Probably, this Redskins-Lions playoff Saturday could be decided with a minimum of drain and strain. Dueling feet ought to take care of it. Mark Moseley's toe versus Eddie Murray's instep.
The warriors--Riggins and Sims, Butz and English--can watch, if they choose. But since the game very likely will hinge on place kicking anyway, it might as well to get to that without bothersome interruptions, such as fumbles, interceptions and TV timeouts.
Dress only the special-teams thumpers involved with field goals, them that kicks and them that sics. Choose, arbitrarily, five KEN DENLINGER This Morning distances in RFK Stadium for each unit, from somewhere just outside the 15-yard line to somewhere just inside the 40, and alternate kicks. Nobody gets hurt; 20 minutes after it starts, it ends. Maybe.
Neither man might miss until Monday.
His sport's most valuable player this season, Moseley might be the first kicker in the history of games to miss three times as many extra points as field goals (16 of 19 to 20 of 21).
If you couldn't hire Moseley, the under-appreciated Murray might do. The native Canadian also missed just one field goal, in 12 tries, this season after being suspended two games for walking out on his team before all the teams walked out on their league.
The best advice for both coaches is what Sundance would tell them: just keep kicking; that's what you do best. Especially the Redskins, now that wide receiver Art Monk can not play because of a stress fracture. One player, he is lots more than 1/12th of Washington's offense.
Monk's would seem a very lucky break for the Lions, their major weakness on defense being the secondary. The coverers, for a change, might give the very good rushers an extra second to grab for Joe Theismann. Look for a Redskins offense not quite as liberal as it seems to get relatively stodgy this week.
If they are healthy, John Riggins and Joe Washington in the backfield at the same time might be useful. Washington would be the elusive, Monk-like player who would allow Riggins more of a chance inside. A football maxim that surely began before Bear Bryant, who preached it, is: the worse a team gets the more conservative it plays.
The Redskins might well send everybody but Joe Jacoby in motion--this way and that--and still slip the ball to Riggins up the middle a few more times than usual. Or throw all manner of screen passes to keep such as all-pro Doug English from testing the dental craftsmanship in Theismann's mouth.
Detroit's players always seem better than they play. Given parity at every turn, a team almost has to work to avoid the playoffs as consistently as the Lions have. This is their first appearance since 1970, when the Cowboys scored a 5-0 victory. Of the 14 NFC teams, only the sad Saints have been absent longer--their entire existence.
Five years after George Allen moved west and discovered football hell had eucalyptus trees, the Redskins still are winning with defense. This under-celebrated gang is the stingiest in the league, three points better than Miami. What's better than a no-name Dolphin? A no-tame Redskin.
The Redskins have surrendered nearly 100 fewer points than the Chargers (while also scoring nearly 100 fewer). On a points-allowed basis, they are superior to the more honored Cowboys, Steelers and Jets. Nobody is totally sure how that has happened; few in Washington care, so long as it continues.
Joe Gibbs was appropriately honored as coach of the year by The Associated Press, then made his only public blunder of the season by saying he wanted to win it again. No you don't, Joe. Only builders become coach of the year, never maintainers.
Five of the seven coaches of the year before Gibbs have been fired; Vince Lombardi (in 1959) and Tom Landry (in 1966) won the award just once; the Steelers won four Super Bowls, but Chuck Noll won't be coach of the year until they resurface as a force.
That's the problem, Joe. To get coach of the year twice, though Don Shula did win three times in the '60s with the Colts, a man's teams nearly always must be awful again first. Lots of owners are not patient enough for that. In large part, your job opened because the coach of the year in '79, Jack Pardee, took a mediocre team too far too quickly.
Not that any such thoughts race through Gibbs's mind just now. He'll need to do some of his very best coaching of the year this week. Lions quarterback Eric Hipple is like a broken faucet, one that stays either very hot or very cold for extraordinary stretches.
He may be torrid just now.
League-wide, those teases in San Diego have done it again, losing just enough to assure that football's most entertaining troupe may go against two defenses Sunday: the Steelers and the weather. The Chargers can cope with Jack Lambert and Jack Ham; Jack Frost crushes them. One weekend forecast for Pittsburgh calls for snow.
Imagine anyone rooting desperately for the Dolphins and Raiders. The Chargers will. Anything to come in out of the cold. The Redskins' second fondest playoff wish probably is not Dallas losing but St. Louis winning. Cardinals seem to flutter all to pieces against Redskins.
As maligned as the NFC Central Division has been the last several years, it has half the eight National Conference playoff teams. It could have all four by the conference semifinals, though none would be a far safer bet. If Dallas and Washington manage to be upset, the Super Bowl really would be folly. It'll be the super bowl regardless.
To keep his genius glowing, Gibbs will have each Redskin doing what he does best against the Lions--and no more.
That was a problem back in the dark, distant past, asking more of some players than they could deliver. As always, when the offense has scratched three quarters of the field or so, Gibbs will turn to Moseley and sort of say: Ah, Mark, could you give us a foot here?