The regular Redskin left tackle was on crutches by this time. The regular right tackle and both "veteran" tight ends were limping and also unable to play. So, when Jack Pardee was faced with the fourth-and-a-foot decision against the Giants here today, there really was no decision.
The macho move would be to go for it, for any team that can't gain the length of the football is no supposed to be cluttering the NFL. If they made it, the Redskins could run the clock to the last possible moment and keep the Giants from any comeback try after Mark Moseley kicked the go-ahead field goal. Also, Moseley had been inexplicably erratic lately and the shorter the kick the better.
But when Pardee looked at who could block for whom during the two-minute timeout this is what he saw: a backup at left tackle, a man who had not played the position in years at right tackle, a man who had joined the team two days ago playing one tight end and the backup, backup center playing the other. And the likely ball carrier, Rickey Claitt, had fumbled minutes earlier in a pressure situation.
"It's hard to ask someone the plays," that instant right tackle, Gary Anderson, said later, "when he's asking you."
All of this swirled about Pardee's mind -- and he was indecisive for longer than Moseley wanted him to be.
"I was surprised when he hesitated," Moseley admitted. He was judging this as a slight slight and not examining all the options Pardee had to consider. And Moseley had missed three of four field goal tries this season. c
But Pardee and the Giant coach, Ray Perkins, knew Moseley better than Moseley realized. They realized that while Moseley might be acting human all of a sudden, if they searched their minds they could not recall the last time he missed with the game on the line.
"I knew they'd go for the field goal," Perkins said, "because they had to be thinking Mark Moseley missed two last week and one this week. I knew he wasn't going to miss again."
He was right.
"But it was pretty tense till the (officials') hands went up," said left guard Ron Saul. "It was goin' for that left corner (upright)."
That was the one Moseley hit earlier at the opposite end of the field from nearly the same 45-yard distance. Like a golfer who suddenly develops a slight hook, Moseley tried to compensate just before that final kick. It almost wasn't enough.
"I lined it up to the right a bit, figuring it would draw some," he said. "It was leaning hard. And the wind was moving it, too. On the one earlier, the wind was working it back in (from the opposite end of the field) when it hit the post. The winner was trying to bite left."
Better than anyone, Moseley realizes the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately mentality of pro sports. He also senses that the Redskins depend on him more than any other team does its place-kicker. And that a Moseley miss, let alone three out of the first four in the opening two games, is as rare as Jimmy Carter calling Ronald Reagan a superior candidate for President.
"I think the two last week were flukes," he said. "But when I miss it's like something drastic must have happened. I'm not kicking as well as I'd like, but I'll be in top form soon. Yeah, I could tell people were kinda worried about those misses (against Dallas). They were quiet around me, not saying a lot."
Sometimes, a kicker's mind is as important as his foot. He must be certain the ball will arrive in some sort of shape for Joe Theismann to set it properly. Which means that perhaps Moseley has yet to be comfortable with the new snapper, Jeff Bostic.
"I'll take a while to get used to," Moseley said, "because Ted (Fritisch) was phenomenal (before contracting a case of snapper's yips and hiking too many balls that needed stamps to get to the proper Redskin)." He was talking about the delicate timing and added that all 11 men on the field goal team now practice daily on the maneuver.
In addition to his first game-winning kick of the season, there was another new experience for Moseley today. He missed an extra point, for the first time in 70 kicks and only the second time in his last 121 over four years. As much as anything, it seemed as though the Giants either were offside and were not called or the Redskin blockers relaxed, assuming a penalty, and allowed a large Giant to crash through.
"The guy took ti right off my foot," Moseley said. "Then he crashed right into me. He had to be offside to get that close."
If the Redskins were breathing huge sighs of relief at finally beating the Jersey Jinx and the Giants here, the reasons that caused Pardee to send Moseley in to win the game earlier than many fans expected caused the postgame celebration to be rather short.
Terry Hermeling was leaning on crutches when he greeted his teammates at the door immediately after the game. George Starke and Don Warren also are at least questionable for the Raider game in Oakland Sunday. And while Wilbur Jackson and Claitt ran quite well today, backs with much more ability would gain almost nothing behind the sort of line the Redskins patched together at the end.
"I haven't played tackle since college," said Anderson, "in '76, I think. I spell the guards here. But this week I worked at tackle a little during the defensive drills. I guess that helped. I hope so."
Anderson and the newest tight end, Rick Walker, were giving each other what's-going-on-here stares when they were paired on the same side from time to time. Matters were such that the backup to center Bob Kuziel, Dan Peiffer, was the second tight end when that formation was necessary.
Injuries were coming at such a pace that veterans such as Saul could scarcely fathom who was running onto the field from time to time. At least, he will have time to meet all the new faces this week. Perhaps all the new players will even have the luxury of learning all the plays.