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  Redskins Dethrone the Bears, 27-13

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 4, 1987; Page D1

CHICAGO, JAN. 3 -- Quietly but ever so confidently, the Washington Redskins settled an old score today by drumming the defending Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears right out of the playoffs, 27-13.

Their improbable victory in the NFC semifinals was rewarded with another equally unexpected scenario: the 14-4 Redskins, struggling just two weeks ago, will play in the NFC championship game next Sunday at either New York or San Francisco, with a trip to Super Bowl XXI on the line.

"It's a great feeling, being the underdog and winning," said tackle Joe Jacoby, who typified the Redskins' display today by missing only one play despite having a broken right hand. "It's sweet. It's satisfaction."

The Redskins won this game the way they had been winning all season: with a second-half comeback, this one 20 unanswered points; with just the right amount of pressure on the quarterback; and with impeccable timing on a few well-called pass patterns, two of which became touchdown catches for Art Monk.

After blowing a 7-0 first-quarter lead and falling behind, 13-7, at halftime, the Redskins allowed the Bears only 87 second-half yards, completely outplayed them and won going away.

For this day, anyway, the opportunistic Redskins made it look easy against the Bears (14-3) at Soldier Field before 65,141 spectators, many sitting in stunned silence. The Redskins had the better quarterback, the better field position and the better defense.

"Maybe my dreams didn't come true," said Chicago Coach Mike Ditka. "The defense has to play outstanding and today they were just not up to the way the Redskins were playing."

On offense and defense, the Redskins seemed to know what the Bears were going to do, then did them one better.

Although Jacoby and guard Russ Grimm (bruised ribs) were injured, they and the rest of the blockers were able to pick up the patented Chicago blitzes -- especially on third down. Schroeder was sacked only twice, and neither really mattered. In fact, Schroeder used the Chicago rush to his advantage a time or two, rolling out to throw successfully when he saw the pocket break down.

On defense, the Redskins decided if anyone was going to beat them, it would have to be Flutie, a rookie making only his second NFL start. They contained Walter Payton, allowing him just 38 yards on 14 carries, and tried to confuse Flutie by mixing up their defenses, occasionally going to a seven- or eight-man front. A couple times, rookie defensive end Markus Koch even dropped into pass coverage, as if he were a linebacker.

The Redskins' victory sent the Bears out of the playoffs at the same stage the upstart Bears eliminated the Redskins, defending NFC champions, 23-19, two years ago at RFK Stadium. The Redskins, a wild card team this season, lost to Chicago, 45-10, here in the 1985 regular season, and believed the Bears didn't take them seriously this week.

The Redskins' bitter memories of those two losses disappeared into the cold Chicago air when Washington converted three Chicago turnovers into scores in the second half.

Cornerback Darrell Green's interception of Flutie in the third quarter set up Monk's second touchdown, a 23-yard catch that put the Redskins ahead for good, 14-13, with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Darryl Grant's jarring tackle of Payton caused a fumble that led to George Rogers' one-yard scoring run with 14:07 to play. And Chicago's Lew Barnes' muff of a punt return with 3:06 remaining turned into Jess Atkinson's 25-yard field goal with 2:25 remaining for the final margin. It was Atkinson's second field goal of the quarter; he kicked a 35-yarder midway through the period.

No one could have foreseen how balanced the Redskins would be. Jay Schroeder threw for 184 yards and the running game gained 134. When the Redskins got ahead, the Bears were doomed.

"Flutie isn't {injured regular Jim} McMahon," said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz. Flutie was just 11 for 31 for 134 yards.

The Redskins dominated the first quarter, the Bears the second.

The only bad thing that happened to the Redskins in the first quarter occurred on the opening kickoff. Dennis Gentry returned the ball 60 yards to the Washington 35-yard line.

But, after keeping the ball for 3 1/2 minutes and gaining one first down, the Bears had moved just three yards because of mistakes and a holding penalty. Kevin Butler missed a 49-yard field goal attempt with 11:39 left in the first quarter.

