January 16, 1983: It Takes Guts and Bostic to Make Riggins Run
Yesterday, RFK Stadium bent a whole lot more than the Redskins did. What passes for a foot on that enormous white elephant--lower stands that would move to and fro to the baseball configuration if the sport were not extinct here--quivered under fans living a fantasy: another week, another routine playoff rout.
This is getting to be eerily commonplace. The Redskins’ last three games, all here, all against playoff teams, the last two playoff tests, and the combined score is 80-14.
The only damper would be Dallas blowing today’s game to the Green Bay Packers and spoiling an RFK Stadium showdown next Saturday at 12:30 for the National Conference title.
Now that the offense has joined the fun, the Redskins cannot get very much better without football ceasing to be fair. Yes, the Hogs are dancing with who brung ‘em to the playoffs: the defense and special teams. So good were they at rooting out a very good Viking defensive line that Washington had an astonishing 24 more running plays than the Vikings.
That is the telling number in a game both closer and more lopsided than the 21-7 score suggests. If Sammy White had brought his hands along, if he had not dropped a pass in the end zone, along with three others, Minnesota might have made matters dramatic. But a team that controls the ball nearly 10 more minutes usually wins by more than two touchdowns.
It was rather simple, really.
”When you get down to it,” Hog right tackle George Starke said, “we only ran a few plays. When you have just one back, everybody knows he’s either going to run right or left. But we did that well.”
So the anatomy of a butt-kickin’ begins with two plays and two players. The plays indicate direction and determination: 50-Gut means John Riggins runs left; 40-Gut means he goes right. If center Jeff Bostic controls the beast beating on his nose, Washington doesn’t lose very often.
Bostic was good as Riggins yesterday. Possibly better, for Charlie Johnson is a nose tackle still close to his all-pro ability when he was with the Eagles. He is supposed to do to a one-wish offense what a wishbone does to the kitchen disposal: clog it.
Riggins is best up the middle; Johnson is paid handsomely to force him outside. Bostic made Johnson so much swill, and Riggins had holes the width of Route 66 at times.
”Love to play next to Bostic,” right guard Fred Dean said, “cause you don’t get to play with a guy that good that often.”
Let’s take a closer look at 50-Gut. Riggins gets the ball and moves a step or so to his left. Bostic is going one-on-one with Johnson and left guard Russ Grimm and left tackle Joe Jacoby are charging after the end and linebacker. Depending on how that goes, Riggins either continues outside or cuts back.
Riggins was doing some advanced reading. When he slipped back inside, there often was room because the other Hogs, Fred Dean and Starke, had clobbered what in footballspeak is called defensive “backside support.”
Riggins carried the ball more than twice as much as all the Vikings together, 37 times in all, for 185 yards. If they were counting, the Hogs had about 485 bruises helping him along. Dean’s left eye still was purple-black from a practice injury; Grimm didn’t seem to want to wash the caked blood off his nose until Tuesday.
”Hey, this isn’t an easy game,” he kept reminding everyone.
It surely seemed so yesterday.
”If you just stand in front of your guy,” Bostic said, “he can’t arm-tackle Riggins. Sometimes, Charlie would slant across my face. When he did that, Riggins had an even bigger hole. They used every type of defense, every type of slant, every type of stunt.
”Good teams don’t live and die by the stunt; they line up and whip you.”
Neither do Bud Grant teams usually give out pregame fodder a Hog can gobble up and digest for extra energy.
”They said the early part of the week that they were gonna butcher the Hogs,” Bostic said. He smiled and added: “You don’t butcher a hog (or Hog) ‘till he’s dead. We’re not dead.”
Bostic was scanning his scars: the large red splotch on his right leg, the bloody knuckles on his left hand, the cleat-mark that meandered about 10 inches on the inside of his left arm that came about when Dean stepped on him fairly early.
”Workman’s compensation,” he joked, “at $18,000.”
Although that was playoff-money talk, Bostic meant more.
”Tryin’ for a Super Bowl ring,” he continued. “You can lose all the money you ever make; they can’t take that ring away from you.”
Grimm is a rarity, good enough to be both a Hog and a FOOL. At Pitt, he and Mark May were members of the Fraternal Order of Offensive Linemen. Both are hoping Hogs are close to forever, that this line is young enough to dent defenses for years.
”Joe Bugel (the offensive line coach) is very thorough,” Bostic said. “He puts you in every position (during practice) you’re gonna be in a game. We knew where we had to be this week; it was a matter of us beatin’ them to the spots.”
”Like clockwork,” he said.
Part of being a Hog is not kicking a foe already snouted into the ground this week. Or arousing the one next week. On the other side of the Redskins line, however, is a breed of football animal who likes to howl long before he bites.
”Over here,” Dexter Manley motioned. “Tell Dallas to come into town, and that I said it. I’m not gonna be like those other (polite) players. I want ‘em (the Cowboys). Tell ‘em that our weakness is me. Tell ‘em to run right at Dexter Manley.”
Tell ‘em to run over some Packers first.