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Redskins 1991: Game time

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Mann: I remember us all finding the shower, heading in there, and I was kind of either leading the prayer or closing the prayer. We did that every week. It’d be 15 or 20 most weeks. So we were in that shower praying and I remember looking up before I finished, and every single player on the football team was suddenly in the shower. I mean, every single player had crammed in that little space.

Mitchell: For me, when I walked out there for the first five or 10 minutes, I didn’t hear anything. It was just amazement. All your life, you dream about it, and here it was — cameras flashing, and I was in shock.

Cooke: Dad had a box at the 50-yard line, but only a half-dozen people could fit inside. So I had another box a ways down. Well, I remember stepping out to go wish Dad luck before the game; it was like sardines in that corridor and [my wife] Rita was with me. Standing right beside us was Donald Trump and Ivana Trump. All of a sudden, he looked at me and said, “I know who you are and I just want to tell you you’ve got the greatest organization in sports.”

The Redskins won the coin toss.

Collins: That first series we came out hard and attacked [Bills quarterback] Jim Kelly and got to him early. I think Wilber Marshall almost knocked his head off and that just kind of set the tone for what we were going to do in the first half of that game.

Mann: [Defensive coordinator] Richie Petitbon was really, really sharp. He came up with what he called a “25 defense.” That meant two linemen, five linebackers and four defensive backs. You never saw us do 25 defense leading up to the Super Bowl and never saw one after. But we used one that week.

Monk accounted for 79 yards on the Redskins’ second drive, capped by what appeared to be two-yard touchdown reception. The score was overturned when a review showed Monk’s right foot on the back line. On the ensuing field goal attempt, Rutledge couldn’t handle the snap.

Rutledge: The snap went right through my hands. It’s the only time that ever happened to me in my whole career, and I was a holder for a number of years. I’m standing over there, thinking, “If we lose this ballgame, that’s going to haunt me the rest of my life.” I went inside and had someone pour a Coke on my hands, because it would dry sticky. The balls were slick, it being so cold and the game inside and those new balls — it worked.

The Redskins held the Bills scoreless in the first half. The defense kept the prolific Buffalo offense out of whack, and Kelly was sacked five times on the day. Earnest Byner scored the game’s first touchdown early in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Rypien. The Redskins quickly added 10 more points and by halftime had control of the game.

Jacoby: Our defense, I can’t say enough about what they did. I felt sorry for Jim Kelly. He was taking some hellacious hits from our front.

Mitchell: We were the more physical, dominant team. They were a throw-the-ball-around, real fancy team. And we beat the hell out of them.

In the second half, Collins blitzed on the first play and Kelly threw an interception to linebacker Kurt Gouveia, who returned the ball to the Bills 2-yard line. Running back Gerald Riggs scored on the next play, giving the Redskins a 24-0 lead. After the Bills put 10 points on the scoreboard, Rypien and Clark connected on a 30-yard touchdown that capped an 80-yard drive and put the game out of reach.

Lachey: They started making plays, came back late in the ballgame, but I think when Gary Clark scored we felt good. … I remember thinking, if we don’t turn the ball over and do what we do, everything’s going to be all right. That’s a good feeling, by the way, to know that in the third quarter. 

Jacoby: Personally, I didn’t feel we had the game until we started the fourth quarter and were up [31-10]. You don’t want to get too relaxed and too overconfident.

Gibbs: Well, everything just came together that day. Buffalo had that no-huddle offense that we were afraid of. But Richie and everybody on that defensive staff had a great, well-organized game plan. Richie did a great job slowing them down, not letting Buffalo’s pace dictate the game. Other than that, I just remember how together we were. We fought hard, played extremely well and did all the things we’d been doing up to that point.

Despite scoring the game’s final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Bills lost, 37-24. Rypien was named Super Bowl MVP.

Mitchell: As it began to close out, you knew it was time to throw water on the coach. It’s normally the veteran players. I was just a kid, but I went and grabbed that damn water bucket. John Brandes — he was a veteran tight end — he helped me, and we got Coach Gibbs good.

Jacoby: We had something to drink, can’t remember exactly if it was a bottle of whiskey or a bottle of champagne. Myself, Mr. Bostic and Mr. Grimm all had cigars. We were sitting there smoking it in the locker room. We still had our pants on and stuff. We were savoring the moment. We were the old guys. Jeff was a year older than me, Russ and I are the same age. We knew this moment was going to be our last as a group.

Russ Grimm, guard: I always said I wasn’t going to play if I couldn’t play the best I could play. So once we won, I decided that was it. … So I had a full bar brought up to my room and Jacoby, and Bostic and I sat up there and drank all night.

Collins: I remember walking out of the stadium and Gary Clark was standing there and the team bus had left and gone to the hotel. … We were looking around, there were fans out there. They didn’t know who I was, but they knew Gary. They were like, “What are you doing out here?” We hailed a cab and they thought it was the funniest thing. Eventually someone stopped for us and we got back. I mean, boy, we just won the Super Bowl, and we’re hailing a cab outside the Metrodome.

Gibbs: [My wife, Pat] and I got in a limo to go to the team party back at the hotel. … About that time two Redskins fans walked up to the limo. Somehow they jerked the door open, looked inside and one of ’em said, “We gotta get ’em next year, too!” All I kept thinkin’ was, “Holy Toledo, we just won the Super Bowl, and already you want to win next year? Let’s just enjoy it for a minute there, fella.”

On Jan. 28, 1992, more than 75,000 fans converged on the Mall as the Redskins showed off their newest Lombardi Trophy. The team visited the White House on April 22, 1992, where President George H.W. Bush congratulated them.

Mann: President Bush, he made a slip-up and told the media that he was a Houston Oilers fan. … We were all over the White House, and President Bush hung out with us the whole time because he was eating some humble pie.

Bostic: President Bush — the old man could throw some horseshoes. He was a left-handed horseshoe thrower, and he was good.

In 2007, NFL Films produced a series on the top Super Bowl teams of all time and ranked the 1991 Redskins at No. 14. That same year ESPN ranked the ’91 Redskins as the 10th-best Super Bowl winner.

Bostic: We lost two games by five points. In NFL history, that’s one of the four or five best teams ever. The ’72 Dolphins wouldn’t have stood a chance against us.

Casserly: I think it was the best Redskins team of the modern era. Joe’s not going to say that. They’re all great teams to him. He has something good to say about every team. But that was probably the most balanced team that has ever won a Super Bowl.

Cooke: They were spectacular years, weren’t they? I don’t want to call them “glory years,” because it makes us all sound old. But if you close your eyes and look back, you have to really enjoy the memory of that last Super Bowl — all the more so now after the last 20 years.

Gibbs: It was a good time, wasn’t it?

PREVIOUS: CHAPTER 5 — WELCOME TO MINNESOTA

Interviews for this story were conducted by staff writers Rick Maese, Dave Sheinin, Barry Svrluga, Paul Tenorio, Mike Wise and Mike Jones. It was assembled by Maese.

MORE ON THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF SUPER BOWL XXVI: The 1991-92 season in pictures VIDEO: ‘We were special’ POLL: When will the Redskins win another championship? DISCUSSION: Former beat reporter Richard Justice PHOTOS: Washington Post pages from the 1991-92 season Share your photos from 1991-92

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