Garrett’s 3 TD Catches Boost Redskins, 31-7

Tiny Alvin Garrett gave the Redskins a bigger than expected lift yesterday. Playing for injured Art Monk, he caught three touchdown passes to become the pivotal figure in Washington’s first playoff victory in a decade.

Washington, which has won five straight games and nine of 10 this season, advances to the conference semifinals next weekend. The Redskins will play either Tampa Bay, Atlanta or Minnesota, depending on the results of the final two NFC games today.

The Redskins hadn’t been in the playoffs since 1976, and they hadn’t won a playoff game since their march to Super Bowl VII in 1972. And just 10 players had been in a playoff game before. But the Redskins performed yesterday as if these postseason events were routine, setting a team record for points scored in a playoff game.

Detroit, 4-5 and one of two teams in the playoffs with a losing record, contributed greatly with three straight first-quarter mistakes that turned what could have been an early Lions’ advantage into a 10-0 lead by Washington. The most spectacular turnover was an interception in the open field by cornerback Jeris White, who then ran 77 yards for the game’s first touchdown.

Once the Redskins got ahead, Garrett, quarterback Joe Theismann and fullback John Riggins dominated. The result was Washington’s second straight one-sided victory after a season of what Coach Joe Gibbs calls “fourth-quarter scramble jobs.”

Theismann and Garrett combined on touchdown passes of 21, 21 and 27 yards, beating man-to-man coverage on each. Garrett finished with six catches for 110 yards, equaling his NFL career reception total. He also became the 13th man in NFL playoff history to score three touchdowns and the seventh to catch three scoring passes.

Riggins, who played sparingly the last two weeks because of a sore thigh, gained 119 yards in 25 carries against the NFC’s top-ranked defense against the rush.

”Alvin Garrett wouldn’t be in this league unless he could perform,” said Theismann, who was extremely sharp on a day when the Redskins needed a precise performance from their quarterback. “He’s just never had the chance.” Theismann finished with 14 completions on 19 passes for 210 yards and no interceptions.

Garrett, a running back at Angelo State, said that any time he gets one-on-one coverage, “I think I can beat it. I just run by them . . . I don’t think there is anyone who can cover me. I told Coach (Charley) Taylor, if I don’t score three touchdowns, I’m not going to be satisfied.”

He laughed. “I’m satisfied.”

Said Gibbs: “I figured everyone would ask me why we haven’t been playing Alvin more. But he sure filled in for us and did a great job . . . We keep saying it takes a total team effort. That’s what is so nice, to have a guy like Alvin fill in for Art like he did.”

Garrett played only because the two receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, Monk and Virgil Seay, were injured. He had caught just one pass in two years with the team, a six-yarder last week after Monk broke a bone in his foot.

With Monk out, the Redskins revised their receiving plans. Charlie Brown moved to Monk’s flanker spot, Garrett took over for Brown and tight end Rick Walker and Nick Giaquinto shared Monk’s third down man-in-motion chores. Washington also scrapped all of its offense that involved three receivers.

Yet once the defense gave them a lead, the Redskins functioned smoothly on offense. They had no turnovers and finished with 366 yards, much to the relief of Gibbs, who had been concerned all week about what effect injuries would have on his team.

Washington’s defense has caused 10 turnovers the last two weeks. The Lions became the first team in a month to gain more than 200 yards on them (364), but the Redskins’ aggressive secondary and an assortment of blitzes had quarterback Eric Hipple off balance most of the game.

Hipple, however, was sharp enough in the first quarter to have the Lions on the verge of three scores.

On Detroit’s first possession, he completed two passes and Detroit was quickly at the Redskins’ 21. But halfback Billy Sims fumbled, with linebacker Rich Milot recovering at the 19.

On their second possession, the Lions were on the Redskins’ 23 when Hipple tried to pass to Sims in the right flat. White read the play perfectly, cutting around Sims and catching the ball in full stride. He juggled it once, then pulled it in and outran Hipple to the end zone. It was the second longest interception return in NFL playoff history.

”I really wasn’t going to try to catch the ball,” said White, who later had an interception in the end zone. “I was going to tackle him (Sims) or bat it down. But the ball got there so slowly, I was able to scramble around him (Sims). We were just fortunate to be in the right defense. I don’t even think he (Hipple) ever saw me.”

On the Lions’ third possession, Hipple was back to pass when he was hit from the blind side by blitzing cornerback Vernon Dean. Hipple fumbled and defensive tackle Darryl Grant recovered at the Detroit 19, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Mark Moseley with 2:27.

On the Lions’ fifth possession, Detroit was on the Washington five when Sims took a pitchout, was stripped of the ball by defensive tackle Dave Butz and fumbled. Defensive end Dexter Manley recovered at the four.

By then, Detroit was behind, 17-0, thanks to Garrett’s first touchdown catch. From the Lions 21, Detroit blitzed its linebackers. Theismann was going to pass to the right side of the field but read the blitz and switched to Garrett on the left.

Garrett simply ran by rookie cornerback Bruce McNorton on what the Redskins call their “fade” pattern, a route normally run by Monk. The pass was perfect, landing in Garrett’s hands at the two. He scored easily ahead of McNorton.

Garrett, who is 5-feet-7, ran the same pattern just before the half, again from the 21, also against a Lion blitz. This time, he was two steps ahead of McNorton, but the pass was just as perfect.

”When Joe has a chance to throw the deep ball, he doesn’t miss many,” Gibbs said. “If you want your quarterback to throw one pass right, it’s the fade. When they come after us, Joe can make you pay the price. He’s an intelligent guy. He knows if he is patient and doesn’t make mistakes, we are going to be tough to beat.”

Theismann: “That wasn’t a new version of the fade--just a shorter one.”

Whatever remote chance Detroit had to rally was eliminated in the early moments of the second half. Washington moved 74 yards in five plays, with Garrett scoring for the third time on a 27-yard pass. Detroit again was sending linebackers against Theismann, but he got the ball off in plenty of time. Garrett made two fine moves on rookie cornerback Bobby Watkins and hauled in the pass three strides into the end zone for a 31-0 lead.

Detroit finally scored on a 15-yard pass from the harassed Hipple to tight end David Hill. The pass ended the Redskins’ hopes of a second straight shutout, but it still was the first touchdown against them in nine quarters and only the second in the last 14 quarters.

”The last month or so,” Gibbs said, “we’ve gotten so that we rely on the defense to win games for us.”

Sims had gained 159 yards on the Redskins last year in a 33-31 loss. But he was limited to just 19 yards yesterday on six carries, although he caught six passes for 68 yards. Washington has allowed just one running back to gain 100 yards this season.