November 1, 1987: Masterful Redskins Hand Bills 27-17 Beating: Rogers Runs and All Falls Into Place

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The most talked-about toe in Washington was tucked safely in a civilian shoe, a high-topped black model with laces and a strap that George Rogers surely values more for comfort than style. Having danced on the field about an hour earlier, Rogers was singing.


This was Rogers’ generally unseen sly side. He is well aware that NFL wisdom insists his hands are just slightly more supple then Lady Liberty’s. Since none of the few dozen newshounds had picked up on this man-bites-dog stuff, Rogers apparently figured he ought to volunteer it.

The rare reception came long after victory for the Redskins had been assured, Jay Schroeder knowing he could safely try that scary double: a short pass for him and with Rogers the (honest) intended receiver.

Well, the pass got completed, and for three yards, though not without a complication. A defender, Sean McNanie, tipped the ball. But Rogers adjusted splendidly -- and did not treat the ball like a cactus after all. That reception means that, nearly halfway through the schedule, he has caught more passes for the Redskins this season than Ronald Reagan.

Rogers could be light and lively in the dressing room because he had been heavy and stern on the field. When Rogers runs as he did yesterday, the Redskins join the Bears as the class of the league.

”One of the old-time games,” said Jeff Bostic, who recalls -- and savors -- long stretches of the Riggo Redskins trampling opponents late in 1982 and most of 1983. Not meaning to slight the gifted Bryant and the underappreciated Keith Griffin, the Redskins know that Rogers gives them their best chance at the Super Bowl.

”No team can dominate another team without that big inside runner,” the legendary Jim Brown often has said. He was talking about the important difference between winning in football and beating up the opposition.

Before yesterday, Rogers had toted the ball just eight times for 20 yards. That troublesome toe and an injured shoulder were reasons the replacement quarterback, Ed Rubbert, had one more carry and 11 more yards than he.

Rogers rushed three times as often as all the Buffalo runners combined, 30 carries in all and for 125 yards. When the lint was wiped off the ersatz turf in Rich Stadium, the Redskins had run 53 times for 299 yards.

”Unbelievable,” Bostic said. “That’s unheard of in the pros.”

It helped that some of the Buffalo Bills played like Buffalo Bob. But the Redskins’ defense started foiling Jim Kelly shortly after Rogers and the offense fetched a field goal on the opening series.

That sort of combination produces an imbalance in the one statistic Joe Gibbs cherishes: time of possession. The Redskins had the ball more than twice as long as Buffalo, virtually 41 minutes.

”No matter what they tried, they couldn’t do it,” guard R.C. Thielemann said. “We ran the same old stuff. George isn’t Eric Dickerson, but he’s got a place in our hearts because he runs hard. It was worth the wait for George today.”

More than Thielemann mentioned Dickerson. One of the teams rumored to have tried mightily for the reluctant Ram was the Redskins. The whispers apparently had reached Rogers.

”He’s more finesse,” Rogers said. “We’re more power.” He looked up from his stool, smiled and said: “Gibbs don’t like fumbles, either. We got people who can hang on, I guess.”

At game’s end, Rogers examined his body and pronounced the areas of most concern fit.

Toe? Check. Shoulder? Check.

Then he tried to put on his pants. Oooooh!

”My back’s killing me,” he said, and decided he could dress easier sitting than standing.

”Turf’ll do it to you every time.”

He complained of his lower back being “tight.”

”How’s your back?” he said to Schroeder, two lockers away. “Tight,” the quarterback said.

On the day he carried so often, first thing Rogers did with the football was hand it off. That reverse to Art Monk gained 16 yards and established some flair to complement the Rogers hammer.

For the second straight week, Bryant was terrific in limited use: nine carries for 46 yards, three pass catches for 19 yards and two touchdowns.

Not talking about anybody in particular, Rogers said: “If you’re hurt, another guy can take your place . . . I haven’t been playing and I’ve wanted to be part of the team.

”I have been a part of it but not part of it.”

”Like me,” Doug Williams said.

With usually large holes, Rogers said, anybody halfway good ought to stumble into the secondary. He considers himself a large cut above mediocre.

”I think I’m something like 20th {on the NFL all-time rushing list},” he said. “If I get by this year and next year, I can sneak in on John {Riggins} and that set of guys. He was power. I do that sometimes, but I’m not a power guy all the time.”

Nearby, the Carolina Songbird, Bryant, was warming for a serenade. Looking toward Rogers, he rose and cooed, “My buuddeee.”