December 16, 1991: No Letup: Redskins Unload On Giants, 34-17
The Washington Redskins hadn’t known how they would react to this kind of game, one that meant nothing and amounted to the first of two tuneups for the playoffs. What they found was that even with nothing tangible on the line, little changed as they rolled past the New York Giants, 34-17, before 54,722 at RFK Stadium.
Mark Rypien threw three touchdown passes and Earnest Byner and Ricky Ervins led a running game that came alive with 151 yards. The 14-1 Redskins also forced three turnovers and swept the Giants for the first time in a non-strike season since 1983. They enter next week’s regular season finale at Philadelphia with a chance to join the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and 1985 Chicago Bears as the league’s only 15-1 teams since the 16-game format began in 1978.
”I’m really proud of our guys,” Coach Joe Gibbs said. “We’ve got a tremendous respect for the Giants, and I’m proud we played good football and went after it.”
Rypien completed scoring passes of 65 and 50 yards to Gary Clark and a 22-yarder to Terry Orr before leaving eight seconds into the fourth quarter after injuring the middle finger of his passing hand.
He tore the nail and slightly jammed the finger when his hand collided with defensive end Leonard Marshall’s helmet on the 50-yard scoring pass to Clark. X-rays were negative.
”It feels fine,” Rypien said. “It’s funny. I’ve played so many years and had broken ribs and a knee injury and so many things. You feel funny coming out because of a hangnail, and the linemen were letting me have it. I hadn’t felt that much pain in a while.”
Trainer Bubba Tyer said the finger will be very sore for a day or two, and that Rypien may miss a day of practice, but should play Sunday. “I would think he’d need to rest it two or three days, but it’s nothing serious,” Tyer said.
The optimistic prognosis notwithstanding, the Redskins will have a couple of nervous days of waiting as their quarterback heals. Many things have gone right for them this magical season, but nothing has been more important than the play of Rypien, who leads the NFC with 28 touchdown passes and is virtually assured come Wednesday of being named the National Football Conference’s Pro Bowl quarterback.
He wasn’t yesterday’s only hero. Safety Danny Copeland intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, each prefacing a touchdown, and Charles Mann and Bobby Wilson each had two sacks against Phil Simms, who lost to the Redskins for only the second time in his last 11 starts.
It was a game that continued a long, hard fall for the Giants, who lost their third straight and have gone from Super Bowl champions to 7-8 and out of the playoffs. Injured linebacker Lawrence Taylor played only briefly, and Simms was the bright spot, completing 23 of 41 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins held the Giants to 78 rushing yards.
The 421 total yards for the Redskins is the high for a Giants opponent this season and the 151 rushing yards ties a season high.
Simms helped the Giants to early leads of 3-0 and 10-7, but the Redskins ended the first half with 17 straight points and a 24-10 lead. The Redskins swept the Giants after entering the season with six straight losses to them.
”Our discipline has gone to hell,” Giants Coach Ray Handley said. “It’s a matter of simple execution. . . . Our tackling is abysmal. It’s just a culmination of a lack of fundamentals, and I take full responsibility for this.”
The Redskins, who’d had trouble running the ball recently, had their best day in six weeks. Byner gained 68 yards on 17 carries to crack the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year and Ervins relieved him to gain 85 yards on 13 carries. Clark caught three passes for 129 yards, Art Monk five for 91.
For the Redskins the only pre-playoff hurdle left is the Eagles, who need a New Orleans loss to the Los Angeles Raiders tonight to stay in contention for a wild-card spot.
”It’s a matter of keeping the momentum going,” linebacker Wilber Marshall said. “We’ve got to spend the next couple of weeks getting ready. We’ve been doing the same thing for 15 weeks. You get in a routine and you want to play. The tough weeks were the last two games when we had those two long plane rides. You get out there and you wind up waking up at 4 in the morning because your body clock is messed up. You go out and play, and you’re already tired. Compared to that, this was easy.”
