- The Washington Times - Monday, January 28, 2002

Trailing 17-13 in the fourth quarter, the Washington Redskins had a fourth-and-1 at the Miami 43-yard line. The Dolphins' Killer B's defense swarmed to the line of scrimmage, expecting a quarterback sneak or fullback plunge.
Instead, Joe Theismann handed the ball to John Riggins, who had been unstoppable throughout the postseason. The big fullback raced toward the left sideline, shook off diving cornerback Don McNeal easily and fled to the end zone.
It was Jan. 30, 1983, before 103,667 eyewitnesses at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Redskins led for the first time with 10 minutes remaining and were on the way to completing Super Bowl XVII with a 27-17 victory that thrilled the entire capital region.
Washington columnist Dave Kindred captured the moment perfectly with this superb lead: "Dreamy, so dreamy, floating in a rosy jewel of a bowl at the foot of mountains caressed by clouds and snow, the Washington Redskins today won the world championship they last held 41 years ago."
Although Theismann, the Hogs offensive line, the Fun Bunch receivers and a lot of others played significant roles, the great victory really had been set in motion in 1981, when newly appointed coach Joe Gibbs paid a visit to Riggins' home in Lawrence, Kan. The fullback had sat out the 1980 season in a contract dispute, but now Gibbs was making a pitch for him to rejoin the Redskins.
The player did not reply at first. Then, with remarkable prescience, he blurted, "If you get me back, I'll make you famous."
That summer Riggins showed up at training camp in Carlisle, Pa., with these words: "I'm bored, I'm broke and I'm back." Needing time to erase the rust, Riggins did not even lead the Redskins in rushing that season his 716 yards were nearly 200 fewer than speedy halfback Joe Washington as Gibbs' first team rallied to finish with an 8-8 record after starting the season 0-5.
Then it was 1982, and the Redskins were ready to roll. But after they won their first two games, the players went on strike. For seven weeks, America somehow survived without pro football. When play resumed on Nov. 21, the Redskins defeated first the New York Giants and then Philadelphia. A loss to archrival Dallas followed before Washington won its last four games to finish 8-1, best record in the league.
Next came playoff time and Riggins' time. Never before had a division champion been forced to play three postseason games in its conference, but the Redskins were up to the task. They defeated Detroit, Minnesota and Dallas by an aggregate 83-31 as Riggins, who had growled to Gibbs "just give me the ball," barreled for more than 100 yards in each game.
Now the Redskins were in the Super Bowl again. A decade earlier, under George Allen, they had lost VII to Don Shula's Dolphins at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It appeared that a similar fate might await this time when Miami quarterback David Woodley connected with halfback Jimmy Cefalo on a 76-yard touchdown play on the Dolphins' second possession. (Woodley, by the way, became in future years an enduring trivia question: Who was Miami's quarterback before Dan Marino?)
The Redskins tied it 10-10 late in the second quarter when Theismann marched them 80 yards, hitting Alvin Garrett for a 4-yard touchdown. But Washington's usually strong special teams broke down on the following kickoff as Fulton Walker returned it 98 yards to put the Dolphins back on top.
A third-quarter field goal by the redoubtable Mark Moseley put Washington within range to go ahead when Riggins unleashed his long touchdown run surely the most dramatic moment in the Redskins' 65-year history. ("He hit me like a train," the hapless McNeal would say.) They sealed the victory with a time-consuming drive ending in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Brown with two minutes left, but that was merely decorative.
Riggins finished with 166 yards on 38 carries and, of course, was named the game's MVP. After accepting a call from President Ronald Reagan in the locker room, he told reporters, "Ron is the president, but for tonight I'm the king."
He then added, "Aw, I was just joking," but the statement came close to being the truth.
The customarily brash Theismann described the triumph this way: "This is a dream come true, the greatest day of my life."
And Hog Jeff Bostic noted that it was highly appropriate for the Redskins to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the legendary Green Bay Packers and Redskins coach. Said Bostic: "We were able to wear them down in the second half. It was football that Lombardi would have been proud of."
Certainly Washington and environs were proud of the Redskins. Two days later, more than 500,000 fans turned out in a veritable monsoon to welcome home the new champions.
There would be other Super Bowl triumphs in years to come, but the first time is always the best.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide