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Williams Delivers a Super Bowl Triumph

By William Gildea and Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writers
Feb. 1, 1988

SAN DIEGO, JAN. 31 -- It was athletic drama at its best: an injured quarterback returning to the lineup to make history, a team about to be blown away rallying like none ever had before in National Football League postseason play. It was wacky and wild and, for the Washington Redskins, perfectly wonderful.

On the powerful and unerring arm of quarterback Doug Williams, who culminated a storybook season with four touchdown passes in the second period, the Redskins rallied from a 10-0 deficit to trample the Denver Broncos and win Super Bowl XXII, 42-10.

No team had ever scored 35 points in a quarter in NFL playoff games, and the onslaught produced Washington's second Super Bowl championship in six years and ignited a coast-to-coast Redskins celebration.

In a game that focused on the quarterbacks -- Williams because he was the first black to play the position in the Super Bowl, and Denver's John Elway because of his overall brilliance -- Williams staged one of pro football's greatest big-game performances.

Knocked from the lineup for one series after suffering a hyperflexed left knee in the first period, Williams returned to the lineup to win the game's most valuable player award, the cheers of almost all but Denver diehards in the crowd of 73,500 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and happy hugs from his teammates.

On top of that, Williams was playing after having a root canal on his lower right molar Saturday. After passing for an unprecedented 340 yards, Williams was mobbed as he left the field, with Redskins players and fans alike shouting in joy.

"Hail to the Redskins," said NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle as he presented the Vince Lombardi trophy to Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.

The ecstatic Cooke hailed Williams, extending heartfelt congratulations "not just to a black quarterback, but to a great quarterback."

"The most important thing to me was winning," said Williams, in the same modest manner that he displayed during his roller coaster season -- first as a substitute, then briefly as a starter, a backup again and, finally, the Redskins' salvation.

"I feel very humble," said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs. "Thank God I have a chance to work in an organization like this. Thank God I have a chance to be a part of this."

Williams wasn't the Redskins' only hero. Rookie running back Timmy Smith, who was making his first NFL start, scored two touchdowns -- one on a masterful 58-yard run -- and rushed for a Super Bowl-record 204 yards. Wide receiver Ricky Sanders also scored two touchdowns, and finished with a Super Bowl-record 193 yards receiving.

Broncos rooters, who had come into the stadium in such high spirits, left quietly in a chilly darkness, while the night was just beginning for Redskins fans. It was a complete turnaround for a team that looked like it was in trouble at the outset.

What an ominous beginning for the Redskins. The hype and tension had built for a week. The stadium was packed and rocking. But the Redskins appeared to be on the verge of being as embarrassed as they were against the Los Angeles Raiders five years ago.

Elway struck dramatically on Denver's first play from scrimmage, passing 56 yards for a touchdown to Ricky Nattiel. When the Broncos got the ball back, Elway made a bit of history, becoming the first quarterback in a Super Bowl to catch a pass. He took it from running back Steve Sewell for 23 yards as Denver drove to a 10-0 lead with a 24-yard field goal from Rich Karlis.

When Williams went down with a twisted knee a few minutes later, Washington appeared on the verge of being steamrollered. But keeping their composure -- the mark of a championship team -- the Redskins countered with an attack the likes of which the Broncos had never seen.

"Before we knew it," said Elway, "they had 35 points."

Williams out-Elwayed Elway with his deep passes, and lobbed shorter ones with the precision of an artist. The crowd behind the Redskins bench roared for the first time since the kickoff when Williams hit Sanders on a fly pattern, an 80-yard message that Washington would be heard from.

Then in rapid succession came a scoring burst that put away the game. Williams put up a soft 27-yard pass to the goal line, which Gary Clark took diving into the end zone. Smith scored the first of his two touchdowns with a bolt over the right side, through the Denver defense for 58 yards. Williams came back to Sanders, 50 yards for another touchdown. The fifth touchdown of the period came when Williams passed eight yards to tight end Clint Didier in the left side of the end zone.

"Here we go, Broncos, here we go," had come the chant from a sea of orange-clad Denver rooters seated in one end zone. And: "Broncos, Broncos, Broncos." A deafening roar. Now they were silent.

Redskins rooters, in burgundy and gold, countered with their cheers, and waved Washington pennants. Only the playing of the national anthem, by Herb Alpert, standing in front of an American flag made entirely of red, white and blue balloons, could quiet the crowd.

It was a scene that almost brought tears to the eyes of Gene Klein, former owner of the Chargers who was most responsible for bringing the game to San Diego. "It's a very thrilling day for me," said Klein. "I've worked for 10 years to get this game for this city and I'm just walking around here with a lump in my throat. I can't tell you how much this means to me."

For Redskins fans as well, it was a day that would not soon be forgotten.

For Dave Reynolds of Annandale, Va., a season-ticket holder for 24 years, it was the culmination of a glorious week in the sun. He had hung out most of the week at the Redskins hotel. "You could walk right up to a player one on one," he said. "I shook hands with Gibbs, Richie Petitbon, a lot of the players. I've been hobnobbing, not partying."

You couldn't miss Dave Robinson, former Green Bay and Washington linebacker. He had just bought two seats for $500 for himself and his son, Robert. Said Robinson: "I love to see my old buddy, Charley Taylor, on the sideline."

Two young women wore sweatshirts that read, "I don't care, I'm a Dallas fan." "It doesn't look like Dallas will be in a Super Bowl for a couple of years," said Terry Handley, "so it's a good investment. We only paid $20, and I'm sure they'll be good for a few more years."

A man passed, wearing a hat that said, "God is No. 1" and a "Jesus Saves" yellow T-shirt. He was chanting, "Bible, Bible, Bible. Read the Bible."

Mark Berry of Silver Spring, Md., had his face painted half red, half yellow. He wore Redskins sweatpants, Redskins boxer shorts over them and a Redskins sweatshirt. He carried a small TV with a Redskins emblem.

"In '83, when they won the Super Bowl, I painted my car burgundy and gold," he said. "I'm planning on painting it again."

The second half was just a matter of time. Smith tallied one more time, and then the partying began in earnest. For the second consecutive time during a strike-marred season, the Redskins had made the best of bad times in pro football by winning a Super Bowl.

"I'd like to congratulate the Redskins," said Denver Coach Dan Reeves. "They're definitely the world champions. We couldn't stop them. They had five straight drives to score. You just can't win championships playing that way. It would have been difficult for anyone to beat Washington today."

Center Jeff Bostic called the experience: "True happiness."

Staff writer Jay Mathews contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post

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