LANDOVER, MD - With his team leading the Giants 17-16, with 3:51 left to play and a chance to close the game out, Alfred Morris didn't have time to sulk.
He didn't have time to put his head down and lament his third quarter red zone fumble that looked to be costly, nor did he have time to worry about making a similar mistake in such a critical situation. Instead, the Washington Redskins' other rookie standout had no other choice but to regroup.
"I picked myself up and kept on trucking," he said. "We had a game to go win."
Washington's offense leaned on their sixth round revelation at tailback to make sure Eli Manning and the New York Giants offense would not have a chance to get the ball back. So on four of the Redskins last seven plays, the sequence went as follows: Morris off right tackle for two yards, Morris up the middle for four yards, Morris off left tackle for three yards. And on third-and-three, with one more first down to ice it, Morris churned out six yards after first contact. The game, in effect, was over.
"That [was] huge," said left tackle Trent Williams. "We know we can put the ball in his hands. We know [Morris is] gonna give us some tough yards. We always knew we was gonna stay on that field and run the clock out."
Morris' in-game resilience is emblematic of his team's. The rookie bounced back after his fumble, and finished the game with 124 yards on 22 carries against a stout Giants defensive front. And with his latest performance, Morris broke the team's rookie rushing record that stood for nearly twenty years.
Many have wondered if Morris' success is simply the result of being in a good scheme and having the dual-threat of Robert Griffin III as his quarterback. But the truth is that Morris has been the yin to Griffin's yang all season long, as they've leaned on each other to make the Redskins unique attack function properly. Together, the rookie duo has terrorized opposing defenses, no matter their experience or pedigree. They did so again on a nationally televised stage Monday night as they put on display why the Redskins have the top rushing offense in the league.
"I'm not going to take any credit for Alfred's success," Griffin said of his backfield mate. "He's done a lot of great things for us..it looks like he's out there playing peewee football; he just won't go down. He plays every play like it's his last and that's what we love about him."
"I love that he's on our team," Griffin added. "If I had to vote for rookie of the year I would vote for him."
While the odds of Morris winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors are low, his inaugural season in the NFL is no less spectacular. Drafted out of little-known Florida Atlantic University, Morris was not seen as a feature NFL back, with most pundits believing he should make the transition to fullback instead.
But the Redskins saw enough in him to select him in the sixth round, hoping he'd be able to contribute to what originally looked to be a crowded backfield. But due to injuries, Morris got his chance.
"Coming from where I came from, people counted me out," Morris said. "They didn't think I as going to make the team. I made the team, I've rushed for 1,000 yards..I did a lot of things that I myself didn't think I was going to do, but I believe in myself and I have a coach that believes in me, and that makes me push that much harder."
That belief from his coaches and teammates manifested after his fumble Monday night, as the Redskins showed no hesitation to stick with the run game. How he was able to respond afterward left a big impression on the team's veteran leaders.
"It takes a lot for him to come back to redeem himself and wipe it out and move on, and play the next play," said defensive captain London Fletcher. "You can tell for a rookie, he's not playing like a rookie. [He] has a ton of maturity."
And he was determined not to repeat the same mistake twice.
"I wasn't going to let them down [again]," Morris said. "I let them down earlier in the game....so I said ‘I owe y'all one'."
He paid them back, and helped send the Redskins into their second week of meaningful December football.