November 11, 1991: Redskins, Rypien and Racin’: 56-17 and 10-0: 6 TD Passes Flatten Falcons
With five minutes left in a game the Washington Redskins would win 56-17, after Mark Rypien had thrown his sixth touchdown pass and buried the Atlanta Falcons’ upset bid on a cold, wet afternoon in RFK Stadium, Coach Joe Gibbs approached his quarterback on the sideline.
Gibbs told Rypien he was five yards from having the greatest day any Redskins quarterback had ever had, statistically, and asked him if he’d like to go back in and break a 43-year-old record.
”He said no,” Gibbs related, “and he was definite about it.”
So on a wild day before 52,641 at RFK, a day of endless blitzes and open receivers and a day when a quarterback and his receivers at times looked as if they were playing in a Saturday afternoon game of touch, Rypien settled for the second-best day in franchise history. He settled for the six touchdown passes and 442 yards, plus his bootleg four-yard run for another touchdown.
The Redskins (10-0) walked away with a long injury list that included running back Earnest Byner, who sprained a knee, and tight end Ron Middleton, who severely sprained an ankle. It’s unlikely either of them will play next week at Pittsburgh, but the Redskins also walked away with a record-setting day, a day when their magical ride through 1991 continued.
They became the 11th team since World War II and the 15th NFL team ever to go 10-0.
Only nine teams in history have gotten off to better starts, the last being the 1985 Chicago Bears, who opened with 12 victories on their way to winning Super Bowl XX. Thanks to a loss by Dallas (6-4) in Houston, the Redskins lead the NFC East by four games with six to play. But in the race for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, they still lead 9-1 New Orleans by only a game.
”It’s like a dream right now, being 10-0,” Gibbs said.
”You don’t get a chance to do this too often. The players have a couple of days off to savor it. We’re a little concerned about the injuries. I was concerned coming into the game and now we’ve got some guys that could be serious. It’s all starting to mount up. The good news is we’re 10-0. The bad news is we’re running out of bodies.
”We do have some depth and it has bailed us out already.”
Byner and Middleton appear to be the most seriously injured. Both were on crutches after the game. Middleton was relieved that X-rays revealed no break. The diagnosis on Byner is that he has a sprain, and doctors say they’ll know more today after checking his swelling and pain.
Defensive tackle Tim Johnson suffered a sprained neck, offensive lineman Russ Grimm a sprained ankle and defensive end Charles Mann a hyperextended knee.
All are expected to play next week.
The Redskins hadn’t scored this many points in 25 years and hadn’t had this many total yards (559) since Game 8 last season. Rypien completed 16 of 31 and his 442 yards are four short of the 446 Sammy Baugh had against the New York Yankees on Oct. 31, 1948. His six touchdown passes tied Baugh for another team record; Baugh did it twice, in games in 1943 and 1947.
In order, Rypien hit Terry Orr for nine yards in the first quarter, Gary Clark for 61 and 19 yards in the second quarter, Art Monk for 19 in the third, and Clark for 82 and Monk for 64 in the fourth.
And to think that Rypien started badly.
He and Clark barely missed on a 68-yarder in the second quarter and he overthrew Monk for a 73-yarder moments after that.
And to think the Falcons knew it was coming.
”We just got our butts kicked,” Coach Jerry Glanville said.
Seldom has one team designed a defense that made an offense so happy. The Redskins had known all week the Falcons (5-5) lived off the blitz and they’d known if they could buy Rypien some time they’d have some deep chances.
And they had them.
And had them.
And had them.
The Falcons knew that Rypien had hit the deep patterns all year. They knew about Clark and Monk. Still, for one entire afternoon, even with cornerback Deion Sanders out with a bruised thigh, the Falcons came after the Redskins, putting seven, eight and nine men at the line of scrimmage and blitzing them.
Even with Pro Bowl tackle Jim Lachey on the sideline with an injured knee, the Redskins didn’t allow a sack for the fourth straight game.
Never mind that the Falcons did check the running game, limiting the Redskins to 108 yards -- 29 of them coming on one Gerald Riggs run on third and one.
”That’s a dream come true, playing us like that,” Redskins center Jeff Bostic said. “With our receivers, you want a team to blitz. We’ve been blitzed before, but I’ve never seen a team stay with it like that. You just don’t see it. Surprised? I was more than surprised. I was shocked.”
Clark finished with four catches for 203 yards -- his second-biggest yardage day ever. Monk ended up with seven catches for 164 yards -- his fifth-biggest yardage day. Rypien hit the longest (82), fourth-longest (64) and fifth-longest (61) passes of his career.
