Mark Moseley's team-record 54-yard field goal, a time-out called by George Allen and several naughty words saved a victory - and perhaps the season - for the Washington Redskins today.
Moseley's kick, with a 15 mile an hour wind at his back, gave the Redskins a 17-14 decision over the Philadelphia Eagles, who botched a chance to force an overtime when Horst Muhlmunn's 31-yard field goal barely hooked wide left with 22 seconds left in the game.
"I told Dick Vermoil (the Eagle coach) we were lucky," said Redskin coach Allen, who called time from the bench just before Muhlmann was set to attempt the kick 'I've done it against other kickers; we used to do it against Dallas with Toni Fritsch. It just made him think a little more, and the more you think about something in a clutch situation, whether it's making a free throw or a field goal, well, it doesn't help."
Nor did the Redskins help Muhlmann concentrate, either. As he lined up to kick, many Washington defenders were screaming "Muhlmann, Muhlmann" and "a lot of things I don't think you can put in the newspaper," said defensive end Dennis Johnson.
"Yeah, we felt we could talk him out of it," said safety Ken Houston. "I called his name, I jumped, I screamed. Anything to distract him. Sure it worked. He missed, didn't he?"
So the Redskins stayed alive in what is developing into a madcap struggle for the NFC's wild-card playoff berth.
The Redskins (5-4), will be pulling for the undefeated Cowboys to defeat the Cardinals (5-3) Monday night in Dallas. If Dallas wins, the Redskins, Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons will have the same records with five games remaining.
The Redskins won today almost in spite of themselves, overcoming two Joe Theismann interceptions, two Mike Thomas fumbles and "costly temper tantrum, an ultimely holding penalty and two Moseley misses to bump off the 3-6 Eagles tor the second time in three weeks.
There were several most unlikely heroes.
Dallas Hickman, a third-year defensive end, blocked a Spike Jones punt with 10 1/2 minutes left and recovered the football for the Redskins at the Eagle 19-yard line. That set up the Redskin's second touchdown.
Danny Buggs, cut by the Giants years ago because they didn't think he could catch a football, broke away from an Eagle defender on an improvised pass route and caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Theismann with 9:31 left. That tied the game at 14-all, after Moseley's extra point.
And Windlan Hall, acquired on waivers only three weeks ago, blocked a 43-yard Muhlmann attempt late in the first quarter.That became important when the final gun had sounded.
At halftime, with his team trailing by 7-0 and going nowhere fast, middle linebacker Harold McLinton did his share by throwing several chairs in the direction of the nearest wall.
"I was kinda angry," McLinton sheepishly admitted. "I just seemed like every week we've been going and they came out with a spark." it helped, who knows?"
Apparently it did, because the Redskins came out smoking in the second half, scoring 17 points to break a streak of 9 1/2 quarters without a touchdown. They piled up 178 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes.
Theismann finished with 15 completions in 27 attempts for 187 yards in the air, ran for 34 yards on improvised scrambles, and was sacked eight times by a reckless, blitzing Eagle defense that seemed to deserve a better fate.
Theismann must have wondered if one of McLinton's chairs had been aimed at him after a first half that produced no points and only 94 yards.
Allen knowledged he toyed with the idea of switching to Billy Kilmer after intermission.
"I thought about it a little," Allen said. "But it was so darned windy. Joe had us down there (deep in Eagle territory), and we had a holding penalty, and then a fumble. We had a good halftime meeting and they came out with a spark."
The Redskins drove 65 yards on five plays on the opening series of the third period. The touchdown came on Theismann's 14-yard pass over the middle to Frank Grant. The extra point tied the score of 7-all.
Was Thiesmann concerned about the possibility of being removed if he didn't quickly produce points?
"No," he said emphatically. "I'm the quarterback. You can't think anybody else is going to play. It's my job. I wasn't concerned about it."
But there was plenty of concern when a Theismann pass was intercepted by safety John Sanders and returned 45 yards to the Redskin 37 late in the third quarter. Muhlmann saved the day by hooking a 38-yard kick wide left.
But the Redskins got back into trouble on the first play of the fourth quarter, when quarterback Ron Jaworski fooled the entire stadium - especially the Redskin defense - by calling his own number on a bootleg naked reverse around left end that carried to the Washington two.
"I just thought it was run to the other side," and linebacker Mike Curtis, the linebacker on that side. "Oh, geez, I hate to even think about it."
Two plays later, Jaworski dove over on a quarterback sneak and the Redskins trailed by 14-7 with 13:44 to play.
Hickman, introduced at the start of the game with all-his special teammates, came roaring into block Jones' punt and set up Theismann's tying touchdown pass to Buggs. "I just saw the opening and took it," Hickman said.
On third and five at the five, Theismann dropped straight back, looking for Calvin Hill, his primary receiver. Under pressure, Theismann scrambled to his right, Buggs had run a crossing pattern from right to left, but came back toward Theismann, when he saw his quarterback in trouble.
"All I saw was the ball," said Buggs, who caught the pass just as the Eagle's Sanders caught up. Buggs made what he described as the basic "tap-tap" to keep both feet in the end zone. "I was close to being out," he said. "But I was in."
Moseley got his chances to be a hero against the Eagle team that cut him seven years ago when Allen decided to gamble on fourth and 11 at the Philadelphia 37-yard line. The kick broke his record of 53 yards set in Dallas earlier this year.
"It's a tough decision," Allen said. "If he misses, it's a bad decision because they've got field position. He came through."
Because he did, the Redskins remained in the race for the wild card. Green Bay comes next in another Monday night affair, followed by a brutal stretch of games against Dallas at home, Buffalo and St. Louis on the road, and the season finale at home against the Rams.
"All I know is we had to win this game today," said tight end Jean Fugett. "It would have really been tough to come back from being 4-5. Again, it was almost too little too late. We know we didn't play well, but we won, and that's all that counts. I'm just happy to be alive."