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Posted at 01:00 PM ET, 06/20/2011

Redskins Championships: 1987 Game 7 vs. Buffalo

November 1, 1987: Masterful Redskins Hand Bills 27-17 Beating: Defense Shines As Washington Moves To 6-1

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., NOV. 1 -- The Washington Redskins should keep today’s game plan, press it between the pages of a thick book and save it forever. They certainly will play better teams, but they probably won’t play much better games.


The Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills, 27-7, this afternoon in front of 71,640 at Rich Stadium. This weekend, the Bills were celebrating the arrival of linebacker and savior Cornelius Bennett and the rebirth of good football on the shores of Lake Erie. The party ended shortly after 1 p.m. In the next three hours, George Rogers, the Hogs, Kelvin Bryant, Monte Coleman, Todd Bowles, Dexter Manley, Barry Wilburn and about 35 of their closest friends absolutely ruined the Bills’ day.

By jumping to a 17-0 halftime lead, not allowing the Bills to score until the fourth quarter, rushing for 299 yards and intercepting Bills quarterback Jim Kelly three times, the Redskins moved to 6-1, two games better than any other team in the NFC East. The Bills dropped to 3-4, one game off the pace in the AFC East.

“That was the best we’ve played in a long time,” said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. “It was just our day. We played great.”

He was ecstatic, and why not? Instead of a midseason slump, his Redskins were surging. There were about a dozen reasons why the Redskins won so easily. Their offensive line played as Gibbs had hoped when he revamped it in July, manhandling a solid defensive front. Rogers rushed for 125 yards on 30 carries in his first start since Sept. 13. Bryant’s twists and turns made the Bills dizzy. His two touchdowns simply demolished them.

Quarterback Jay Schroeder had to throw only 18 times, put a soft touch on his short passes and had a costly fumble wiped out when he was ruled in the grasp of strong safety Dwight Drane late in the first half. The game plan Schroeder ran was meticulous, calling for a dash of misdirection, an ounce of fancy passing and loads of Riggins-like running.

Manley played better than he has played in nearly a year, being credited with two sacks after Will Wolford, the Bills’ starting left tackle, injured his ankle. Coleman and his linebacking cohorts, Rich Milot and Mel Kaufman, are playing as well as they have played in a couple years. Bowles gave a demonstration of how to play free safety with a roaming, third-quarter interception in Washington territory. Wilburn and Darrell Green were the cornerbacks Kelly was expected to embarrass all afternoon. He didn’t. The Redskins’ special teams keep getting nagging penalties and rushers are getting awfully close to their kickers, but Steve Cox still averaged 44.4 yards punting and Ali Haji-Sheikh made both of his field-goal attempts.

Considering all this, plus a couple of controversial calls that went Washington’s way, it’s easy to see why Schroeder sat at his locker and said, “We finally put everything together. When we play well, we have quite an arsenal of weapons.”

On Saturday night, Gibbs told his players now was the time for them to play up to their abilities.

”Gibbs emphasized at a meeting last night that we had so much potential we hadn’t used,” said tackle Mark May. “We wanted to prove that we were the real Redskins.”

An idea from the coaches helped. Four times, the Redskins ran plays against the flow of the Bills’ defense. Each led to -- or was -- a Redskins score. The first time was the initial play of the game, a 16-yard reverse by wide receiver Art Monk. In the second quarter, Monk gained 26 yards on another reverse. A couple minutes later, Schroeder faked to Rogers and ran a naked bootleg for a 13-yard touchdown. And, in the third quarter, Monk ran one more reverse for 12 yards.

Gibbs said the Redskins ran the misdirection plays “to slow down” the Buffalo defense. “Their defense is very good and very quick. We wanted to slow them down a little bit on their pursuit.”

Aside from the fancy stuff, the Redskins relied on an old-style, grind-it-out attack. The Redskins rode Rogers piggy-back to their first points, Haji-Sheikh’s 30-yard field goal. He carried five times for 36 yards in the first drive, showing no signs that his sprained left big toe was bothering him.

The Redskins didn’t score again until two plays into the second quarter, when Schroeder threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bryant. Apparently, NFL coaches still have not realized they should not cover Bryant with a linebacker. Bills linebacker Darryl Talley was responsible for Bryant on the scoring play, which has the rugged name of “Scram Dodge.”

The Redskins received their first break from the officials later in the second quarter when Buffalo’s Fred Smerlas was called for roughing Haji-Sheikh on a missed 44-yard field goal. Given new life, Schroeder bootlegged for his touchdown with 7:06 left in the half, and the score was 17-0.

The Bills could have crawled back into the game minutes later, but the officials apparently muffed a call. On third down at the Buffalo 32, Schroeder was hit by Drane near midfield and fumbled. Defensive end Sean McNanie recovered and ran the ball into the end zone, but the officials whistled the play dead, ruling that Schroeder was in Drane’s grasp. Referee Jerry Markbreit said, “The moment the defender hit the quarterback and started to drive him back I was blowing my whistle. And that’s in the grasp.”

The instant replay of the fumble was inconclusive, official Nick Skorich said, and the play stood. Schroeder said it all happened so fast he never knew what hit him. Bills Coach Marv Levy said, understandably, “My feelings are that the instant replay is a complete failure.”

Kelly, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 292 yards, threw his third interception three plays into the second half. The Redskins answered with their third touchdown, a safety-valve toss from Schroeder to Bryant that went for seven yards when Bryant eluded two tacklers to get to the end zone.

Haji-Sheikh made his second field goal, this one from 33 yards, with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter for a 27-0 lead.

After a Bryant fumble, the Bills scored their only touchdown on a 17-yard reception by Andre Reed on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Bills ran a hurry-up, shotgun offense the rest of the game, but it didn’t matter. By then, the game was over.

”It felt good to get back today,” said center Russ Grimm. “Consistency came back to the Redskins today. We took four weeks off {because of the strike}, and it took us a week to get back to being ourselves.”

It was hard for the Redskins not to be satisfied, even though the season is not yet halfway over.

”We kept Kelly off the field,” said assistant head coach/offense Joe Bugel. “We played the way we should play. It was one of our better efforts.”

Redskins Notes:

On the injury front, Grimm sprained his right knee, middle linebacker Milot sprained his left ankle and wide receiver Gary Clark suffered an inflamed right hamstring.

By Christine Brennan  |  01:00 PM ET, 06/20/2011

 
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