November 4, 1991: Toe-To-Toe, 9-0 Redskins Outlast Oilers, 16-13
The Washington Redskins knew this kind of a game awaited them at some point. A day of stumbles and bumbles and injuries, a day when they seemed emotionally drained and finally overcome by the odds of a 16-game season. A week after defeating the New York Giants, they ran up a laundry list of mistakes -- including four turnovers and eight penalties -- and were pushed to the edge before defeating the Houston Oilers in overtime, 16-13, before 55,096 at RFK Stadium.
How close to the edge? With four seconds left and the game tied in the fourth quarter, Houston’s Ian Howfield lined up to kick a game-winning 33-yard field goal.
His kick sailed wide left, and in a season when the Redskins have done almost everything right, they had added a dash of luck. Cornerback Darrell Green intercepted Warren Moon’s first pass in overtime, and 4:01 into the extra session, Chip Lohmiller’s 41-yard field goal kept the Redskins the NFL’s only undefeated team and improved their record to 9-0.
Are the Redskins starting to feel a bit of magic? They’re only the 12th NFL team since World War II and the 18th team ever to go 9-0. They tied one team record with a 10th straight victory at home and tied another with nine straight victories in a season. The result also preserved their three-game lead in the NFC East, and more important, kept them a game ahead of New Orleans (8-1) in the race for home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
“These two teams are awfully close,” Coach Joe Gibbs said of his Redskins and the Oilers. “I’m drained after last week, and now this. We overcame a lot of adversity out there, losing our two tackles and all. It was a wild day.
”On a good football team, you’re going to have a different guy chip in every week or so, and that’s what we’re having. Earnest Byner. Darrell Green. Great players make great plays. This is truly a team. This isn’t one of those deals where it’s one guy leading a group.”
It was a bitter day for Oilers Coach Jack Pardee, the former Redskins linebacker and coach who was returning to RFK for the first time since his 1981 firing. At midfield after the game, Gibbs patted him on the back and said he hoped they could play again sometime this season (meaning Super Bowl XXVI).
”We’re very disappointed,” Pardee said. “I’m real proud of this team. We had a great performance. We showed poise and maturity. We had chances. We just didn’t end up on top. I thought our kicking game had been superior all day. It’s unfortunate that the game often comes down to kicking.”
It was a day when the Redskins needed a break to remain unbeaten. But in many ways they were impressive enough. They handed the Oilers (7-2) their second loss even after losing both starting tackles, Jim Lachey and Joe Jacoby, to minor knee injuries. They dominated the clock. They ran up 349 yards on the AFC’s top-ranked defense, with Byner’s 112 rushing yards and with Mark Rypien completing 21 of 34 passes for 195.
They also did a marvelous job on master passer Moon and the run-and-shoot offense. The Oilers became the first team to score a touchdown against the Redskins’ defensive unit at home, but for the afternoon, they got just the one touchdown and 267 total yards -- 120 below their season average.
Redskins rookie Ricky Ervins picked up 43 yards on nine carries, but with Russ Grimm and Mark Adickes filling in nicely at tackles, it was Byner who was back in the spotlight, a consistent gainer on his 21 carries, including a nifty 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Redskins rushed for 154 yards, and it was Adickes’ block inside that helped spring Byner for the score.
That put the Redskins ahead 13-6 until Lorenzo White scored on a one-yard dive with 1:42 remaining in the game. Howfield’s conversion -- barely inside the right upright -- tied it, and when Brian Mitchell fumbled the kickoff, Houston safety Mike Dumas fell on it at the Washington 23 with 1:33 left.
The Oilers ran three plays and got to the 16-yard line with four seconds remaining. They called time out and got Howfield lined up for the winning kick. The Redskins’ unbeaten stand was just about over, but they’d been reminded all week that Howfield had been bounced around the NFL and had missed four extra points this season, three just a week ago. He began this season tending bar and must again be wondering about his future.
