Because almost nothing else had gone right, the Cardinals resorted to trickery on the second-half kickoff today, hoping to use a Redskins virtue -- aggressiveness -- to their advantage.
"Had my fellow set up," said Dave Stief, who was supposed to score the touchdown.
"Goin' good right at the start," said Willard Harrell, who was supposed to cause it. "Me and Stump (Mitchell) bobbled the kickoff, on purpose, made 'em think we were fighting over it."
The idea was for 11 hungry Redskins, all on a line, to break suddenly from their assigned kickoff lanes in mad pursuit of the seemingly flustered little Cardinals. When he could see the fight in their eyes, or some such, Harrell would scoop up the ball and flip it across the field to the eager Stief. It could have been a swift touchdown; it should have gone for 50 or so yards.
It failed completely.
When I was ready to throw," Harrell said, "it didn't seem like he (Stief) was in the position I wanted him to be."
For those familiar with the World Series in Busch Stadium, Harrell was Keith Hernandez near the first-base bag. Stief was supposed to be shortstop Ozzie Smith; he was second baseman Tommy Herr instead. And the left-handed Harrell threw the ball ahead of Stief, which is not only devious but also illegal.
So one play that might have been worth two field goals by Mark Moseley, or put Harrell's team in position to tie the game quickly, was doomed as soon as the ball left his hand.
That was how the entire game went: victory seemed in the cards for the Redskins; it most surely was not in the Cards.
"Have to admit," said Mark Murphy. "We were really lucky."
First punt of the game, Mitchell running 80 yards for an apparent touchdown.
Squandered, by a penalty for illegal use of hands.
First St. Louis play from scrimmage, O. J. Anderson runs 64 yards.
Squandered, when Neil O'Donoghue misses a field goal from the 16.
First two completed passes move the Cardinals deep into Redskins territory.
Squandered, when the passer, Neil Lomax, fumbles and Washington's Larry Kubin recovers.
There was lots more. A linebacker dropped a spiral from Joe Theismann that hit him in the chest; Anderson and Wayne Morris each ruined fine drives with fumbles. The Redskins actually forced the one by Morris.
Little wonder Coach Jim Hanifan ordered that long lateral. Sensing his team couldn't beat the Redskins, Hanifan gambled the Redskins might beat themselves. Not today.
In the Cardinals' dressing room, cornerback Carl Allen sat in full uniform inside his locker, tossing wads of tape and pads toward a waste can. Nearby, Anderson pleaded: "Didn't make any mistakes in practice this week."
Everybody said the weather was a 12th defender, that the field was more suited to the NHL than the NFL. This day Moseley missed his first field goal attempt since way back when his hair was straight -- and the obliging Cardinals were offside. He made the rekick, and three more. With 18 straight, Moseley needs just two more to tie the little Miami tie salesman, Garo Yepremian, for the longest binge of accuracy in league history.
This is how well it was going for Moseley: from the pitcher's mound, known as Sutterville here, he kicked what looked like a split-fingered fast ball between the uprights.
There were three scares for a Redskins team that very likely cannot avoid the playoffs: all involved ancient Jim Hart.
Moseley sensed possible trouble.
"We were getting Lomax once," he said, "and I was on the sideline saying: 'Don't make him look too bad. They might bring in Hart.' "
"I thought: 'Oh, no,' " said Murphy. "He's done it before (to the Redskins, especially). A very streaky quarterback."
Hart made the game intriguing with a touchdown drive that required nearly seven of the final 10 minutes; he made the game frightful for the Redskins with one more lob toward the end zone on the final play. No Mel Gray ending this zany gray day; no miracle catch.
Redskins officials in the stands were concerned when Murphy spiked the ball in front of him, keeping it in the end zone, when he could have batted it backwards and out of play.
"Stump was kinda close to it," safety Tony Peters admitted.
Hart was kinda close to great again; he liked it.
"There's always that spark that makes you wonder if you can respond when the time comes," said the less-celebrated permanent St. Louis relief pitcher. "You wonder because it's so few and far between calls. It feels good to say I responded a little bit. It makes me feel like I still got it."
At 3-3, the Cardinals feel they still have enough to make the playoffs. Immediately after Hart's touchdown pass, they released word that the league has given them permission to print playoff tickets. The winners today, the good and lucky Redskins, might soon be allowed to sell theirs.