The rest of us wanted to build an ark. Ducks called for taxis rather than walk around in this rainstorm. The last time anyone saw so much thunder, wind and lightning, Dr. Frankenstein sent up a kite to charge the battery of his surly creation. And what did Dexter Manley think when he saw Mother Nature sending an ocean down into his ear?
Dexter Manley said Thanks, Maam. Manley is a thunderously strong, lightning quick defensive end for the Redskins. He is 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Poor Doug Williams, the Tampa Bay quarterback, today called Manley "one of the four best defensive ends in the league." As it began to rain during the national anthem today, Manley remembers how wonderful he felt.
"It was just a great feeling to see it rain so hard," Manley said.
Explain yourself, sir, because half the customers ran for the lifeboats before the storm subsided at halftime.
"When that rain came, I made up my mind to play," said Manley, who recovered two fumbles, had a sack and chased Williams all over town. "This is great football weather, all this rain and mud. We're big grownups out there slippin' and slidin' in the mud. And, right, we're getting paid for having all this fun."
The Redskins have pro football's longest regular-season win streak. They finished 1981 with three straight victories and now are 2-0 on the road against teams out of the '81 playoffs. If last week's 37-34 victory over Philadelphia said good things about the offense, today's 21-13 victory in ludicrous conditions said good things about -- well, about everything.
The defensive line, with Manley sensational, badgered Williams into such ineffectiveness that he was sacked twice and ran for escape nine times. Of his 14-for-27 passing, only a 62-yard touchdown completion hurt.
Williams fumbled four times, all on center snaps in the rain. The Redskins recovered three times, alertly beating the Bucs to the ball and/or aggressively outwrestling them for it. Counting Curtis Jordan's blocked punt for a touchdown and two field goals set up by fumble recoveries, the defense accounted for 12 points.
And when it mattered most, with Tampa Bay trailing only 18-13 and needing to sustain the momentum of a touchdown scored 1:16 into the fourth quarter, the Redskins did what good teams must do. The offense immediately came back with a long drive for a score. It used 16 plays and 9:28 to go 63 yards for a Mark Moseley field goal and a 21-13 lead.
By then, only 4:16 remained. And the defense next did what good teams must do. It stopped Tampa Bay on three plays, albeit with unexpected help. Kevin House went 71 yards for a touchdown with a Williams pass. But officials properly ruled House had stepped out of bounds and then come back into play illegally.
The last 3:36 belonged, as it should have, to John Riggins. It has been 45 years since a Redskin had a day like Riggins' today. He carried 34 times, tying Cliff Battles' club record set in 1937, and gained 136 yards. The last 3:36, Riggins carried seven straight times for 48 yards.
"Riggo Drill" were the words on the locker room chalk board afterward. The Redskins end practice with the Riggo drill, giving the ball to the old man five straight times.
"John says he can't get a rhythm going unless he carries four or five times," said Coach Joe Gibbs. "We pass so much in practice, he doesn't get much work. So we go through the Riggo drill."
In rain that helped cause five Tampa Bay fumbles, the Redskins had none. Fundamentally sound, they also were confidently bold. As he did on third and four in Philadelphia, today on a critical third and four Gibbs called a running play up the middle for Clarence Harmon. It worked again, keeping alive the Redskins' last scoring drive.
In that drive, the Redskins also used good fortune. Gibbs later said Tampa Bay is a good team "and we were just fortunate to play with them." This was gracious, and not all wrong. On third and nine, at the Tampa Bay 26, Theismann threw long and incomplete. But the Bucs' defensive end, Dave Stalls, was so worried by Harmon's presence that he blatantly held Harmon.
Good teams worry other teams.
Good teams get good breaks.
"We're good," Dexter Manley said. "We've been getting criticized for our defensive line, but that's making us play hard. We're going to prove to everybody that we're not as bad as people said."
The crushing linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who recovered a fumble and batted down a pass, said, "We had to redeem ourselves a little bit for last week. Even though we came through then when we needed to, we knew we couldn't give up 34 points again. We're not going to score 37 all the time."
Dave Butz said it was no surprise the Redskins took four fumbles.
"Our game plan was to take the ball away," the defensive tackle said matter of factly. "Here, look."
There on Butz's game plan in his duffel bag were the words, "to win, we must make three interceptions and recover two fumbles."
Butz figured the four fumbles were enough, especially the way Williams played. "We wanted to put some heat on him as soon as we could," Butz said. "He throws those quick hitches off a two-step drop."
But after the four fumbles, Williams moved away from center more cautiously. He made sure he had the ball first.
"He was having to take too much time," Butz said, "and so he ran longer plays."
The longer a quarterback runs, the more likely he is to meet a thunderously strong, lightning quick defensive end.
"I feel like on third and long, it's up to me," Dexter Manley said. "I like to make the big play. Like today . . . "
Manley smiled and added, "I had one sack, but I should have had five."
The gentleman played up a storm.