November 8, 1987: Cunningham Directs Eagles Past Redskins: Quarterbak Throws Three Scoring Passes In 31-27 Upset Victory

PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 8 -- It was fitting that it took not one, not two, but three fakes by a Philadelphia wide receiver to decide a game that seemed like it might last forever. As Gregg Garrity darted and dashed toward his rendezvous with a 40-yard touchdown pass with little more than a minute to play, the final twist of a long afternoon for the Washington Redskins was about to be completed.


It was a long afternoon for the Redskins, and Garrity was just the last of their headaches. Foremost was Schroeder, who had the worst game of his career, completing 16 of his 46 passes. He threw two interceptions and would have thrown four more if defenders could have held onto footballs thrown into their hands. He overthrew open receivers downfield nine times. It’s true Schroeder threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns, one a 47-yard pass to Gary Clark with 2:29 left in the game, but overall, he struggled.

“It was my fault, there’s no one else to blame,” Schroeder said in a curt press gathering after the game. “If I play that way, no matter how the rest of the team plays, we’re not going to win.”

It’s usually the short passes that give Schroeder trouble, not the long ones. Today, time and time again he overthrew open teammates deep. Once, late in the game, wide receiver Art Monk appeared to be so upset with an overthrown ball that he kicked it off the artificial turf into the stands. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said Schroeder’s deep misses were “uncharacteristic of him.”

Strategically, they doomed the Redskins. “With Philadelphia’s pass rush, you get a lot of people open deep,” said assistant head coach/offense Joe Bugel. “You’ve just got to connect. I was totally surprised {by Schroeder’s play}. That’s his strongest point, the vertical passing game.”

While Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham was running and passing the Redskins’ defense silly, Washington’s offensive line and special teams each contributed a mistake in the final nine minutes that made matters worse. One was a bad snap exchange between Schroeder and reserve center Jeff Bostic. The other was a missed extra point.

To set the stage, Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman seemed to put the Redskins back in control of this haywire game when, with 8:10 left to play, he stepped in front of a Cunningham pass and intercepted it one yard deep in the end zone. Coleman ran to the Washington 24 before being tackled. The Redskins had the lead, 21-17, and the ball. It was time for grind-it-out, eat-the-clock Redskins football.

On first down, Schroeder threw incomplete to Monk. Nothing new about that, except that center Russ Grimm, the cornerstone of the revamped and rejuvenated offensive line, suffered a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on the play. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.

In came Bostic. On the next play, his snap bounced off Schroeder’s hands and onto the turf, where it was kicked around before cornerback Roynell Young recovered it at the Washington 33. One play later, Cunningham threw deep into the corner of the end zone for wide receiver Mike Quick, who easily beat cornerback Darrell Green for a 32-yard touchdown and a 24-21 Eagles lead with 7:13 to play.

When the Washington offense returned moments later, Schroeder took a snap from a different center for the third consecutive play. Raleigh McKenzie was moved to center, while Bostic was plugged into his left guard spot. Why? Bugel cited the need to block Reggie White, the defensive end who turned into a nose guard on occasion today. McKenzie is known as a better and bigger blocker than Bostic. McKenzie thought he was playing because “Bostic wasn’t really warm.”

It’s likely McKenzie will stay at center during Grimm’s absence, Bugel said. Bostic had problems snapping in the preseason and recently was replaced on placement snaps by Darryl Grant.

After an exchange of punts, the Redskins began what they thought was their march to victory with 4:07 left. They exorcised most of the day’s transgressions with a fine drive of 74 yards in five plays. They reached the Eagles 47 with a first down on two completions. The clock read 2:36 when Schroeder hit Clark after the receiver completely fooled Young on a stop-and-go pattern. Clark triumphantly dashed into the end zone, spiking the ball at strong safety Andre Waters’ feet for good measure, and the Redskins were up, 27-24.

But Ali Haji-Sheikh missed the extra point. His kick was partially blocked by Clyde Simmons, perhaps because Schroeder’s hold seemed a bit slow. With 2:29 to play, the Redskins held their precarious three-point lead.

That vanished quickly. Cunningham, who beat the Redskins in 1985 with his unpredictable running and passing ability, did it again today. He led the Eagles on a 77-yard drive in 1:23. He completed four of five passes, the last being Garrity’s triple-fake special down the sideline, past Redskins nickel back Tim Morrison, for the winning 40-yard score with 1:06 remaining.

Running back Kelvin Bryant, who averaged eight yards every time he touched the ball and was spectacular in the first half, fumbled on a three-yard reception at the Washington 39 with 46 seconds left, and that was it.

There were many moments worth remembering in the first half. For example, how often do you see a head coach on the playing field pointing at and lecturing an opponent? Buddy Ryan did that today. When Grant was called for a personal foul for a late hit on Cunningham early in the game, Ryan ran out to check on his quarterback, then pointed an index finger at Grant. Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz got in between the two men, but nothing transpired. It was Grant’s most menacing moment since he broke a window in the replacement players’ bus with his fist during the strike.

Ryan set a defiant tone for his players. Three minutes later, his team led, 7-0, on a five-yard run by Anthony Toney. Cunningham set up the touchdown with a 45-yard dash through the entire Washington defense, eluding Dave Butz, Charles Mann and Alvin Walton and leaving Grant, Coleman and Dexter Manley tangled in a heap.

The Redskins tied the score with 3:41 left in the first quarter on George Rogers’ three-yard run.

An end zone interception by cornerback Barry Wilburn, his fifth of the season, stopped the Eagles after a partially blocked Washington punt and led to the Redskins’ second touchdown, a 19-yard catch by Monk midway through the second quarter. The Redskins added to their lead on Green’s 26-yard return of Toney’s fumble for a 21-7 lead with 5:25 left in the half. But the Eagles stormed back with 10 points in the final moments of the half on Paul McFadden’s 37-yard field goal with 2:33 left and a six-yard reception by Quick, over Green, 14 seconds before halftime.