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Redskins Steal the Show, 37-24

By Richard Justice
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 27, 1992

MINNEAPOLIS, JAN. 26--Had the Washington Redskins dreamed of a way to finish this remarkable season it would have included a composed, big-time effort from quarterback Mark Rypien and a defense that swarmed the Buffalo Bills from beginning to end. The Redskins got all of that and more tonight and rolled over the Bills, 37-24, to win Super Bowl XXVI before 63,130 in the Metrodome and millions watching on television.

Rypien was named MVP after withstanding a fierce pass rush and completing 18 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. He was the biggest reason the Redskins rolled up 417 yards offense and stayed on the field almost 34 minutes.

He threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Earnest Byner and a 30-yarder to Gary Clark, and with the Bills opting to try to pressure Rypien in lieu of thorough coverage in the secondary, Rypien made them pay with wide receivers Clark and Art Monk catching seven passes apiece for a combined 227 yards.

The defense did the rest. Turnovers set up 17 of the Redskins' points. Free safety Brad Edwards intercepted two passes and cornerback Darrell Green and middle linebacker Kurt Gouveia one apiece. The Redskins sacked Jim Kelly five times and knocked down five of his record 58 passes. They also knocked out Kelly for a play in the fourth quarter thanks to a hit by cornerback Martin Mayhew.

NFL offensive MVP Thurman Thomas? He was never a factor. His night began badly when he missed the first two plays because he couldn't find his helmet. It never got much better as he carried just 10 times for 13 yards.

At the end, the Redskins said they were a team that wasn't great, rather they were a lot of big and small pieces that came together to create something special. In doing so, they made Joe Gibbs only the third coach to win three Super Bowls. He tied former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh and trails only Chuck Noll, who won four with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What separates Gibbs is that he did it the hard way. He did it over 10 years and with three quarterbacks -- Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Rypien.

"I've never felt more humble than right now," Gibbs said. "The Lord has blessed me. We've got a great owner {Jack Kent Cooke} and a great team. I've said this was one of my easiest years. Our older players took the leadership upon themselves and the coaches were kind of along for the ride."

When Rypien hit Clark with a 30-yard touchdown pass with 1:24 left in the third quarter, the Redskins had a 31-10 lead and, for all intents and purposes, the game was over. The victory was the eighth in a row for the NFC.

The Bills had all but taunted Rypien during the week, promising they would blitz him and bet that he couldn't beat him. They blitzed, and Rypien spent a good part of his finest day on his backside. But the Bills never sacked him.

The Redskins scored 17 second-quarter points for a 17-0 halftime lead and Gouveia's interception set up a 24-0 lead at the beginning of the second half. But the Bills rallied to make it 24-10 before the Redskins wrapped it up with a 79-yard touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter that ended with Clark's catch. They made it 34-10 moments later when a Kelly fumble set up one of Chip Lohmiller's three field goals.

The Bills rallied at the end with a pair of touchdowns, but by then the game's biggest and best offensive line had worn them down. Ricky Ervins led a final drive and finished with 72 yards on 13 carries. Byner had 49 yards on 14 carries.

"It's disappointing, very disappointing," Bills defensive end Bruce Smith said. "It hasn't hit me yet, but when it does, it'll be like a ton of bricks. We worked so hard to get this far, but give them credit, they've got a great team."

This was the season the Redskins dared Rypien to prove himself, and he obliged, throwing 28 regular-season touchdown passes. He proved himself again tonight and accepted the MVP trophy on behalf of his teammates.

"I'm glad for the trophy because it said I did some good things," he said. "No matter what happens, I'll always have this moment. They can never say I can't win the big one because they don't come any bigger than this."

By the fourth quarter, the Redskins had a big lead, but an even bigger injury list. They lost their two best covering cornerbacks, including Green, who pulled a calf muscle late in the first half and missed a chunk of the second half. A.J. Johnson went out in the first half with a sprained knee and didn't return. Linebacker Monte Coleman also missed part of the second half.

The Redskins started fast, leading 17-0 at the half despite twice getting inside the Buffalo 20-yard line without scoring. Washington dominated the half, leading in total yardage 266-78 and time of possession 18 1/2 minutes to 11 1/2. The Bills ran for only eight yards on 10 carries and didn't get a rushing first down. The Redskins had 15 first downs, the Bills six.

When Gerald Riggs plunged into the end zone with 7:17 left in the first half to make it 17-0, Rypien sprinted toward the 50-yard line pumping his fist and screaming in joy.

The Redskins drove to the Buffalo 2 in the first period, where Monk, on third down, reached over cornerback Kirby Jackson and made a brilliant end-zone grab. But that play became the first Super Bowl touchdown ever reversed when television replays showed that Monk's right foot touched the end zone's back line when he came down.

On the short field goal attempt, holder Jeff Rutledge couldn't handle the snap from John Brandes and Buffalo smothered him.

The Redskins got another chance on Buffalo's next possession. Defensive end Charles Mann knocked down Kelly and Green tipped a pass, which landed in the hands of Edwards. He caught it at the 33 and returned it 21 yards to the 12.

Again, the Redskins couldn't score, when on third down Rypien got pressure from Smith and his pass bounced off guard Mark Schlereth's helmet and into the hands of Jackson at the 11.

A few minutes later, the Redskins got the ball at their 19, and began their big move.

