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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 06/27/2011

Redskins Championships: 1987 Playoffs vs. Chicago

January 11, 1988: One for the Money…

CHICAGO -- The sweetest play for the Redskins had no name until Russ Grimm had a chance to think about it.


”We’ll call it,” he said, “ ‘$18,000, one knee on go, baby.’ “

Getting there, to quarterback Doug Williams kneeling with the ball in victory, to the chance at $18,000-a-man stakes next week -- and at home -- was another uphill run on level turf.

”Better than last year,” said offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, “because {the Bears} don’t have any excuses this time.”

Wellll, there is an obvious alibi.

And Dexter Manley pounced on it with fumble-recovery delight.

”Last year they said Doug Flutie was too short,” he said. “This year they’ll say Jim McMahon was too tall.”

Two plays bestride all others for the Redskins -- and they came a couple of hours before the sort of late drama that caused palms inside mittens to dampen.

For the Redskins to make the plays that overcame an 0-14 predicament, they had to get one that gave them a chance. Ricky Sanders did exactly that, with a 32-yard catch on third down midway through the second quarter.

Sanders lost his defender on a fake to the outside, then caught the ball over the middle and saved his head within an instant of each other.

Yes, Sanders did see that Bear with evil intentions flying at him.

”Saw him out of the corner of my eye,” Sanders said. “I thought he’d go for the ball {to force an incompletion or a fumble}. He went for my head. Hit me, but didn’t faze me that much.

”If he’d gone for the ball, he could have gotten it. But they wanted to knock us around, get us scared for later on. But we {the receivers} already decided that if they hurt us we’d still go out there and play.”

Had Dave Duerson smacked the ball loose, or if Sanders had muffed it, that two-touchdown hole might well have grown too deep for the Redskins to crawl out of. Instead, George Rogers soon scored, from three yards.

The Redskins defense was more confident than Redskins fans about holding the Bears, because the players had noticed something hopeful: McMahon holding his shoulder after throwing a touchdown pass about three minutes earlier.

”I knew I hit him a good shot {as McMahon was completing his follow-through},” said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz. “I knew his head snapped back and hit the ground pretty hard. Charles Mann also noticed him holding his shoulder as he went off the field.”

From that point, the Bears became less and less effective. Pitching toward a sign in the Soldier Field end zone that forecast another “McMiracle,” the Bears quarterback was McGenerous to the visitors.

The Redskins choked a final surge -- and were quietly smug about causing the Bears to choke on their pregame diet of haughtiness.

Through closed clubhouse doors could be heard: “Don’t anyone forget we’re too old.” That was a reference to the Bears’ offensive coordinator saying Washington’s defense was aging.

”Not too smart,” Olkewicz said. “They try and make you believe they’re the biggest and baddest guys on the block. Intimidate you. That also can backfire. I think that’s what it did this time.”

There was a time even Rogers noticed that sub Timmy Smith was the better power runner for the Redskins. According to Smith, Rogers went to running backs coach Don Breaux and said to use Smith.

”He {Rogers} said I was seeing things he wasn’t seeing,” Smith recalled.

Such as?

”Open holes.”

For the Redskins, Williams was as poised and accurate at critical times as McMahon was erratic. He also was given lots better protection, after some adjustments.

”Early on,” Sanders said, “we’d have a blown block. Or a receiver wouldn’t hear an audible. We eventually got things straightened out.”

In truth, the scoreboard clicked in the Redskins’ favor shortly after Darrell Green hurdled a Chicago tackler on his way to a 52-yard punt runback for a touchdown.

Green was holding his side the final 25 or so yards to the end zone, but not in laughter because no Bear had a chance to catch him. That leap over Cap Boso had pulled some rib cartilage.

”I could easily enough have let him push me out of bounds,” Green said. “Normally, that’s what you’d do. But I just wanted to keep going.”

Does he like returning kicks?

”Only if I don’t get tackled.”

For the most part, both teams were pleasantly aggressive. The Bears went deep early, which may have helped make those early runs by Walter Payton so effective.

The Redskins’ Joe Gibbs went for the jugular on a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter. It seemed a terrific idea at the time, to try to increase a four-point lead to 11.

Almost as soon as holder Jay Schroeder snatched the ball out of Ali Haji-Sheikh’s way, though, Gibbs and every other Redskin gulped in dismay.

”I tried to turn upfield too soon, and slipped,” Schroeder said.

”Yes, it was a run all the way {on fourth and nine from the Chicago 17}.”

Something else unplanned, Brian Davis subbing for injured Green, had better results. Davis did surrender a long catch to Willie Gault, but defensed him tough and also grabbed an interception.

”I didn’t have time to feel any pressure,” rookie Davis said. “It would have been much different if I’d had the entire week to think about it.”

Whether or not he had all week to think about it, a fan at game’s end held a sign appropriate for Bears fans’ emotions: “I’ve had more fun at a Scab Game.”

The Redskins haven’t had so much fun since they danced off Soldier Field a year ago and into the National Conference title game.

Green was joyous as he unwound yards of tape that held in place a pad over his stomach; Mark May was puffing a cigar close to room wide; Manley was huffing: “They are an arrogant bunch of people, from the front office on down.”

Like his buddies, the man Bears Coach Mike Ditka said had the mentality of a grapefruit was squeezing every bit of satisfaction.

By Ken Denlinger  |  11:00 AM ET, 06/27/2011

 
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