”The coach expects me to make those, and I do too,” he said. “You want one of those kicks. That’s why I kick field goals. I rushed it a little, which I shouldn’t have.”
On the other sideline, Mitchell said he started to cry, after having been saved. The Redskins then won the toss, got the ball and ran four plays before punting to the Houston 31-yard line and bracing for Moon.
Moon gave the ball to White for a two-yard gain inside, then flipped a pass for Haywood Jeffires. Jumpy Geathers got some pressure on Moon, who probably threw earlier than he would have liked. Green emerged from a wrestling match with Jeffires to scoop up his fifth interception of the season.
”It was a quick slant, something they’d run quite a few times,” Green said. “Our guys got some heat on him all day long and that helped. That might have been the key to the game.”
Asked about the contact, he said: “That doesn’t matter. The game’s over. I don’t know what they’re saying, but if the shoe was on the other foot, we’d be saying the same thing.”
Jeffires didn’t complain. “There’s nothing I can take away from” Green, he said. “He played me pretty well all day.”
From the Houston 33, Rypien gave the ball to Byner for gains of five yards, then three and one. Lohmiller trotted onto the field, waited through an Oilers timeout and ended it.
”I like that time during a timeout to get more positive thoughts on my mind,” Lohmiller said. “I had the adrenaline and confidence that I could hit it.”
The Oilers had held four straight opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, but the Redskins came out planning to grind it out.
”If we could run the ball, we thought there’d be some deep stuff open because their safeties are very aggressive and like to hit people,” Byner said. “If you can run the ball, they’re going to come up and maybe you can get one of the big ones.”
The Redskins did run it. The second time they had the ball they ground out a 17-play, 82-yard drive that consumed 10:36 -- their longest drive of the season, better than last week’s nine-minute possession against the Giants. Byner carried 10 times for 51 yards and Rypien hit a pair of third-down passes.
The drive stalled on third and one at the Houston 4 when linebacker Lamar Lathon stopped Byner for no gain. Lohmiller’s 21-yard field goal 48 seconds into the second quarter made it 3-0.
The Oilers matched by driving 81 yards in 17 plays and 9:38. On third and goal from the 10, wide receiver Ernest Givins was called for illegal motion. Moon hit Drew Hill for eight and Howfield kicked a 24-yarder to tie it with 2:00 left in the half.
The Redskins hustled into their two-minute drive, and on first down from the Houston 49, William Fuller decked Rypien and his pass wobbled into Lathon’s hands. Houston took over at its 44 with 58 seconds left, and Moon got them to the 6, where Howfield’s 23-yard kick with three seconds left made it 6-3 at the half.
The Redskins came back and put together another monster drive, going 80 yards in 16 plays consuming nine minutes. They got as far as the 1, but on second down, Gerald Riggs was dropped for a three-yard loss by tackle Doug Smith and cornerback Cris Dishman. Rypien threw incomplete on third down, and Lohmiller kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 6-6 tie with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, White bobbled a handoff and Fred Stokes fell on it at the Houston 31. Byner went into the middle for eight, then bounced outside right and went all the way.
The Redskins were close to clinching it moments later when safety Brad Edwards intercepted a Moon ball and returned it 27 yards to the Houston 40. Rypien hit Ricky Sanders for seven and Gary Clark for 21, but on first down from the 12, he mishandled Jeff Bostic’s snap. Oiler Ray Childress recovered.
With 5:04 left, the Oilers launched a tying 79-yard drive. Then came Mitchell’s mistake that appeared to doom the Redskins.
”It’s a win, but not a real pretty one,” Rypien said. “I’m not tickled to death about it. You could feel we weren’t in sync for a lot of the day. We got out of here with a win, and you go home feeling a lot better than if you’d lost it.”
Redskins wide receiver Art Monk caught eight passes for 62 yards Sunday and is second on the all-time reception list.
Monk has now caught at least
one pass in 125 consecutive regular season games, the fourth-best streak in NFL history.