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Flashback: Morris Set the Bar High



On Dec. 17, 1988, at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, Washington handed the ball to Jamie Morris.

Again. And again. And again.

The Redskins lost to the Bengals that day, 20-17 in overtime, finishing out the season 7-9 and missing the playoffs.

But that was the day Morris entered his name into the team's and to the NFL's record books.

In terms of most rushes in a single game, Morris tops them all, as well as any back who has ever played the game.

On that December day in Cinncinnati in 1988, he carried the ball 45 times. Morris's longest gain was just 12 yards and he finished with 152 overall.

Not bad for a running back who carried the ball only 252 times in his three-year NFL career.

Morris set the bar so high that the closest any Redskin has come since is 39 carries, which Earnest Byner accomplished on Dec. 15, 1990 against the Patriots.

The Redskins have featured great running backs like John Riggins, Stephen Davis, Clinton Portis, Terry Allen, Larry Brown and others.


Davis carried 38 times for the Redskins against Arizona in 2002 and 37 times versus the same team in 1999. Portis rushed 36 times in a 2007 game against the New York Jets and a 2004 game against Chicago.

Ironically, one of the occasions in which any NFL player has come to touching Morris's mark came by a Cincinnati Bengal last season, when Rudi Johnson carried the ball 43 times against the Houston Texans.

Jamie Morris may be better known as the younger brother of Joe Morris. Joe enjoyed an eight-year career in the NFL (1982-88, '91) in which he ran for 5,585 yards and 50 touchdowns, helping lead the New York Giants to their first Super Bowl title in 1986, the year they beat the Redskins three times.

The Redskins decided to prescribe to the "if you can't beat 'em, draft his brother" theory. So, in 1988, one year after the second Super Bowl title, the Redskins used their fourth-round draft pick to select Jamie Morris, who was coming off of a stellar career at the University of Michigan.

Morris enjoyed a good rookie season. He was second on the team in attempts with 126 and third in rushing yards with 437, but the team foundered to a 7-9 record.

On the morning of Dec. 17, the Redskins had a 7-8 record coming into the season finale at Cincinnati. The Bengals entered the game with an 11-4 record and were in the midst of a dream season that would take them within a heroic Joe Montana drive of winning Super Bowl XXIII.

Nine Bengals were voted to the Pro Bowl that year. The team's stars were Boomer Esiaison and rookie running back Ickey Woods.

Redskins running back Timmy Smith, Super Bowl hero 11 months earlier, had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff towards the end of the 1988 season and did not get one carry during the final four games. Kelvin Bryant, who led the team in rushing with 498 yards (the lowest team-leading total since 1974), was struggling as well.

With no hope of returning to the playoffs, the Redskins gave Morris what amounted to an audition for the starting job in 1989.

With only 81 carries and 285 yards for the season, the 5-7, 195-pound running back was ready for the challenge.

Not only did he carry the ball a record number of times, he gained 152 yards, didn't fumble, and had the Redskins on the brink of victory in a game in which not many experts gave them a chance.

The Redskins made a valiant effort in the snow-flurried Emerald City, and led 17-10 in the fourth quarter. The Bengals came back to tie the game, but kicker Chip Lohmiller missed a field goal that would have given Washington the win in regulation.

Eventually, Cincinnati kicker Jim Breech nailed a 21-yard field goal 7:01 into overtime to give the Bengals a 20-17 win and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Morris did not earn the starting job in 1989. Gerald Riggs led the team in carries that year. He carried the ball just twice in 1990 and his NFL career ended shortly thereafter.

Morris's name has remained on the top of a very noteworthy NFL list ever since. Tied for second with Cincinnati's Johnson is James Wilder of Tampa Bay (vs. Green Bay in 1984) and Butch Woolfolk of the New York Giants (versus Philadelphia in 1983).

For a player who did not have a great NFL career, on that one 1988 afternoon in Cincinnati, Jamie Morris was something special.

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