However, there’s a difference. In his whole Hall of Fame career, John Riggins never rushed for as much yardage in any game as Morris did on Sunday night in Washington’s 28-18 NFC East-clinching victory over the Dallas Cowboys — 200 brutally rugged yards on 33 carries, with three scores.
Perhaps no running back could offer a more stunning contrast in personality to the flamboyant Riggins and Clinton Portis than the modest Morris, who is a kindred spirit to humble, tumbling, clawing Larry Brown, the supposedly undersize runner who led the Redskins to a Super Bowl 40 years ago.
“I’ll never be a star. I’ll always just be Alfred,” said the 5-foot-9, 218-pound Morris, an anonymous sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic. “When I came in, nobody knew who I was. I wouldn’t ever change. I couldn’t change even if I tried.”
On a night when the victor’s reward was a home game next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks to start the playoffs and the loser’s booby prize was Season Over, Suckers, Morris had a night of power running, balanced determination, cut-back brilliance and sheer rugged spinning, scrambling endurance that will stand with the best of Riggins, Portis, Brown or any other running back in the Redskins’ canon.
Asked if, even in his two Super Bowl-winning years in Denver, he had ever experienced anything like the Redskins’ rebirth from 3-6 to finish 10-6, Coach Mike Shanahan said, “Never even close to that, to be honest. . . .
“The guy who separated himself from the rest of the pack [tonight], that was Alfred.”
Oh, that it was. In a winner-take-all, division-title-or-go-home game for both teams, this was not a game for quarterbacks with glamour names and reps.
The Redskins’ superb rookie, Robert Griffin III, played for the second straight game with a knee brace for his strained right lateral collateral ligament and clearly did not have his normal speed. He completed 9 of 18 passes for just 100 yards, but had the grit to run designed plays six times for 63 vital rushing yards. With no turnovers, he played a key role — but a complementary, not a starring one.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played down to his playoff reputation (a 1-3 record) with three interceptions, two in the first quarter and the third with three minutes to play and the Redskins only ahead 21-18. His 55.9 quarterback rating will follow the 8-8 Cowboys back to Dallas as they end their third straight season without a playoff visit.
After that final interception by Rob Jackson at the Dallas 25-yard line, the Cowboys knew what was coming: Morris. Six times he ran the ball up the Dallas gut, with one incomplete RGIII pass in the middle. His final hammer blow reached the end zone.