September 23, 1991: Redskins Survive Riverfront Ride, 34-27: Bengals Fall, Riggs Scores 3, Washington 4-0.

CINCINNATI, SEPT. 22 -- The Washington Redskins had watched a 17-point lead slip away. They could look across the field and see the Cincinnati Bengals waving towels and urging 52,038 fans to increase that roar that washed across Riverfront Stadium. They knew a game that had been put to bed in the third quarter had now gotten away, and the Bengals were responding by flying around on an afternoon that very much resembled a playoff game.

”We’re exhausted,” Coach Joe Gibbs said. “Both sides laid it on the line, and we knew it was going to be that kind of game. It’s great to be 4-0. It’s been a long time.”

The Redskins did it with another solid day from Mark Rypien, who survived a monstrous rush to complete 15 of 23 passes for 217 yards. They did it with Brian Mitchell’s 66-yard punt return for a touchdown -- his second of the season. They did it with 132 rushing yards, including 75 by Earnest Byner and 61 by Gerald Riggs, even though the Bengals were stacked inside to stop them. And they did it with a defense that made a couple of late stands after beng bedeviled much of the game by quarterback Boomer Esiason and the no-huddle offense.

They absorbed an emotional, physical effort from the winless Bengals (0-4) and could see what they were up against in the eyes and voice of Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche, who spent much of the day yelling at officials, his own players or, in a very weird scene, at Redskins defensive end Charles Mann for roughing Esiason.

In the end, the Redskins might have chosen 800 ways to remain unbeaten, but none could have given them more satisfaction than the one that was played out on this cool, damp day in a sold-ut stadium.

They drove 53 yards for the winning score and got every inch of it on the ground as their linemen chewed up the Bengals. Byner had the first three carries and Riggs the final three, and the Redskins ran the game clock from 5:17 to 2:02. Riggs scored the last of his three rushing touchdowns on a seven-yard run, and he’d also broken the biggest play of the drive, bouncing outside for 20 yards on second and three at the Cincinnati 29-yard line.

When Riggs was done, Esiason had just less than two minutes to work more of his magic, and the Redskins made a final big play when, on fourth and nine from the Cincinnati 40, linebacker Andre Collins jolted wide receiver Mike Barber into dropping what would have been a first-down completion with 69 seconds remaining.

And then a team that had stoically accepted the three previous victories talked about feeling special. The Redskins said the biggest tests are still ahead, especially against the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears the next two games, but they also said for the first time that some things did appear to be working. They talked about emotion, about responding to challenges and they talked about some of their other special seasons.

”It reminds me of 1983,” wide receiver Art Monk said. “Everyone is real close right now. We’re on a roll and we’re real confident. There’s a feeling you can’t be stopped, and that’s a real special thing to have. It makes things a whole lot of fun.”

The Redskins scored on four of their first five possessions and appeared close to tucking the game away when Chip Lohmiller’s second field goal made it 27-10 with 10:57 left in the third quarter. But the Bengals came roaring back with 17 straight points.

Mitchell started a big day by returning the opening kickoff 29 yards and the Redskins drove 46 yards for Lohmiller’s 40-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The Bengals ripped downfield on their second possession, going 92 yards in seven plays and 2 1/2 minutes for a 7-3 lead with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. Running back James Brooks, who later left the game with an injured ankle, scored on a five-yard run. But Esiason did most of the damage, hitting wide receiver Tim McGee for gains of 39 and 27 yards and Barber for 13.

The Redskins got it right back, going 80 yards in 12 plays. Riggs followed Byner’s block to score on a one-yard run for a 10-7 lead. Rypien hit three in a row, finding Byner in the flat for 11, Byner on a play-action for 27 and wide receiver Gary Clark for six on third and four at the Bengals 7.

The Bengals tied it on their next possession, going 52 yards to set up Jim Breech’s 46-yard field goal with 5:38 left in the half. It looked like the playoffs had begun. Linebacker Wilber Marshall was flagged for a late hit on Esiason on the first play of the drive, and when Mann did the same thing later, Wyche sprinted onto the field.

