For most of the year, Redskins running back Alfred Morris was the other rookie, if that.
Sunday night, he put his name up with John Riggins, or at least Timmy Smith.
Morris ran 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, in the Redskins 28-18 win over the Cowboys. With their seventh straight win, the Redskins advance to the playoffs as the NFC East champion, and will host the Seahawks next Sunday.
The Cowboys’ season ends with an 8-8 record.
And it ended thanks in large part to the sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was obviously ailing (and threw for only 100 yards), so it was on Morris to carry the load offensively.
He did that, and then some, controlling the game from the inside out, even though the Cowboys knew what was coming. It’s the kind of performance that sets up an old school duel with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch next week.
But even before the playoffs start, it was the kind of game that made Morris part of a rich history of runners.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had thrown three interceptions in his previous eight games.
His three picks Sunday night will continue to define him, such that the definition changed.
It’s a shame, because he had played so well the last month, and been so good in fourth quarters.
But he may never be able to escape the fact that when it’s time for a play to be made, he ends up making it for the other team. Defensive end Jason Hatcher tried to take him off the hook with a ridiculous penalty at a ridiculous time (the first of the night for the Cowboys), but Romo will remain the focus, as he should.
2. Between the evaluation of Mike Shanahan or the budding genius of his son Kyle drawing up plays for the offense, it’s been easy to miss to work done by Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Keep in mind, this is a coach that lost his best pass-rusher in Brian Orakpo along with defensive end Adam Carriker two games into the season.
He’s built the thing around London Fletcher, who has battled injuries all year and wasn’t the fastest to begin with. But Haslett dialed up pressure, and it got home enough to keep the Cowboys off-balance.
It’s not an easy thing he’s done, but the Redskins have responded on that side of the ball. They’re not great, but they’ve been good enough, long enough.
3. That said, the Cowboys were running out of numbers and nametags on defense.
They entered the night with a one-armed DeMarcus Ware, then outside linebacker Anthony Spencer went down with an injury in the third quarter, though he’d come back.
They had put inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter on injured reserve previously, and lost nose tackle Jay Ratliff to a groin injury.
That many losses to the front seven finally became more than they could bear.
4. The converse of the Cowboys injury plagued defense is the Redskins offensive line, which has been greater than the sum of its parts all year.
Left tackle Trent Williams has first-round pedigree. But left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, center Will Montgomery, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Tyler Polumbus are the kind of guys you fill in the blanks with.
For the Redskins, they’re a foundation.
Polumbus missed one game with a concussion, otherwise the group has been intact all season. Rookie Josh LeRibeus replaced Lichtensteiger briefly in the third quarter, but they finished the game the way they’ve played the second half of the season.
5. DeAngelo Hall gave Dez Bryant the “Back up off me bro” treatment for most of the night.
The Redskins cornerback, who has traditionally been more talk than walk in his career, kept the clamps on the Cowboys star wideout most of the evening.
Bryant finished with four catches for 71 yards before leaving with an injury, but wasn’t a factor, which your best player needs to be in this type of game.