SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Running back Alfred Morris put together his best game of a disappointing season Sunday, rushing 21 times for 125 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I stopped trying to think too much,” Morris said. “I said this weeks ago: I was thinking too much. I’ve been playing this game since I was 5. I know how to be a runner. I just stopped thinking and stopped trying to make things happen that weren’t there.”
Morris rattled off runs of 30, 22 and 16 yards on the afternoon, eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and the 11th time in his career. He had not run more than 100 yards since Week 10 of last season, when he finished with 139 yards on 26 carries in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The third-year running back was effective both inside and outside the tackles, showing a knack for identifying and utilizing cutback lanes that he has lacked for most of this season.
“Alfred has been running really hard the last few weeks,” coach Jay Gruden said. “I really want to commend Alfred, the way he’s running and his ball security has been excellent. It helps our play action and our boot calls.”
Washington’s running game struggled early in the season before taking noticeable strides in its previous two games, after the return of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Morris ran for 92 yards in a loss to the Vikings on Nov. 2 and 96 yards last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
SEE ALSO: Robert Griffin III can’t make decisive plays as Redskins fall at San Francisco
On Sunday, he broke through the 100-yard barrier, an achievement he downplayed after the game.
“I could care less about stats, honestly,” Morris said. “The only thing I care about is winning. That’s the type of league that we’re in: if you’re not winning, it really doesn’t matter what you’re doing.”
With Williams out, Moses makes first start at tackle
Left tackle Trent Williams did not play Sunday because of a sprained MCL in his right knee and a sprained right ankle, leaving rookie Morgan Moses to fill in for Williams and make his first NFL start.
Williams sprained the MCL in his right knee and also sprained his right ankle in the first quarter of the Redskins’ loss to Tampa Bay last week. Unable to practice at any point during the week, Williams showed a noticeable limp and was listed as questionable on the Redskins’ injury report.
Moses replaced Williams for all but seven snaps against Tampa Bay. Taken in the third round out of Virginia in the NFL Draft in May, it was the most extensive action Moses has seen on offense all season.
SEE ALSO: David Amerson misses Redskins’ game at San Francisco
For most of the game, Moses was lined up against Pro Bowl defensive end Aldon Smith, who finished with two of San Francisco’s five sacks.
“Being able to get your first start away from home definitely is a learning experience, especially when you’re going against great players that have played this game for a long time,” Moses said. “I’ve just got to go into the offense, look at the tape, evaluate yourself and be honest with yourself and just go back at it and work on the techniques.”
Jackson makes Redskins debut as punt returner
DeSean Jackson’s punt-returning prowess was well-documented before he arrived in Washington, but the Redskins had never used him as a returner — until Sunday.
Jackson said the coaching staff approached him during the week about the possibility of returning punts, and he was happy to oblige. He replaced Andre Roberts in the third quarter and fielded three punts, twice waving for a fair catch and returning the third for no gain.
“Whenever I’m asked to do whatever it is, that’s what I’m going to do,” Jackson said. “It was good to get back there. I haven’t been back there for a while. So it was kind of good to get those opportunities again.”
Jackson also finished with two catches and 39 yards in the game.
Special teams captain Hayward leaves with injury to right leg
Inside linebacker and special teams captain Adam Hayward sustained a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg in the third quarter when he landed awkwardly while trying to down a punt. He believes he will miss the final five games of the season.
“It sucks,” he said. “I feel like I’m letting everybody down. That’s the worst part.”
The break occurred at very top of the tibia, just below where the bone meets the knee. Hayward was attempting to down a punt at the end of the 49ers’ first drive of the quarter when he leapt for the ball, grabbed it and landed awkwardly.
Hayward said he will undergo additional examinations on Monday to see if there’s any damage to the ligaments in the knee.
Gruden, Redskins finally win replay challenge
The Redskins won an instant replay challenge for the first time this season.
Gruden challenged a spot that gave San Francisco a first down with 5:28 to play in the fourth quarter. Replay showed that Vernon Davis had actually come up a half yard short on the play and the call was reversed, making it fourth down. But the 49ers went for it and Frank Gore converted on their way to what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Gruden had lost his first six challenges as Redskins coach.
Running back Silas Redd exited the game with a rib contusion and did not return. … With a sack late in the second quarter, Ryan Kerrigan matched his career-high with 8.5 sacks in a single season. … The Redskins had previously ruled out nose tackle Chris Baker and tight end Jordan Reed because of injury. Wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson and quarterback Kirk Cousins were also inactive; Hankerson made his first appearance last week after spending the first nine games on the physically-unable-to-perform list. … Tight end Niles Paul, linebacker Keenan Robinson and fullback Darrel Young were named team captains for Sunday’s game alongside usual captains Hayward and Ryan Clark. … Tress Way matched career-highs with eight punts and three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.