Chapter 5, Page 174

"The line of scrimmage just exploded," Gibbs said later. "Our guys knocked Philadelphia about seven yards back. That's the kind of day it had been. In that situation, you either run and hide or you respond like a champion. Our guys responded like champions."

The Redskins, in fact, played their best game since routing Denver in Super Bowl XXII. Rypien earned his playoff spurs with two touchdown passes. Byner chalked up 126 total yards. The Redskins defense forced three turnovers. Best of all was the sweet revenge of the final score: Redskins 20, Eagles 6.

"People threw dirt on us all year," Monte Coleman said. "They didn't know we had shovels."

Surely Ryan and the Eagles had never dreamed that their words would awaken an entire organization. The Redskins would win 23 of their next 28 games. They would make three straight playoff appearances and win their first-round contest each time. The season after the Body Bag Game, they would rip through the NFL like few teams in history, winning their first 11 regular-season games and then rolling over the Buffalo Bills, 37-24, in Super Bowl XXVI.

If there had been no Buddy Ryan, would there still have been a victory in Super Bowl XXVI? That's impossible to say, since other factors also contributed to the Redskins' success. Art Monk, for example, had surprised everybody in early December with his request for a players-only meeting in which he made the rare, put-up-or-shut-up plea that moved many teammates (see profile on Page 167). But great coaches, including Gibbs, have always said that great teams have an indefinable magic. "Somewhere a team finds a spark," Gibbs said. The Redskins of 1991 — with a little help from Joe Gibbs — found their main spark in Buddy Ryan.

When the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI, Gibbs stood atop a victory platform at a rally near the Washington Monument, holding the Lombardi Trophy aloft as thousands cheered. Surrounded by players and team officials, he wore a grin as wide as the Potomac. It was easy to think at that moment that the Redskins might always be on top of the world. But that feeling soon would fade.

Within 18 months, Gibbs would walk away, citing exhaustion and the need for a new life. His resignation would begin a series of changes, both in the front office and on the field.

Page 174 | Next Page: 175

Other Pages in Chapter 5:
172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205

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Names, Numbers
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