”I think he was just trying to get his team motivated and I happened to be at the end of the dialogue,” Mann said. “What did he say? Well, he wasn’t encouraging me. I told him it wasn’t a cheap shot. It’s a 275-pound guy running 30 yards to catch a quarterback. I felt I was in range to hit him. All their guys were yelling at me, but I kept telling them I was no cheap-shot artist.”

When the Redskins got the ball back after Breech’s field goal, Rypien faked a handoff to Byner and delivered the ball in stride to Monk, who blew by cornerback Lewis Billups for a 54-yard gain to the Bengals 26.

Cornerback Rod Jones then was called for interfering with Clark in the end zone, and Riggs scored on a one-yard run with 3:48 left in the half to make it 17-10.

The Bengals ran four plays before Lee Johnson punted 50 yards to Mitchell, who broke up the middle untouched, went right into the clear and scored 66 yards later. All of a sudden, the Redskins have a big weapon. Mitchell leads the NFL with a 21.3-yard average. He had a 69-yarder for a touchdown in the opener and a 70-yarder called back last week.

”They gave me the holes and I just went with it,” Mitchell said. “All week, we know which way to run and so you go with it on Sunday. They gave me perfect holes. I could have driven my car through the hole that was there.”

Mitchell’s return gave the Redskins a 24-10 lead with 2:13 left in the half, and when they opened the second half with a 26-yard field goal from Lohmiller, they appeared to be in charge.

But Esiason got hot, taking his team on drives of 90 yards and 46 yards for touchdowns. Craig Taylor scored on runs of one and 34 yards. By then, the crowd was back into it, and on the second play of the fourth quarter, the Redskins got in bigger trouble. Rookie linebacker Alfred Williams blitzed Rypien, separated him from the ball and Alonzo Mitz recovered at the Washington 46 to set up Breech’s 25-yard kick that tied it, 27-27, with 9:48 left.

After the Redskins drove downfield, rookie Richard Fain intercepted Rypien on the Cincinnati 2 with 6:53 left, but that turned out to be an advantage for the Redskins. Washington held on three plays and Johnson’s 48-yard punt gave the Redskins possession at their 47 with 5:17 left.

The Bengals had stuffed their inside running so well that Gibbs sent in four wide receivers to spread the field. Rypien came to the line of scrimmage with both a run and pass called, and audibled into six straight running plays. Byner picked up 5, 12 and 7, and Gibbs relieved him with Riggs, who gained 20, 2 and 7 for the touchdown.

”I think they had some confusion on the play,” Rypien said of the score. “They had two linebackers on one side and we were able to blow it out on the other side. They pressed us all day. Sometimes it looked like they had more guys coming than they maybe actually had. When you see eight guys at the line of scrimmage, it looks like nine or 10 are coming at you. I did get some pressure, but that’s good. That’s good practice for Philadelphia” a week from Monday night.

After Riggs’s touchdown, Esiason got the Bengals to their 40, but Collins hit Barber to end the final possession with 1:09 remaining. The Redskins had won, but Esiason had completed 18 of 37 for 212 yards. Ten Bengals caught passes, and the Redskins were happy to be finished with the no-huddle.

”I don’t have a feel for this team yet, but there’s something I’ve noticed,” said middle linebacker Matt Millen, signed in the offseason as a Plan B free agent. “When we’ve needed to do something, we’ve done it. That’s a real good sign. We did it against a quality team and that’s important. We won the first three games with ease. The scoreboard doesn’t reflect that in Dallas {33-31}, but that’s the way I felt. This was different. They’d come back, they had the momentum and the crowd on their side and we still got it done.”

Redskins wide receiver Art Monk caught two passes for 84 yards

Sunday and is third on the all-time reception list.

Player ............. No...... Yards

Steve Largent ..... 819 .... 13,089

Charlie Joiner..... 750 .... 12,146

Art Monk .......... 740 .... 10,120

Monk has now caught at least one pass in 120 consecutive regular season games, the fifth-best streak

in NFL history.

Games... Player ................ Years

177 .... Steve Largent ....... 1977-89

150 .... Ozzie Newsome ....... 1979-89

127 .... Harold Carmichael... 1972-80

121 .... Mel Gray ............ 1973-82

120 .... Art Monk ............ 1983-91