October 28, 1991: Eight and Oh! Redskins Break the Giant Jinx: Rypien Defense Help Overcome Deficit, 17-13.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., OCT. 27 -- In a season when they’ve responded to every challenge, the Washington Redskins finally shook loose from the New York Giants tonight by overcoming a terrible start and winning, 17-13, before 76,627 at Giants Stadium.

They’d also made team history and taken another step toward making 1991 something extremely special.

Midway through the season, they are the NFL’s only unbeaten team. They are 8-0 for the first time in 55 seasons in Washington and they’ve taken control of the NFC East, leading the second-place Dallas Cowboys (5-3) by three games and the defending champion Giants (4-4) by four.

”We talked Saturday night and reminded ourselves that whatever happened in the past is the past,” running back Earnest Byner said. “We can’t play them six times. We can’t play them for last year or next. It’s just this game and we’re a better team, so go out and show it. This gets a monkey off our back. We’ve just got to keep it going now.”

The Redskins won it because their defense rose to another challenge, and because quarterback Mark Rypien threw a pair of touchdown passes to Gary Clark, one for seven yards with 42 seconds left in the third quarter and another for 54 yards with 12:50 left in the game.

Along the way, they got dozens of plays, big and small, first to stop the Giants and then to control the ball for 21 of the final 30 minutes. Rookie running back Ricky Ervins got into the game in the second half and revived a sluggish offense by rushing 20 times for 82 yards.

Rypien completed only three of eight passes in the first half, but finished with 12 completions in 25 attempts for 159 yards and the two touchdowns. Rookie defensive tackle Bobby Wilson and linebacker Andre Collins both made big plays in the fourth quarter, and Wilber Marshall’s fifth interception of the season ended the final Giants drive.

”This was a long time coming,” Coach Joe Gibbs said. “They’re hard to beat and the first half we just weren’t with it. We were pretty much on the canvas and showed great character in coming back.”

If it wasn’t character, it was certainly remarkable poise the Redskins showed. After one quarter, the Giants had gained 125 yards, the Redskins one. At halftime, the Giants had 207 yards and allowed 35.

But for all of that, the Redskins trailed only 13-0, and were “very upbeat when we got inside,” Clark said.

So, after doing nothing in the first half, the Redskins scored on three of their final four possessions. Meanwhile, their defense held the Giants to three first downs and 58 yards.

They hadn’t been able to stop the Giants at the beginning. Jeff Hostetler completed 12 of his first 14 passes and led his team on scoring drives of 75 yards (for a field goal), 40 (for a touchdown), and 64 (for a field goal).

Second-year halfback Rodney Hampton was even better than advertised, getting 83 yards on 21 carries. He got 55 on 14 rushes in the first half, 28 on seven in the second.

”The biggest problem with this team is that we get too excited,” Redskins defensive tackle Eric Williams said. “We did the same thing in Dallas. We were slanting for the cutbacks and it wasn’t working. At halftime, the coaches just told us to go back to regular smash-mouth football. That worked. Their running backs are like freight trains. Hampton is too big to tackle and you can’t even catch David Meggett to tackle him.”

Hostetler chewed them up from the start, hitting his first four passes, including a 52-yarder to Stephen Baker. He got the Giants to the Washington 9 on their first possession, but the drive stalled when safety Danny Copeland made a nice tackle on fullback Maurice Carthon and Hostetler overthrew Hampton at the goal line.

The Giants had to settle for Raul Allegre’s 23-yard field goal with 8:35 left.

The Redskins went nowhere on their first possession, and Meggett’s eight-yard punt return gave New York the ball at the Washington 40. Hostetler gave the ball to Hampton on eight straight plays and it got the Giants a 10-0 lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter. Hampton started it with a nice run inside for 12, did the same thing for eight and seven and eight again. With his one-yard touchdown run, the Giants had 125 total yards, the Redskins one.

Once more the Redskins were three plays and out. Linebacker Lawrence Taylor nailed Byner on first down for a loss of four. Rypien overthrew tight end Ron Middleton on second. Rypien hit Ricky Sanders for four on third down.

The Redskins held, however, and started their third possession at their 20. This time, they had some chances. But on first down at their 31, Rypien overthrew a wide-open Clark. Then on third and eight at the Washington 33, Clark got behind the secondary, and dropped a perfectly thrown ball.

”Emotionally, it was devastating,” Clark said. “I’ve gone through it before and there’s nothing anyone can say to you. You just curse yourself a little and go on.”

That was their last chance the first half. The Giants drove 64 yards in 14 plays and 6 1/2 minutes, and Allegre’s 36-yard field goal gave them a 13-0 lead with 1:40 left in the quarter.

Again, they did it with a little of everything. Hampton touched the ball on the first four plays, carrying it twice for seven yards and catching two passes for 13. The biggest play came on third and 13 at the New York 39, after Matt Millen had dropped Hampton for a three-yard loss.

Meggett turned a short swing pass into a 17-yard gain, then got 15 more when cornerback Alvoid Mays hit him out of bounds.

That gave them at first down at the Washington 29. Hampton picked up 11 on first down. Halfback Ottis Anderson gained six. Carthon got three. Carthon was called for a late hit on Millen on the next play, and that backed the Giants up to the 20. Hostetler scrambled for one, and on fourth and 11 Allegre’s field goal made it 13-0.

That’s the way the half ended, and Gibbs opened the second half by inserting Ervins at running back. After an exchange of punts, the Redskins put together one of their best drives of the season, going 84 yards in 20 plays and 8:55.

Clark scored the touchdown on a seven-yard pass from Rypien with 42 seconds left in the third quarter. Before that, it had been mostly Ervins. He carried the ball seven times for 33 yards and caught one pass for 11. The Redskins converted their first five third-down plays. Ricky Sanders caught one for 15. He caught another for 14. Ervins gained nine on third and one. Then Ervins gained six on third and two. Then Ervins gained 11 on third and 10.

The drive stalled at the 9. Rypien hit Clark for a touchdown, but wide receiver Art Monk was called for illegal motion. But then cornerback Perry Williams was called for holding to put the ball back at the 9. Ervins gained two to the 7. Rypien missed Monk on second down, but on third he hit Clark in the left side of the end zone.

The Giants got nowhere on their next chance as Bobby Wilson dumped Hampton for a six-yard loss on third and one from the 29.

The Giants punted and Brian Mitchell returned it 17 yards to the Washington 48. They needed just three plays to score. Rypien overthrew H-back Terry Orr on first down, and defensive end Leonard Marshall dropped Ervins for a loss of two. But on third and 12, Clark got behind cornerback Everson Walls and Rypien hit him in stride at the 5.

That score came with 12:50 left in the game, and the Redskins led, 14-13. The Giants got the ball back with 12:44 remaining and drove to the Washington 39. On third and five, though, Collins decked Hostetler, whose pass for Mark Ingram fluttered incomplete.

The Redskins took over at their 20 and put the game away with a brilliant drive that consumed 7:43 and ended with Chip Lohmiller’s 35-yard field goal with 51 seconds left.

”We knew it was a chance to pretty much eliminate them from the division title race,” Rypien said. “You’d have to say we’re in the driver’s seat right now, but we’re not forgetting there’s eight games left. It certainly takes one monkey off our back.”