The reason Washington is king of the NFL today is pretty simple. Denver couldn't stop Washington's running game. In fact, I can pinpoint it even more than that. The Broncos couldn't stop one particular running play: the counter, where the Redskins get the defense flowing one way and let the running back cut back against the flow.
Stopping that play is crucial to beating the Redskins. The Broncos didn't do it, and that was the difference in Super Bowl XXII. Like most people, I was surprised by the outcome. I didn't think either team would dominate.
The Broncos got Washington off-balance early when they came out using trick plays. They worked for a while, but the Redskins adjusted, and the Broncos couldn't establish anything that worked consistently.
A key statistic was Denver's third down efficiency. The Broncos converted two of 12 third downs into first downs, including only one of seven in the key first half. You can't win games if you can't convert third downs.
Meanwhile, Washington established a running game. I know it's a cliche, but it was the key to this Super Bowl. That and the Redskins converted nine of 15 third-down chances.
Washington settled down after being shocked by Denver's gadget plays in the first quarter. Coach Joe Gibbs stuck with his game plan and those running plays started to work.
The Redskins averaged a whopping seven yards per rush. Their main runner, Timmy Smith, averaged 9.3 yards and gained 204.
Four of the Redskins' five second-quarter touchdowns came on passes by Doug Williams. He had a great game, and I was happy to see him get the MVP award.
But Williams' passing was based on the Redskins' ability to run. Many of their key passes came off run fakes. When the Broncos couldn't stop those counter runs, they began overreacting whenever a play looked like a run. That opened it up for Williams, and he came through like a champion. And so did Ricky Sanders. He deserved a few MVP votes, too.
On defense, Washington had trouble with John Elway and Denver's trickery in the first quarter. But the Redskins started putting pressure on Elway, and that's why Denver was shut out the last three quarters.
My congratulations go the Redskins, who played a magnificent game. By the way, that's two Super Bowls in a row for my division, the NFC East. Maybe we can keep it going next year, only with Joe Gibbs writing this column and me accepting the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Tom Landry has coached the Dallas Cowboys since their entry into the NFL in 1960.