Redskins 1991: 16 games, 14 wins

January 26, 2012

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Following a feeble preseason, the Redskins opened the 1991 season with the most lopsided victory in franchise history, beating a Detroit team that was missing its star running back, Barry Sanders, 45-0.

Collins: RFK was a magical place. [Brian Mitchell] returned the opening kickoff and everyone was running hard, the defense was making stops. We needed that. Even though we weren’t too concerned about preseason, you never know until you know.

The following week, the Redskins erased an 11-point deficit to beat the Cowboys in Dallas. Week 3 against the Phoenix Cardinals would bring a second shutout – and a welcome surprise for Mann, a defensive leader.

Mann: The night before the game, we’re all at the Dulles Airport Marriott. By 12 o’clock, I was sound asleep. At 12:05 or so, Joe Gibbs rang my room. Our phones were cut off at 11 o’clock. So I was startled. I hear, “This is Coach Gibbs.” Uh-oh, what is he calling me for? What happened?

He says, “Your wife called and she’s in labor—” and he didn’t have to finish the sentence. I threw the phone down, put on my clothes and I was gone, headed to the hospital. So she was in labor all night long. He finally comes at 6:42 in the morning.

I leave the hospital about 8:30 and get to the stadium and I’m just pounding coffee. I was so wired, still wearing my wristband that says “Cameron Mann,” his weight and size. I had two sacks, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble. I played my butt off, and we shut the Cardinals out. I remember after the game, Joe Gibbs throws me the game ball and says, “We need to have Tyrena have babies every Sunday!”

With a 23-0 drubbing of Philadelphia on Sept. 30, the Redskins had opened the 1991 season with three shutouts — all at RFK — in their first five games. The Redskins haven’t posted a single shutout in the 20 years since.

Mann: When they talk about great defenses, we don’t even get a mention. I don’t understand it. We didn’t pat ourselves on the back, jump up and down, do like Ray Lewis with the little dance. That’s a shame because we were good.

Following the win over Detroit, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser wrote near the top of his column: “Now to more pressing concerns: Airline reservations and hotel accommodations in Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.” His “bandwagon” columns became a staple each week, and fans were eager to climb aboard.

Tony Kornheiser, Post columnist: By the fifth week, we had an illustrator involved, and we were running with it, that they would win the Super Bowl. Who the hell’s going to beat them? Then we started soliciting people, fans – Who wants to be on the bandwagon? It was pre-Internet, so people wrote letters and offered what they would bring on it. Then I began inventing this thing about the trademark of the bandwagon. I put a U.S. patent number on it, but they were always old phone numbers of mine. It made it seem like something was in motion that had a legal backing to it. People loved it.

Players were hesitant to jump on the bandwagon, though, and knew there was a lot of football to be played between October and a possible trip to the Super Bowl.

Brian Mitchell, running back: Every game, Monte Coleman would always tell people: “It’s over. That game is over. We’re back to 0-0. We have to worry about winning the next one.” Our team was so good at forgetting about what had just happened.

Collins: I honestly don’t remember anyone saying this team is going to go undefeated.

On Oct. 27, the 7-0 Redskins trailed the Giants 13-0 at halftime. Their first loss seemed to be imminent — but the Redskins scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to preserve their perfect record.

Ervins: They kept reiterating that fact to me. “We haven’t beat those guys in six tries.” They put them on the pedestal. I said, “Quit telling me you haven’t beat them — so what?” …They put me in at halftime. I had 83 or 86 yards in the second half. We were down 14-0 at the half or something and came back. After that, everyone knew it was special. You don’t come back on a team like that on the road in the second half. With Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, are you kidding me?

Casserly: We always had a mind-set, if you win the NFC East, you could beat anybody.

PREVIOUS: CHAPTER 1 — TRAINING CAMP

NEXT: CHAPTER 3 — CHARACTERS WITH CHARACTER

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