There were no signs pointing to Tampa and Super Bowl XVIII after the Washington Redskins defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-23, last night at RFK Stadium before 32,120. This is the preseason, after all, and there were 23,000 empty seats serving as reminders of that.
But, certainly, there were signs indicating some of the glory and heroics of last January's Super Bowl victory still live within the Washington Redskins.
Quarterback Joe Theismann looked sharp in the first half, completing 11 of 15 passes for 116 yards. He rolled out, threw two touchdown passes--shaking his fists after each one--and built a 24-13 halftime lead.
Kicker Mark Moseley converted both field goal attempts, one from 44 yards in the first half, another from 40 yards in the second half. Even running back John Riggins, who usually saves his 18-wheelers around the left side for the regular season, gained 41 yards on seven carries in one first-half Riggo drill that led to a touchdown.
"I saw a few sparks that reminded me of last year," said Washington Coach Joe Gibbs.
The only bit of bad news for the Redskins (1-1) was that wide receiver Art Monk suffered a slight sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and will be out from 10 days to three weeks. Monk was hit by cornerback Ken Riley while making a 19-yard reception in the first quarter.
The Bengals (0-2) showed some sparks of a comeback victory when rookie quarterback Jeff Christensen passed to tight end Dan Ross, who slipped past reserve safety Vic Vines for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 3:34 left, closing the score to 27-23.
"I was nervous at the end," said Gibbs. He showed that nervousness when he sent in the starting offensive linemen for the last series to protect reserve quarterback Tom Owen and the Redskins' first preseason victory in two years.
"What you don't want to develop is losing a couple of close games. Once they scored (to close within four points), I knew we'd go back in with our front-line guys," said Gibbs. "We told them we had to have a first down."
Protected by the Hogs, Owen produced two first downs. And a victory.
Punter Jeff Hayes might have been the most efficient of all Redskins last night, averaging 49.5 yards over four punts.
Cincinnati quarterback Ken Anderson zeroed in on the Redskins' defense in the first half, exposing some frailties in the secondary. Anderson completed 11 of 14 for 155 yards in the first half.
The Bengals took a 7-0 lead four minutes into the game as Anderson threw a 10-yard scoring pass to M.L. Harris, who slipped behind strong safety Ken Coffey, over the middle. The defense, which would revive later in the first half, seemed sluggish during this drive, accented by Anderson's 21-yard pass to Cris Collinsworth and his 26-yard pass to Ross.
Then came a drive reminiscent of January. Riggins carried the ball five straight times, seven times in all. Theismann finished this 12-play drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Don Warren, who bullied out of linebacker Reggie Williams' grasp at the two, falling into the end zone. This tied the score with 3:28 left in the quarter.
When Stanley Wilson fumbled a sickly kickoff (very high, woefully short) by Kevin Seibel, the Redskins' Stuart Anderson recovered on the Cincinnati 27. Three incompletions by Theismann later, Moseley kicked a 44-yarder, giving the Redskins a 10-7 lead with 2:58 left in the quarter.
Anderson continued to work on the Redskins' secondary. He led the Bengals to two field goals by Jim Breech (28 yards and 23 yards). The second gave the Bengals a 13-10 lead with 7:03 left in the half.
The Redskins then took over. Theismann led them on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that swallowed 5:49, likely causing the Bengals' defense to swallow some preseason pride, too.
Theismann completed all five passes in this drive: two to Warren, one to Virgil Seay, making the Little Smurf leap for the catch, and two to Charlie Brown.
Brown's second catch was a gem: a 12-yard touchdown pass from Theismann, who gently lobbed the ball into the left corner of the end zone, beyond cornerback Ray Griffin, whose back was turned. The Redskins led, 17-13, with 1:14 left in the half.
On the Bengals' next play from scrimmage, Anderson was hit by defensive tackle Dave Butz and fumbled. Defensive tackle Perry Brooks recovered on the Cincinnati 15 with 1:08 left in the half.
Wasting no time and one cornerback, Theismann passed to Seay, who caught the ball in front of cornerback Jimmy Turner and was tackled at the 1. On the next play, running back Reggie Evans (13 carries for 30 yards) ran for the touchdown, giving the Redskins a 24-13 lead with 53 seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter, Owen replace Theismann and Turk Schonert replaced Anderson. And the offensive effiency of the first half was replaced by flat-out deficiency.
Owen, a 10-year veteran battling to make the team, completed five of 11 passes for 46 yards. He threw one interception and once overthrew wide receiver Alvin Garrett, who was wide open and racing down the right sideline near midfield.
Schonert had more problems, completing four of 12 passes for 44 yards. He was intercepted twice, once by Coffey (who took part in a team-high nine tackles) and one by reserve free safety Curtis Jordan.
It took the Cincinnati defense to provide third-quarter offense. Defensive end Gary Burley charged in and hit Owen, whose arm was cocked in the throwing position. The ball rolled away, as many Redskins watched, thinking the play an incompletion. But no whistle blew.
Glen Collins recovered on the Washington 24. Four plays later, Breech kicked a 37-yard field goal.
Moseley's 40-yard field goal, set up by Jordan's interception of Schonert's pass at the Cincinnati 35, gave the Redskins a 27-16 lead with 7:53 to play.
Christiansen's touchdown pass to Ross with 3:54 to play made things close. But, on third and six from the Washington 21, Owen completed a seven-yard pass to running back Nick Giaquinto for a first down. Otis Wonsley ran for another first down.
And the Bengals ran out of time.