DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
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Morris Darts Through Aching Cowboys Defense Once Again
Running back Alfred Morris torched the Cowboys with a 200-yard extravaganza and three touchdowns Sunday, breaking the Redskins’ single-season rushing record and sealing the Cowboys’ fate when he crossed the goal line with 1:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s quite evident that everybody didn’t do their assignment,” said linebacker Ernie Sims. “It’s just sad, because of the way this team fought through adversity, through all the injuries, guys learning the system and just fighting back. It’s just real sad. At the end of the day, we just didn’t get it done.”
Defensive end Marcus Spears knew better than to focus all his attention on the Redskins’ nationally acclaimed quarterback when the running back standing behind Robert Griffin III ran for 113 yards in the first meeting between the teams.
The Redskins’ zone read continued to baffle a beleaguered Cowboys defense still featuring a horde of backups and newcomers and a battered group of veterans, including linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
“Going into the game knowing you prepared the right way to win and you did enough things in the game to win the game, it’s sort of difficult when you sort of have that destiny and you weren’t able to fulfill it,” Ware said. “You can’t really pinpoint or say what you should or shouldn’t have done when you lost the game. You’re just feeling bad about it.”
The first touchdown the Cowboys surrendered occurred on a 17-yard scamper in the second quarter by Morris, who ran for 45 yards on four carries on the drive. Morris was so successful and consistent that Griffin only needed nine completions on 18 attempts and 100 yards passing to earn the victory.
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh said he thought the Cowboys gained valuable experience this year learning how to win close games and close out tight come-from-behind wins, but for the second straight season they couldn’t finish to earn a spot in the playoffs.
“I’ve been feeling like this since I’ve been here,” Sensabaugh said. “We always have the talent, we always have the coaching. We just have to find a way to get by. Sometimes we beat ourselves. It’s various different things going on. We just have to all be accountable.”
A makeshift Dallas defense had no answer for Morris’ 6.1 yards per carry. He continued getting his opportunities throughout the night, carrying 33 times total and finding the open hole when the Cowboys couldn’t set the edge.
Griffin also contributed to the running game, adding six rushes for 63 yards and a rushing touchdown, which he recorded in the third quarter on a drive set up by Morris’ six carries for 41 yards.
Anthony Spencer brought Griffin down once, preventing the Cowboys from going two straight weeks without a sack. Despite the lack of pressure, the Redskins never beat the defense deep. The Cowboys had been burned by the play action bomb in the first meeting, but Washington never needed the big passing plays to get the offense moving.
“We were wanting to stop their play action, make them go the long, hard way,” said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. “They were doing it, and the game was still in our favor. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s not going to be. The front seven’s a little bit banged up if you haven’t noticed, but no excuses. They’re a good football team.”
Despite Washington’s rushing success, the Cowboys still held the Redskins to only 14 points through three quarters. It appeared the defense would hold Washington to a field goal after quarterback Tony Romo put the defense in a difficult spot with his third interception of the game with 3:06 remaining, but defensive end Jason Hatcher’s roughing the passer on a third down incompletion gave the Redskins a first-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 6-yard line.
Eventually, Morris wore down the defense with two of his three rushing touchdowns occurring in the fourth quarter. His last score occurred after Hatcher’s penalty, providing the dagger with a 1-yard rushing touchdown, crossing the goal line just before the football popped loose out of his hands.
“They’re the No. 1 running team in football for a reason,” Ryan said. “I thought we were in the game until the end. Questionable hit on the quarterback, whatever, they were grabbing receivers all day, too, but that’s the way it is in this league. It’s unfortunate we gave up that last touchdown.”