In recent weeks, while the analysts have tried to figure out what was wrong with the Washington Redskins, one continuing question was whether two all-pro running backs could successfully share time in a one-back offense.
Last night, in the 27-10 victory over St. Louis, the system proved it could work for at least one game.
George Rogers ran for 104 yards on 25 carries and John Riggins covered 103 yards on 17 attempts as they became the first pair of backs in Redskins history to both rush over 100 yards in the same game.
"We are still searching for the right combination," said Coach Joe Gibbs. "George is a great worker and has great quickness. John can particularly contribute in short yardage like he did today. At least today, the combination worked."
The victory was the 20th straight for Washington in games in which one back rushed over 100 yards. The Redskins came in leading the NFC in rushing with 173 yards per game. Last night, they gained 238 yards on 48 carries and now are 22-1 in the last 23 games in which they went to the run 40 or more times.
With the Redskins doing so well on the ground, it meant they did not have to rely on Joe Theismann's passing as much as they had this season. Theismann threw only 20 times and the air game netted only 67 yards.
"We managed to get the big guys going tonight," said Theismann. "Defense and the running game is what this team is all about." The only problem the Redskins encountered in sticking to the ground: again, fumbles.
Riggins, whose career tally is one fumble on every 77 carries, ran 51 yards on a third-and-one play with the Redskins leading 20-3 late in the third quarter. He fumbled when tackled from behind by Cedric Mack and the Cardinals recovered.
Rogers fumbled on two consecutive carries in the fourth quarter, the first setting up the Cardinals' touchdown with 11:49 to go. He fumbled on the first play of Washington's next possession and was replaced by Riggins as the Redskins recovered.
"I think I played well, other than the two fumbles, which were bizarre," said Rogers, the former New Orleans Saint still feeling his way here. "I was doing everything to hold on to the ball, but they (the Cardinals) were coming after it. It was good we had John at that time. He really carried me. In that fourth quarter, we needed John or Keith (Griffin); anyone but me."
Rogers said he did not think his fumbles would cause Gibbs to lose confidence in him.
"He's going to give it to me," Rogers said. "He's not going to give up on me that easily. I'm pretty confident I will get better as time goes on as far as the fumbles go. They were both my fault, but I'm going to keep working on it."
Gibbs concurred. "George is a great back. We are going to give it to him and hope he hangs on to it."