Rypien rolled away from pressure and hit wide receiver Ricky Sanders for 41 to the Buffalo 17. Center Jeff Bostic was called for holding on first down, then Byner gained 10. Rypien missed Sanders in the end zone and threw low for Clark.

Lohmiller came in and kicked a 34-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 13:02 left in the half. At that point, the Redskins had outgained the Bills 168 yards to 34.

The Bills again ran three plays and punted. Chris Mohr shanked one that bounced backward and resulted in a net of 23 yards. The Redskins got it at their 49 and needed five plays to make it 10-0.

Rypien hit Clark for 16 on first down, and, in the no-huddle, handed to Byner for six, thanks to a big block by tight end Don Warren. Rypien hit Monk for eight, then linebacker Cornelius Bennett was called for forearming Rypien's head. Byner gained one from the 11, and on second down Rypien flipped to Byner in the left flat for a 10-yard touchdown. Jackson was caught out of position, and Rypien's pass was perfect.

Kelly made another mistake, lobbing deep for wide receiver James Lofton despite double coverage by Mayhew and Green. Green intercepted, and the Redskins got it back at their 45 with 9:35 left in the half.

Once again, they needed five plays to go the distance. The big play was on third and nine at the Buffalo 49 when Rypien and Clark hooked up for a 34-yard pass and run. Ervins went outside for 14, thanks to another block by Warren. Riggs scored from one yard to make it 17-0 with 7:17 left in the half.

It stayed that way until intermission, although the Bills came close. They finally crossed midfield with 2:30 left when Lofton burned cornerback Alvoid Mays, subbing for Johnson, for 10 yards to the 47. Tight end Keith McKeller dropped a perfect pass down the right sideline, and on second down, defensive end Jason Buck sacked Kelly for an 11-yard loss.

On third and 21, cornerback Sidney Johnson separated Lofton from the ball. Mohr's punt was downed at the 1. The Redskins dodged a safety when Byner wrestled away from defensive end Leon Seals to get out to the 1. Punter Kelly Goodburn made a big play getting the ball away for a 42-yard kick and the Bills took over at the Washington 41 with 76 seconds left in the half.

That was their big chance, and Kelly hit McKeller for 21 on first down. Wide receiver Don Beebe then dropped a ball at the 1, and linebacker Wilber Marshall blitzed and forced Kelly into a fumble. Tackle Howard Ballard recovered for an eight-yard loss, and on third and 18, defensive tackle Jumpy Geathers knocked Kelly down and Edwards went over wide receiver Andre Reed to knock the pass away.

Still the Bills were within field-goal range until Reed was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing his helmet down after arguing for pass intereference.

Kelly opened the second half with another mistake. With Green and A.J. Johnson both out hurt, Kelly threw for McKeller over the middle, and Gouveia stepped in front at the Buffalo 23 and returned the interception 21 yards.

"It wasn't me," Gouveia said. "Our line got such great pressure that he threw the ball before he wanted to. I was ready, but the tight end wasn't."

It was his third interception in three playoff games and this one set up a 24-0 lead. Riggs scored on a two-yard cutback run 16 seconds into the second half.

Then the Bills finally showed up. For two possessions, the Redskins saw the white-water offense they'd feared. Buffalo drove 77 yards in 11 plays, but had to settle for Scott Norwood's 21-yard field goal. The Bills drove to the 3, but on second and goal, Beebe dropped a touchdown pass. On third down, Kelly missed Lofton, and Norwood broke the shutout with 11:59 left in the third quarter.

The Redskins ran five plays and punted, and Buffalo got it back at its 44. The Bills drove 56 yards in six plays with Thomas scoring on a one-yard sweep to make it 24-10 with 5:58 left in the third quarter. The Redskins were still without their top two cover cornerbacks and they paid for it on this series, especially when Mayhew was flagged for a pass interference call for 29 yards to the Washington 1.

The Redskins were pushed for the only time as the Bills closed to 24-10 with 5:58 in the third quarter.

They responded by driving 79 yards in 11 plays. It ended with Rypien picking up the blitz and lobbing his touchdown pass to Clark. Before that, they'd mixed it up. Clark caught a pass for 10 yards. Ervins ran a draw for six. Rypien hit Clark for 14. Ervins picked up eight and one. On third and one from the Buffalo 34, Riggs gained four.

Rypien threw two incompletions, and on third and 10 the Bills once more gambled with the blitz and once more paid for it, allowing the touchdown to Clark.

Three plays later, Kelly turned it over again when he fumbled on Mays's blitz. Defensive end Fred Stokes fell on it at the Buffalo 14, and five plays later, Lohmiller's 25-yard field goal made it 34-10 six seconds into the fourth quarter.

Kelly followed with his fourth interception. Mayhew tipped a ball to Edwards, who got his second interception, returning it to the Buffalo 33.

Ervins picked up 13 to the 20 on first down. He lost two on first down, picked up nothing on second down, and on third and 12, Rypien's pass was tipped. Lohmiller kicked a 39-yard field goal to make it 37-10 with 11:36 left. Kelly drove the Bills for two scores, the second after recovering an onside kick.

"I felt I should have been used more," Bills running back Thomas said. "I don't know what the coaches were thinking. You just can't get away from the running game. That's what got us here. I felt it would have given us a better chance at winning. We made a lot of mistakes and didn't adjust to what they were doing. Give Washington credit."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post

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