The Redskins moved from the Washington 32 to the Chicago 43, where they faced fourth and an inch or two with six minutes gone in the game. Coach Joe Gibbs faced his first safe-or-sorry decision of the game. He chose the safe route, sending in punter Steve Cox to pin back the Bears.

The Bears soon were punting after three straight incompletions. The Redskins took over at their 31 and put together their best drive of the half. It began with a nine-yard gain by Rogers, who then gained two more yards to the 42 for the first down.

After Monk dropped a pass, Kelvin Bryant crossed up the Bears by running with the ball, gaining eight yards to set up third and two.

This time, Schroeder threw the ball to Bryant to the right, and the Redskins ended up with a nine-yard gain to the Chicago 41.

Two plays later, Schroeder rolled to his left and picked Gary Clark out on the left sideline for a 13-yard reception to the 28.

There was one more first-down incompletion before the Redskins' touchdown. On second down, on an audible, Schroeder backpedaled and found defensive tackle Steve McMichael in his face. He threw the ball as fast as he could downfield, where Monk and Clark were running next to one another. They said later they were too close together. The play worked anyway.

Covered by rookie cornerback Vestee Jackson, Monk caught the ball and pulled Jackson and fellow cornerback Mike Richardson into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown.

Atkinson's extra point gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter.

At this stage, the Redskins were rolling. Flutie was sacked by Olkewicz on Chicago'snext play, and the Bears soon were punting again.

But the Redskins couldn't keep it up and were forced to punt themselves after reaching the Chicago 49 early in the second quarter. Cox punted just 24 yards, giving Chicago the ball at its 25. Five plays later, the Bears scored on Willie Gault's 50-yard catch over Green.

Flutie underthrew his man on the play, but Gault, who put a stop-and-go move on Green that left the cornerback standing in his tracks, was able to wait for the ball, then slipped past Green and free safety Curtis Jordan into the end zone with 10:07 left in the half.

The score was 7-7, and the Bears were in control.

On the Redskins' next possession, Schroeder forced a pass into double coverage and was intercepted by Richardson, who returned it 43 yards to the Washington 4.

The Redskins' defense stiffened, throwing the Bears back one yard on three plays. Butler entered the game and kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 10-7 Chicago lead with 6:02 remaining in the half.

The Bears had the ball again with 4:11 to play. This drive ended in Butler's second field goal, a 41-yarder with 1:26 to play. The Bears got considerable help from defensive end Dexter Manley, who was called for encroachment and unnecessary roughness when he collared Flutie before the first play.

At halftime, the Redskins found themselves strangely satisfied. "When they blew us out last year, the second quarter was when they got on a roll," Olkewicz said of Chicago's 31-point second quarter. "They could have very easily done it this time, but they didn't."

The Redskins regained the lead in the third quarter on Monk's second touchdown, the 23-yard reception with 7:09 left in the third quarter, then added Rogers' one-yard run with 14:07 left. Both of the touchdowns were set up by Chicago mistakes. Green, covering Gault, intercepted Flutie's pass at the Chicago 43 and returned it to the Bears' 26. On third down, Schroeder rolled right, then spotted Monk alone in the right corner of the end zone, behind Richardson, for an easy touchdown and a 14-13 lead.

But Gentry returned the kickoff 48 yards to the Washington 42. The Bears reached the Redskins' 18 on two rushes, then handed the ball to Payton. As Payton tore through the line, he ran into Grant, who jarred the football from his grasp. Rookie strong safety Alvin Walton recovered at the Washington 17.

Schroeder then led an 83-yard drive to Rogers' touchdown, the first rushing touchdown scored on the Bears in 37 quarters. The big play was a controversial pass interference penalty on Richardson, covering Monk in the end zone, good for 17 yards and a first down at the Chicago 1. Monk said Richardson used his right hand to push him away from the ball. Richardson said the penalty was "ridiculous."

It was a game when everything went right for Washington. "We're thrilled," said Gibbs.

"This," said Schroeder, "was a lot of fun."

© Copyright 1987 The Washington Post Company

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