Jan 1, 2013, 1:31 PM EDT
Washington Crowned NFC East Champions
WHEN ONE WINDOW CLOSES, ANOTHER ONE OPENS
As I watched the Redskins defeat Dallas (28-18) to claim the division title Sunday Night at FedEx Field, I couldn’t help but consider that the current crop of Cowboys may be seeing their window of opportunity for a Super Bowl closing.
Meanwhile, the Redskins’ window may just be starting to open.
While there is plenty of youth on the Cowboys roster (Tony Romo is only 32, Dez Bryant 24, DeMarco Murray 24, Tyron Smith 22), there are some aging vets who limped out of Sunday’s game.
LB DeMarcus Ware, while only 30, was limited by shoulder and elbow injuries. DT Jay Ratliff, 31, was unavailable most of the season because of a variety of ailments. TE Jason Witten — a lock for the Hall of Fame — will be heading into his eleventh year next season.
The Redskins, on the other hand, appear to have sprung into a new era.
And Robert Griffin, III, isn’t the only youngster transforming things in Washington. Rookie RB Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the season finale as he became the franchise’s all-time single-season rushing leader (1,613 yards).
Griffin and Morris are just two of the reasons the Redskins’ future looks promising.
Griffin’s back-up, Kirk Cousins, is also a rookie. He started the Cleveland game after Griffin suffered a knee injury and threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 38-21 victory.
WR Pierre Garcon is only 26, and when he’s healthy the Redskins thrive.
On defense there is rising star Ryan Kerrigan in just his second season out of Purdue. The LB finished the regular season with 54 tackles, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, eight pass deflections and a pick-six.
True, the Redskins have a couple of grizzled veterans. London Fletcher is in his 15th season. Santana Moss is finishing up his 12th. DeAngelo Hall is 29.
But these veterans seem to have been invigorated by the youth movement in Washington. And they can hope that, after some lean years in D.C., they now have a chance to achieve something special before their careers end.
DEMARCO MURRAY SAW IT COMING
DeMarco Murray was ready. We sat together in the visiting team’s hotel Saturday night as the Dallas running back told me what he knew what to expect from the Redskins defense Sunday.
“A very good defense,” he stated simply. “It’s gonna be a tough game.”
The second-year back missed the earlier meeting with Washington, but he faced them twice in 2011 and called those contests, “Probably the hardest I ever played in my life.”
In the second meeting of 2011, Murray averaged 2.9 yards-per-carry on 25 totes — his lowest per-carry average of the season.
“Their D-line is good,” Murray continued. “London Fletcher is a tackling machine.”
(Fletcher had eleven tackles and two sacks Sunday.)
Murray noted the similarities between Jim Haslett’s defense and the one Rob Ryan runs in Dallas and said the familiarity would help him Sunday Night.
“I’m very familiar with it, but I know it’s a hard defense.
Murray finished Sunday night’s game with 76 yards on 17 carries for a 4.5 average.
** FOOT NOTE
Murray came back from his sprained left foot injury five weeks ago. That night against Philadelphia he wore an orthotic and three plates in his left shoe for support.
He told me he planned to wear the orthotic and just one plate on Sunday in Landover after successfully practicing that way Friday. But Murray told me he continues to have a difficult time starting his runs and cutting off of his left foot.
DeANGELO DENIES DEZ
In the Thanksgiving Day match-up between these teams, Dez Bryant hauled in eight passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Things were different in Sunday night’s rematch.
With DeAngelo Hall covering him one-on-one all night, Bryant caught just four of the eight balls thrown his way for 71 yards and no scores.
Hall told me he was looking forward to the challenge of covering Bryant, for whom he voted for the Pro Bowl.
“I’m going to be physical with him,” Hall told me after practice Friday. “Guys have let him run. We’re not going to do that. I’m going to be in his face with my hands on him.”
The Chesapeake native said he told his coaches, “If we win, it’s gonna be because of me. If we lose, it’s gonna be because of me.”
One could argue he was right.
Oh, and the outspoken 29-year old told me, “If I don’t get a couple of personal fouls (Sunday night) I’m not playing him right.”
There were no personal fouls, but Bryant did exit the game with a back injury. Tough way for the young wideout to end a season in which he finished with 1,382 receiving yards, the 4th-highest total in Cowboys history.
LEADING THE LEAGUE IN COMPASSION
It’s hard not to be impressed by Griffin when you meet him. He is poised. He is mature. He is intelligent. He exudes leadership.
If not for his current pursuits, you could picture RG3 as a captain of industry, a Senator, or a lawyer (which is something he’s considering in the future.)
Still, this elegant, composed young man has a soft spot.
When I asked the rookie which part of his NFL experience was most unexpected, he said, “The biggest shocker was guys getting cut.”
Not the speed of the game. Not the complexity of the playbook. Not the media glare.
The unpleasant fact that not everyone will make it in the league was the most jarring part of Griffin’s rookie season.
The 22-year-old said, “The first 90 guys (in training camp) are like family. Then, all of a sudden, there’s a cut-down. And after that it’s down to 53. A lot of the guys don’t even get back into the league. Their dreams are over.
“And I care,” he continued. “So it hurt me, even though they’re only my friends for 2-3 months.”
“I’m told I’m going to get used to it,” he added. “But I hope I never do.”
Sunday Night Football TwitterView all »
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Titans mum on whether they knew about Fokou's DUI charge http://t.co/AHtxzi2mPP
Freeney's base deal surpasses Umenyiora's base deal by $250,000, with more in year one and bigger incentives package http://t.co/1zCQMhYQWX
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Despite 3-4 in San Diego, Freeney was attracted to QB who can build a lead, forcing opponents to throw http://t.co/dGXEUZM50O
Source: Contract isn't signed yet, but there's an agreement in place between the Chargers and Dwight Freeney.
Saturday morning one-liners, including Jaguars legend Tony Boselli's views on Tim Tebow http://t.co/ziXw4BZubc
Freeney, Chargers deal "should be done today" http://t.co/7MOObYtN5J
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Report: Titans LB Moise Fokou faces DUI charge http://t.co/Vspjs4bwf4
Bruce Irvin apologizes again, indicates he knows suspension could affect how he's perceived http://t.co/5dY5iF64Wz
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Sunday Night Football Headlines
- Six Seahawks have tested positive for PEDs since 2011
- Tulloch gets motivation from reaction to his spot on Top 100 list
- Panthers’ offense not necessarily Shula’s offense
- Roof of new Vikings stadium is self-cleaning
- Tebow returns to Jacksonville, but not that way
- Pre-draft Gronkowski concerns could be coming to fruition
- League regards Haslam losing ownership of Browns “unlikely,” for now
- Nominate your favorite Pats for their Mt. Rushmore
- Vick bristles at critics, says he’s learned how to secure the ball
- Kyle Love passes physical in Jacksonville
- Pro Bowl
- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
- Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
- San Fransisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
- San Fransisco 49ers at New England Patriots
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
- Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
- New England Patriots at New York Jets
- Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons
- New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
- Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
- San Diego Chargers as New Orleans Saints
- New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
- New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
- Detroit Lions at San Fransisco 49ers
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
- Super Bowl