Coach Jack Pardee was looking today for someone "to show us how to be a lot tougher than we've been." But instead of one example, he found two: halfback Wilbur Jackson and fullback Rickey Claitt.
"Those two make us tougher," Pardee said, "the way they run and hit in there and block for each other. The way they play, it allows us to match up better and be a better team. Gosh darn, it was good to see them play like that."
The two also helped strengthen the Redskins' struggling rushing game. They combined for 127 yeards of the team's 208 on the ground. Against Dallas Monday, Washington could manage only 58 yeards rushing, but Jackson carried just twice in that game and Claitt never got the ball.
Jackson won a place in his coach's heart with a second half run that gained only four yards. But three of them came after he had lost his helmet.
"Talk about tough," Pardee said."How was that for guts? But this team showed me some guts today. Look at (tight end) Don Warren, playing on that bad leg. He's got a heart too big to fit in most men's bodies.We were playing sometimes without two tight ends, two tackles, two defensive ends. You worry about depth but you can't prepare for those things happening to you."
But, despite the injury problems, Washington still managed to beat New York, largely because of the play of its new backfield, Claitt and Jackson.
Jackson, who was moved from fullback to halfback Tuesday, got stronger as the day wore on. "His cuts were great," said Fred Connor, running back coach. Jackson ran for one touchdown, gained 50 years on 14 carries and picked up a handful of tough first downs on power runs.
"I'll feel more comfortable the more I play halfback," said Jackson, who was obtained from San Francisco for two draft choices during training camp after John Riggins said he was retired. "The line was blocking so well that I didn't want to settle for just one yard. That wasn't a reward for them. If they were playing that well, I had to pick up some extra yards too."
Claitt was scheduled to start but then the Redskins decided to open the game with some plays designed for Clarence Harmon. When Claitt finally entered the contest late in the first quarter, he made his presence felt immediately with an eight-yard run. Only a late-game fumble marred his performance.
The free agent rookie from Bethune-Cookman wound up with 77 yards on 15 carries, a 5.1 average. Most of his yards came on quick bursts that caught the Giant defense off guard.
"I was just glad to finally get to carry the ball in this league," Claitt said. "Even after the fumble, they gave me the ball again right away. Coach Pardee believes in going with the man who is hot and I think I was hot today.
"I wasn't that nervous, because I felt I could play well."
Both runners benefited from an improved performance by the offensive line. "We said we had to do better than against Dallas," guard Jeff Williams said. "We were much more aggressive and we came off the ball better. It felt good to finally play a decent game."
Jackson was rewarded with a game ball for his performance. And Claitt nailed down that starting berth. "It was a pleasure to see them run," Pardee said. "And they are going to get a lot better." CAPTION:
Picture, Rickey Claitt fumbles on New York's three yardline. The Giants recovered and drove 97 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. Making the tackle is Harry Carson (53) of the Giants. By Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post