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Run Defense Excels By Getting Physical


It's often said that the best NFL teams have defenses that are dominant in stopping the run.

The last two weeks, the Redskins' defense certainly fits that category.


On Dec. 23 in Minnesota, the defense limited rookie sensation and Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson to 27 rushing yards.

On Sunday against Dallas at FedExField, in the Redskins' 27-6, playoff-clinching win over the Cowboys, the defense topped that performance.

The Redskins allowed a total of just one rushing yard to the Cowboys.

It was the lowest allowed by a Redskins team since 1989, when they yielded one rushing yard in a game against Tampa Bay.

At different times during Sunday's game, running backs Marion Barber and Julius Jones exhibited frustration as they were swarmed by defenders.

Barber, another Pro Bowler, was held to -6 rushing yards on six attempts. Jones had seven rushing yards on eight carries.

This was no anemic offense, either. The Cowboys entered the game with the league's second-ranked offense and 12th-ranked rushing offense.

Cornelius Griffin said the Redskins' defensive goal was to play physical in run defense.

"We knew we had to control the line of scrimmage," he said. "We knew we had to swarm to the ball. They have a big, physical offensive line and physical running backs, but we wanted to take the contact to them and make them remember us."

By stopping the run so well, the Redskins' have turned the Vikings and Cowboys into one-dimensional offenses. They dared Tarvaris Jackson and Romo to beat them downfield, but the secondary also stepped up strong.

Said LaRon Landry: "We just went out there and executed. We had a great week of preparation and we out-worked them."

Stopping the run was a complete team effort. The Redskins did not let up all four quarters.

Andre Carter set the tone in the first quarter, as Dallas rushed in his direction twice. Jones was stopped for a 1-yard gain on the Cowboys' first rushing attempt. Later, Carter blitzed into the backfield and tackled Barber for a 5-yard loss.

Reed Doughty, playing closer to the line of scrimmage, tackles Barber for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter. Doughty finished with five tackles, second-most on the team.

In the third quarter, it was Phillip Daniels's turn. He tackled Barber for a 4-yard loss.

London Fletcher leveled Jones for a 4-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Fletcher, who led the Redskins in tackles this season, finished with three tackles.

Overall, the Redskins' defense yielded just 147 yards. Tony Romo struggled, completing just 7-of-16 passes for 86 yards in a half of action. He gave way to Brad Johnson, who was 7-of-11 for 79 yards.

The remarkable performance pushed the Redskins' run defense from eighth in the NFL to fourth at the close of the regular season.

Up next? The Redskins head to Seattle to take on a Seahawks club that finished with the NFL's 20th-ranked rush offense.

Running back Shaun Alexander finished with 716 rushing yards on 207 carries, a 3.5-yard average, and four touchdowns.

Maurice Morris, Alexander's backup, started to emerge this season, rushing for 628 yards on 140 carries, a 4.5-yard average, and four touchdowns.

In the Redskins' 2005 playoff game against Seattle, the defense yielded 119 rushing yards on 33 carries.

Griffin and LaVar Arrington combined on a punishing tackle on Alexander, knocking him from the game in the first quarter. Morris took over and had 18 carries for 49 yards.

Thirty-two of the yards came on a surprise run by fullback Mack Strong in the second half.

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