With equal parts precision and power, the Washington Redskins defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 27-17, today before 60,718 in the Kingdome.
The primary cause of the victory for the Redskins--now 3-1 after their third straight post-Dallas win and their ninth straight road triumph--was quarterback Joe Theismann, who threw three touchdown passes.
This included first-half scoring throws to wide receivers Charlie Brown (64 yards) and Alvin Garrett (47 yards) that created a 20-10 halftime lead the Seahawks (2-2) would never overcome.
With shaving cream on his face in the locker room, Theismann smiled about his effort, nine for 16 for 162 yards. He said of his first-half touchdown passes, "Those were the best two passes I have thrown since the Super Bowl."
Sure, Redskins running back John Riggins ran 30 times for 83 yards today, moving past former NFL great Joe Perry (8,360 yards) into sixth place on the all-time rushing list. Riggins' uncompromising power also helped the Redskins control the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes of the second half. A week ago they kept the ball 21 second-half minutes in their 27-12 victory over Kansas City.
And, sure, the defensive line, currently the Redskins' most dominant force, held rookie running back Curt Warner, the league's leading rusher entering the game, to 34 yards in 15 carries. Warner gained just nine yards on five carries in the second half. In all, Seattle netted 74 yards rushing on 27 carries, a 2.7-yard average and nearly 100 yards less than its average.
All of which forced the Seahawks out of their standard run-oriented offense that generated victories over the New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers the past two weeks and into uncomfortable passing situations.
And, sure, Redskins cornerback Vernon Dean did ensure victory with an interception with less than nine minutes to play, Seattle trailing, 20-10. Dean picked off quarterback Jim Zorn's badly underthrown pass at Seattle's 48, then returned it 26 yards to the 22.
"That was the key play of the game for the defense," said free safety Mark Murphy. "Once Vernon made the interception, we knew we had won."
But both Zorn and wide receiver Steve Largent, for whom the pass was intended, claimed Dean had not made a clean interception.
"The official didn't call it," said Largent. "The ball hit his chest and then it hit the ground.
"By the time the play was over, the official didn't have the nerve to call it."
The interception set up Theismann's final touchdown pass, a four-yarder to tight end Rick Walker, giving the Redskins a 27-10 lead with only five minutes left, quieting all those Seahawks fans who were bobbing up and down rhythmically in the Kingdome, a cement mushroom in downtown Seattle.
Zorn retaliated with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Largent, who had eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, closing Seattle to 27-17 with less than four minutes to play.
But the Seahawks got no closer.
In the Redskins' locker room, Don Breaux, coach of the running backs, smiled and said, "The big play is back."
And Coach Joe Gibbs said, "Our problem has been we haven't had a lot of big plays in the first three games. Today, we made a couple of big throws and catches."
Which brings us to Theismann, whose passing was a blend of big-play precision and power.
"If anybody deserves the MVP today, it was Joe Theismann," said Brown, who had another perfectly thrown long pass (a certain touchdown) drop off his fingertips in the first half.
It was the Redskins' defense that provided the first score. On the third play of the game, Zorn, who completed 20 of 40 passes for 241 yards, threw a forward pitch to Warner, who fumbled.
"I hit Warner," said defensive tackle Perry Brooks, "and that messed him up."
Defensive end Tony McGee recovered on Seattle's 19. Six plays later, Riggins ran one yard for the touchdown that gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead with 10:22 left in the first quarter and gave Riggins a rushing touchdown in each of the last eight games.
Then the Seahawks turned to their most reliable strategy: ball-control offense. They held the ball for nearly nine minutes, but settled for Norm Johnson's 27-yard field goal, closing within 7-3 with one minute left in the first quarter.
Two minutes later, Theismann located Brown, racing down the right side past cornerback Keith Simpson. Brown caught the ball at Seattle's 30, then sprinted across the field for the 64-yard touchdown that made it 14-3.
With 9:28 left in the half, Zorn threw over the middle to Largent, who terrorized the Redskins' secondary today, for a 13-yard touchdown. Largent curled inside rookie cornerback Darrell Green, caught the ball at the goal line and stepped in for the touchdown that closed Seattle to 14-10.
With 56 seconds left in the half, Theismann faked a handoff to Riggins, hesitated for a moment, sprinted right and saw Garrett speeding past Simpson down the right side. Garrett caught the pass at the five and cruised into the end zone. It was Washington, 20-10.
"The pass was perfect," Garrett said, adding with a smile, "I finally got into the end zone."
The Redskins physically dominated in the second half. "Our trademark," said offensive guard Mark May. Even though Mark Moseley missed from 35 yards on a field goal attempt in the third quarter--he also missed on an extra point kick--the Redskins weren't challenged hereafter.
"Washington is the best team we've played," said Seattle Coach Chuck Knox. "They've got everything."
In victory, the Redskins were left to ponder those pieces of the game where improvement must be made.
Dean talked about his season-long nagging injuries and receivers speeding past him. Today, it was Largent going by him for the final touchdown.
"Hey, Largent is a great receiver," Dean said. "On that touchdown, he made a great move. He would've beaten any cornerback in the league with that. After the game, I went up to him and just said, 'Hey, you're all right.' "
Because Riggins did not gain 100 yards, some of his blockers weren't pleased. "We should've gotten him more," said guard Russ Grimm.
"I'm disappointed Riggo didn't get more," said tight end Walker. "We'll have to work harder. You wait. In November and December, he'll be stronger, we'll be better and those 80-yard rushing days will turn into 100."
After yielding 151 yards rushing in the 31-30 loss to Dallas in the opener, the Redskins now have yielded only 142 the last three games. Tough.
Defensive end Dexter Manley, satisfied upon hearing that Warner had been held to 34 yards, said, "Hey, I'm impressed with us."