Redskins Clinch NFC East
Elton Hayes | 1/2/2013, 7:56 a.m.
The lone storyline in the nation's capital larger than the impending fiscal cliff is the Washington Redskins' ascension to the top of the NFC East standings and the emergence of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Redskins carried a six-game win streak into Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys with stakes in one of the NFL's biggest rivalries higher than they have been in decades. The last time the two teams met in the final week of the season with playoff implications was 1979, and Dallas walked away with a one-point victory.
Luckily, for Redskins fans, history did not repeat itself. And distraction from the fiscal cliff is still here.
Washington defeated Dallas 28-18 on Sunday, Dec. 30 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to win its first division title in 13 years. After years of disappointment, Redskins fans throughout the city let out a collective sigh of relief.
"We've waited a long time for this," Suitland, Md. resident and longtime Redskins fan Tony Allen said following Sunday's game. "And to beat Dallas, makes it even sweeter. This just couldn't get any better," said the 52 year old.
While Griffin III is synonymous with the Redskins to most NFL fans, fellow rookie Alfred Morris stole the show Sunday in Landover. The Redskins' sixth-round pick rushed into the record books and helped clinch the victory.
With Griffin III still ailing from a right knee sprain suffered in December, Redskins' offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan relied on a run-heavy offensive game plan for most of the evening. Morris heeded the call.
The running back finished with 200 yards on 33 carries and ran for three touchdowns. Morris's 1,613 rushing yards on the season are a franchise best, eclipsing former running back Clinton Portis's previous record of 1, 516, set in 2005.
"They found a diamond in the rough," said District resident Joshua Riggs, 31, of Morris. "[Head coach Mike] Shanahan knows what he's doing. Without Morris this season, there would be no playoffs. He's as important to this team as RGIII."
Portis's record was just one of several shattered Sunday night. Griffin III's quarterback passer rating on the season of 102.4 bested current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 98.1, which Roethlisberger set in 2004. Griffin III's 1.3 percentage of passes intercepted also tops current Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch's 1.98, set in 1998.
"He's definitely much more mature than most people who are his age," said Allen of Griffin III. "Athletes like him don't come around often. He has the perfect balance of athleticism and football knowledge. He's going to be unstoppable in a few years when he has more experience."
Griffin III finished the game with 100 yards passing and 63 rushing with one touchdown. More importantly, Griffin III had no turnovers. The same could not be said for his counterpart. Down three points and in position to engineer the game-winning and critic-ceasing touchdown drive, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw an interception into the waiting arms of Washington linebacker Rob Jackson in the final quarter. The interception cemented the loss and Romo's reputation as being unable to win the big game.
"He chokes," Riggs said of Dallas' quarterback. "Dallas fans will continue to make excuses for him, and they'll continue to be let down. Our injured, rookie quarterback outplayed him and didn't throw away the game like [Romo] did."
The Redskins, winners of seven straight, will host Seattle on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 4:30 E.T. in the first round of the playoffs in a game sure to garner no shortage of national attention. Seattle quarterback, Russell Wilson, also a rookie, is considered one of the league's best quarterbacks and is second in the NFL, behind Griffin III, with a quarterback rating of 100.0.
"This is the most excited I've been in a long time with the Redskins," Allen said. "No matter what happens next week, this has been a great season and this team is going to be good for a long time."