The Redskins also forced six turnovers, with linebacker Wilber Marshall again leading the way with a forced fumble, pass deflection and sack.
Washington allowed its first two touchdown passes at home, but also got interceptions from Andre Collins, Alvoid Mays and Sidney Johnson. A.J. Johnson, Bobby Wilson and Fred Stokes recovered fumbles.
Collins finished the scoring with 52 seconds left by intercepting third-string quarterback Brett Favre’s pass off a receiver’s hands and returning it 15 yards for his first career touchdown.
The day didn’t start so smoothly. The Redskins opened with three running plays, then linebacker Darion Conner plowed up the middle and blocked Kelly Goodburn’s punt. No Redskins punt had been blocked since the Cowboys got one last Thanksgiving, and today’s was the first of two. The Falcons got another in the second half.
”They don’t have any weaknesses,” Glanville said. “Hold it; maybe their punt protection is not so good.”
That early block gave Atlanta the ball on the Washington 31-yard line, and, with quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver starting for injured Chris Miller, the Falcons drove to the 14, where Norm Johnson kicked a 31-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Then the Redskins had their fun, driving 74 yards in eight plays, showing the Falcons a formation to the left and sneaking Orr into the right corner for the nine-yard scoring pass. Rypien missed chances on the next two possessions, but the Falcons kept blitzing and the Redskins kept throwing.
Clark got behind a pair of defenders and caught a 61-yarder with 7:28 left in the half, and on the next possession Rypien found Monk for 32 and Orr for 37. On second and goal at the 4, Rypien faked a handoff to Gerald Riggs and spun left on a naked bootleg, trotting into the end zone to make it, with Chip Lohmiller’s third of eight extra points, 21-3 with 1:55 left in the half.
With 46 seconds left, defensive tackle Wilson got off the ball so fast he knocked center Jamie Dukes back onto Tolliver, who fumbled. Wilson fell on the ball at the 19. With 37 seconds left, Rypien avoided a big rush and found Clark in the end zone to make it 28-3 at the half.
Wilson burst off the line so quickly that he appeared to be offside.
”I was watching the ball and as soon as it left the ground I jumped in there,” said the rookie drafted in the first round. “I pushed the center into the quarterback and he hit the ball. They were yelling that I was offside. I told the center he’d moved the ball and he kind of shook his head. He wasn’t going to say anything, but he knew.”
Glanville trotted to the locker room only after a long, animated conversation with referee Dale Hamer. He wanted him to know that Orr was an illegal receiver on the scoring pass. Hamer disagreed.
The game wasn’t over. Michael Haynes caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from Tolliver on the first play of the second half. Tolliver hit Andre Rison with a 15-yard scoring pass on Atlanta’s next possession.
”They put a carrot out there and then they took it away,” Tolliver said.
The Redskins came right back and made it 35-17 by driving 61 yards for a score. Rypien stepped up against the blitz and hit an open Monk for 19 and the touchdown with 10:13 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons kept coming and Rypien got the longest completion of his life, an 82-yarder to Clark, who beat two defenders, stepped out of a diving tackle by cornerback Elbert Shelley at the 20 and outraced Scott Case into the end zone.
Rypien was in for only one more possession, and it lasted just three plays. On the third one, he hit Monk for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Gibbs shook Rypien’s hand and told him to take the day off. Then moments later, he offered to send him back in for one last pass.
”It’s a team game and you never know,” Rypien said. “You might slip and something could happen.”
THE QUARTERBACK’S BIG DAY
MOST PASSING YARDAGE IN ONE GAME BY A REDSKIN
446: Sammy Baugh vs. Yanks, 10-31-48
442: Mark Rypien vs. Falcons, 11-10-91
430: Doug Williams vs. Steelers, 9-11-88
424: Norm Snead vs. Steelers, 11-17-63
420: Jay Schroeder vs. Giants, 10-27-86
MOST TOUCHDOWN PASSES IN ONE GAME BY A REDSKIN
6: Mark Rypien, 11-10-91, vs. Falcons
6: Sammy Baugh, 11-23-47, vs. Cardinals
6: Sammy Baugh, 10-31-43, vs. Brooklyn
THE POSSE’S BIG DAY
* GARY CLARK
Had four catches for 203 yards, including three touchdowns -- one of them an 82-yarder at the beginning of the fourth quarter. His other touchdowns were both in the second from 61 and 19 yards.
* ART MONK
Had seven catches for 164 yards, including two touchdowns (a 19-yard reception in the third quarter and a 64-yard pass-and-run play in the fourth).
* RICKY SANDERS
Had three catches for 29 yards.
14 catches for 396 yards.