As Mark Moseley trotted onto the field with less than seven minutes remaining in overtime, placement holder Joe Theismann had a simple request: "Please don't miss one, Mark."
"Don't worry," said Moseley, "I won't."
True to his word, Moseley, who had missed a 35-yard kick four minutes earlier, connected squarely with the football. The result was a 45-yard field goal with 6:28 left in sudden death overtime to earn the Redskins a ragged and rugged but rallying victory over the New York Giants yesterday. 16-13.
As the ball sailed through the upright, Theismann looked Moseley in the eye and said. "I tell ya, Mose, that was one of the finest looking field goals I've seen in some time."
Moseley's first-winning kick of the 1978 season allowed the Redskins at 8-3, to maintain a one-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys, 7-4, in the NFC East race. It ended a four-game losing streak to the Giants (5-6, and dealt the New Yorkers' playoff hopes a severe jolt.
Moseley's third field goal of the day, furthermore, took a bit of heat off Redskin Coach Jack Pardee, whose decision to have Moseley attempt that 35-yard kick on first down at the Giant 18 was widely second-guessed.
"They were blitzing and bringing both defensive tackles into the center-guard gap and I didn't want to take a chance on us fumbling the football." Pardee said of the decision to kick the first time in the overtime.
"We were in a good position on the field, and rather than take any more risks, we felt it was time to kick it."
Moseley was in excellent position for both his overtime kicks, mostly because of some spectacular play of by quarterback Theismann in the final 2 1/2 minutes of regulation and the entire overtime.
Theismann had been sacked five times earlier in the game, and his fumble after a George Martin hit was gobbled up and returned 20 yards to a touchdown by charging lineman Archer, giving New York a 13-6 lead with nine minutes to play.
The Redskins could not make a first down on their next possession, but finally got the ball back in the decent field position after an 18-yard Tony Green punt return to their own 47.
There were 2 minutes 31 seconds left in regulation when Theismann went to work. And 86 seconds later, Mike Thomas powered off right tackle behind a block by fullback Clarence Harmon for a one-yard touchdown run. Moseley's extra point tied the game at 13 with 1:05 to play.
In between, Theismann completed five passes on the drive for 51 yards, including a third-down, four-yard gem to Thomas at the sideline as the quarterback scrambled out of the pocket under heavy pressure.
In all, Theismann completed 22 of 35 passes for 270 yards, a personal record for completions. He completed the last eight he threw. It could have been nine but John McDaniel dropped a potential touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.
On that last drive in regulation, the clock inside two minutes, the Redskins, at the Giant 42 and the pressure hot and heavy, Theismann was at his best. He passed 18 yards over the middle to Jean Fugett and 11 to McDaniel for called time with 1:15 to play and the ball on the Giant 12.
From there, Theismann looked for McDaniel on a quick post over the middle, but that was covered. Instead, he loopoed a short pass to Harmon, the second-year man who had replaced
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John Riggins after the fullback sprained his ankle late in the fourth period.
Harmon caught the ball a step ahead of Giant linebacker Brad Van Pelt, who just did manage to get a piece of the fullback's jersey and drag him down at the three-yard stripe. Ray Rhodes, Giant cornerback, was slapped with a personal foul call for a late hit, and the Redskins had first and goal at the one.
"I wasn't the primary receiver on that play," Harmon said. "I was just trying to keep the linebacker close to the line. When I swung out of the backfield, I put a move on Van Pelt and got open. I really didn't think they were going to call piling on, but I sure didn't argue."
Harmon next led the interference for Thomas on the touchdown play.
"It's a basic hunch play," said Thomas, who silenced many boo-birds in the crowd with a solid all-around performance - 44 yards rushing and 81 yards on eight pass receptions.
"I just follow the fullback. He's supposed to read the hole and Clarence got enough of a piece of their middle linebacker (Harry Carson) to let me slip to there. Clarence made a heck of a block, it's nice to have a guy like that in there."
The Giants, deep in their territory, were content to run out the clock after the typing touchdown to force the 15-minute overtime, and the Redskins seemed certain winners when they won the toss and marched quickly down the field.
Theismann made a nifty 20-yard run on a scramble before colliding with back judge Bill Swanson along the sideline at the Giant 41. "I would have to run into a zebra," Theismann said. "If the ref's not in the way, I'm in the end zone."
Six plays later, Fugett made a spectacular catch of a high pass and tucked it in for a 15-yard gain to the New York 18. At that point, Pardee opted for Moseley, who earlier in the game connected from 47 and 33 yards, and who says, "I should never miss inside the 30-yard line."
Moseley also said that Pardee's decision to go for the field goal on first down "kind of caught me off guard. I thought we'd go for it on third down, but I could see his point. He didn't want a fumble and we were well within range.
"And then I had to go and blow it. I just missed it. But those are the kinds of kicks you have to put out of your mind. I'm just thankful I got another chance."
He got that second chance after the Redskin defense refused the Giants a first down and Green returned Dave Jennings' low, 43-yard punt 12 yards to the Redskin 44 with 8:02 left in the 15-minute extension.
On first down, Theismann again aimed at McDaniel, and found him, on the right sideline in front of the Redskin bench. "It was just an out pattern," said McDaniel, "but the cornerback (Terry Jackson) had given me a lot of room, and I had a chance to put a move on him and turn it upfield."
McDaniel picked up 19 yards to the Giant 37 before Jackson and Van Pelt grabbed him from behind. Harmon lost a yard on first down, Thomas gained six on second, and Theismann's four-yard pass to Thomas gained four, bringing up fourth and one at the 28.
Moseley, who came into the game with 12 field goals in 20 attempts, including five of nine from 40 to 49 yards out, admitted he was mostly concerned about the physical condition of his snapper, Ted Fritsch, before the game-winning kick.
Fritsch had suffered two broken ribs on Green's punt return setting up the final drive, and was having difficulty breathing as he walked onto the field for Moseley's attempt.
"All you say is Ted's one heck of a competitor," Moseley said. "I knew if it was possible, he'd be in there. And Joe's such a good holder, he can pretty much rescue any kind of a bad snap."
Fritsch's snap was just a big high, but Theismann managed to get it down for Moseley's kick. "I thought I hit the first one a little better," Moseley said, "but I'm not complaining.
What Redskin was?
Though the Giants and their own penalties made them look dreadful for a good portion of the day - one Washington drive consumed five minutes for a net gain of four yards - the Redskins made the biggest plays when it counted most.
"This victory was very meaningful for us," Pardee ventured. "We played in the end with the same kind of enthusiasm we had earlier in the year, and that's a good sign.
"We came back to life today, and if we stay alive like that we'll be okay. If we play like we did in the last two minutes and the overtime, we can hand in there with anyone."