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January 4, 2013 12:10 am

THAT'S "Hail to the Redskins!" for the uninitiated, and a hearty hail it is, too, for the team is headed to the postseason for the first time in five years, armed with its first NFC East championship since 1999. And all it took was two rookies to lead them.

Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and rookie running back Alfred Morris provided just the spark the team needed, after an all-too-Washington 3-6 start, to emerge from the bye week strong. The 'Skins haven't lost a game since Nov. 4, and they finished the regular season with a sweet 28-18 victory last Sunday over perennial rival Dallas. In that game, the down-to-earth Mr. Morris (who last year played for a college team that went 1-11) ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Mr. Griffin, hobbled by a sore knee, showed little of his earlier flash but still performed well, throwing for 100 yards and rushing for 63, including a score. Most important, he threw no interceptions.

The same could not be said for Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo. Faced with a series of lightning strikes by the 'Skins' defenders, Mr. Romo launched three picks, and the disappointed Cowboys went home early for the third time in five years.

Last Sunday night's game won NBC's highest rating for a prime-time, regular-season NFL game. According to the Nielsen ratings, seven of 10 TV sets in use on Sunday night were tuned to the Redskins-Dallas game. Fans are responding to Washington's success, not just with TV watching and outbursts of song, but with credit cards: The Redskins are now the top gear-sellers in the NFL, with sales up 267 percent in 2012 over last year's tally.

A lot of those jerseys being bought have "GRIFFIN III" plastered across the back. One man does not make a team--the contributions this year of kicker Kai Forbath, linebacker London Fletcher, and stand-in quarterback Kirk Cousins come easily to mind. But the young Mr. Griffin has played a starring role in the team's comeback season by bringing more than athletic prowess to the franchise: According to veteran tight end Chris Cooley, "His presence and his character changed the aura of this team and the way we believe and the way we play." Both smart and talented, Mr. Griffin is a leader on and off the field, a quality no wobbly knee can stifle.

The 'Skins face the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. The Seahawks kicked the local team out of contention in both 2005 and 2007, so revenge is due. Both of those games were in Seattle; with this year's game at FedEx, the 'Skins have the home-field advantage. We wouldn't be at all surprised if a couple of people watched that game, too.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.