The Giants took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards in 13 plays. On fourth and three at the Washington 28, Simms hit Mark Ingram for seven yards. But the drive stalled there. Rodney Hampton gained three, Mann stopped Maurice Carthon for no gain, A.J. Johnson broke up a pass, and New York settled for a Matt Bahr field goal.
After Brian Mitchell’s kickoff return to the 35, the Redskins needed 18 seconds to get the lead. They opened in the no-huddle offense, and Rypien threw incomplete on first down. On second down, he passed to Clark at the New York 45. He bumped off safety Maurice Guyton, spun out of cornerback Perry Williams’s tackle and had clear sailing to a 7-3 lead.
”They hit me and I stayed on my feet,” Clark said. “It was slippery out there and they went down, and it was a sprint to the end zone.”
The Redskins were in and out of the no-huddle offense all afternoon. They used it for the first time in the loss to Dallas three weeks ago, and it helped them put away the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago.
”We kind of fell into it, and now it’s a big part of our offense,” tackle Jim Lachey said.
Gibbs said he used it against the Giants to change the pace. In Game 8, the Redskins trailed 13-0 at the half in Giants Stadium before rallying for a 17-13 victory.
”We hadn’t had anything consistent against the Giants early in the first game, and it kind of caught them off guard this time,” Rypien said. “It was a way to throw them off and it wears a defense down a little bit. We’ve done well with it, and we’ll keep using it.”
Gibbs said it won’t be his prime strategy, but likes it because it gives opponents one more thing to prepare for.
”Anything that’s productive,” Gibbs said. “We’ve been very sporadic against the Giants and hoped this might loosen them up early and get them to thinking about one more thing. It’s something we’re going to keep working on and try to get better at.”
Simms helped the Giants get the lead back on their third possession. From the Washington 43, he passed to Ingram for 18 yards. Hampton ground out gains of 1, 10, 4 and 7 to the 3-yard line. He gained one on first down, one on second down, and on third, Simms avoided a safety blitz by Copeland and ran one yard to make it 10-7 with 13:34 left in the second quarter.
The Redskins couldn’t move and punted back to the Giants at the New York 13. On second down, Simms fumbled the snap, and Copeland fell on it at the 17.
”I accept all gifts from heaven,” Copeland said. “It was just right there for me. I wasn’t supposed to be showing blitz. If I did, it’s a mistake. The only thing about the fumble was that I could have run right past it.”
The Redskins needed two plays to score. Ervins gained 15 up the middle. After a one-yard penalty against the Giants, Gerald Riggs scored from the 1 -- his 11th rushing touchdown -- for a 14-10 lead.
Two plays after that, the Redskins got another turnover. Simms threw deep for Stephen Baker, but Copeland made an over-the-shoulder interception at the Washington 32.
”My day started off badly,” Copeland said. “That Simms scramble was totally my fault, and I was glad to do some things after a play like that. I saw Simms look that way and drifted over. I didn’t think I was going to get there but, the closer I got, the more I could tell I had a chance.”
The Redskins made it 21-10 in four plays. Monk caught a 37-yarder from Rypien, and Rypien lofted a 22-yard touchdown to wide-open Orr.
The Giants ran three plays and punted, and Mitchell’s 14-yard return put the Redskins at the New York 47 with 5:03 left in the half.
Byner gained 20 yards on four carries, and Rypien completed passes of 12 and seven yards to get the Redskins to the 18. Ricky Sanders couldn’t hold Rypien’s end zone pass, and Chip Lohmiller’s 36-yard kick made it 24-10 at the half.
On their second possession of the second half, after holding on downs at their 32, the Redskins got Lohmiller in position for a 36-yarder and a 27-10 lead. Ervins got most of those yards, opening with 18 on a counter trey and adding gains of three, nine and two.
Simms brought the Giants right back, 80 yards in five plays and hitting Ingram with an 18-yard touchdown pass. But the Redskins answered immediately.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, first down at the 50, Rypien faked a reverse to Monk and hit Clark in stride on the right side. The only thing that didn’t work correctly was Rypien’s follow-through.