayne Harris along the sideline. Rocca was called for a facemask on the tackle, but probably saved a touchdown on the play.
With the ball at the Washington 16-yard line, Romo and company went to work. But after a six-yard pass play and an incompletion, Dallas faced a 3rd and 4 from the 10 when Romo found wide receiver Kein Ogletree in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Down 21-16, the Cowboys elected to go for two, and Romo delivered a perfect pass to Harris to convert and bring the score to 21-18 with 5:50 remaining.
The Redskins, however, got to their own 46 on a great kickoff return from tight end Niles Paul, who used a great stiff arm to evade kicker Dan Bailey’s tackle. Griffin III took the next play, a read-option, 15 yards to his left before sliding. But two plays later, Washington faced a 3rd and 8 with Griffin III in the shotgun with Evan Royster to his left, and the quarterback was sacked at midfield by Anthony Spencer for a loss of 13. Huge play by the Dallas defense.
The Cowboys began their potential go-ahead drive with 3:35 left in the game with a 14-yard completion to Jason Witten. But on the very next play, outside linebacker Rob Jackson picked off Romo’s pop-up throw to his halfback at the Dallas 27-yard line, which was returned two yards to the 25.
Jackson has come up huge throughout this entire second-half run by the Redskins, and he did it yet it again there.
The Redskins had a short field to try to run out the clock and/or score to earn the victory. The drive began with a 10-yard gain by, who else, but Morris. Two plays later, Washington faced a 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 12 as the Cowboys took their third and final timeout with 2:39 remaining. Griffin III, under center, threw an incomplete pass, but Jason Hatcher smacked the quarterback in the head in the process, earning a personal foul and giving Washington a 1st and Goal from the 6-yard line.
Morris got three yards on the next play to get to the 3-yard line into the two-minute warning. After a two-yard run to the one, Morris punched it in for his third touchdown of the game.
With no timeouts left, Romo and the Cowboys were unable to get anything going in the final 1:02 of the game to officially give the win to Washington.
What a comeback story for this Redskins team. Washington began the season 3-6 before hitting its Bye Week and has won seven straight to overtake the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants’ two-game lead in the division and hold off the Cowboys for the NFC East title. In doing so, the Redskins became the first team since the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a season 3-6 and make the playoffs.
But the season certainly isn’t over. The Seahawks and the Redskins are perhaps two of the hottest teams in the entire NFL right now, and Seattle brings a potent offensive attack and one of the league’s best defenses into FedExField on Sunday.
Let’s see if we can keep this thing going.
But, for now — it’s time to celebrate.
CHIME IN: What are YOUR thoughts from tonight’s game? Feel free to comment below.
Tags: 2012 regular season, washington redskins
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