Special teams take special bow for Redskins' win

September 11, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

HERNDON, VA — HERNDON, Va. -- The Washington Redskins were treating their wounds and savoring a memorable victory yesterday.

"It was a dogfight," said long snapper John Brandes, who said he lost about 15 pounds Monday night during the Redskins' 33-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

"It was a December game played in September," general manager Charley Casserly said.

"That was a big-time game," coach Joe Gibbs said. "There were a lot of shots passed out. There was a lot of hard hitting in that game. That was like a playoff-type game. . . . It was a great example of not panicking, a lot of poise and a lot of guys showing tremendous guts coming back and wanting to play [after being hurt]. It was about as good as I've been in. It was pressure-packed. It was emotionally exhausting game. Those kind of games really drain you on a hot night. It was a lot to overcome."

The Redskins came out of it with two players seriously injured. Offensive tackle Ed Simmons (sprained knee) and strong safety Alvin Walton (sprained shoulder) underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests yesterday and probably will miss at least two weeks.

Gibbs was impressed that some players went back in despite injuries and that other players did well in relief roles out of position in place of injured players. Cornerback Sidney Johnson, for example, went in at strong safety and got a sack.

Overall, though, it was a night in which the special teams saved the Redskins, as they fell behind, 21-10, in the second period but fought back to win.

Wayne Sevier, the special-teams coach, said the players had "unbelieveable hustle" and added, "We've got better special teams speed than we've ever had."

Sevier always has ranked the 1982 special teams the best of the Gibbs era, but he said this year's group has a chance to match them.

They also had the advantage of the strong leg of kicker Chip Lohmiller, who made field goals of 53, 52, 45 and 46 yards.

Gibbs called it "one of the best games I've ever see a kicker have." He also gave credit to holder Jeff Rutledge for making a "great hold" on Lohmiller's second kick after Brandes' second snap hit the turf.

Brandes, who's normally a reliable snapper, said he had trouble hearing the snap count because the crowd was making so much noise. "It won't happen again," he said.

Sevier said he thinks that game will help boost Lohmiller's reputation around the league.

"I think he moved last year into the upper echelon [of the league's kickers] and that game cements his place in my mind among the very best of kickers," he said.

Sevier also noted the special teams came up with three big plays -- a fake punt, a fumble recovery and a 24-yard punt return.

Backup running back Brian Mitchell was involved in all three plays.

The Redskins put the fake punt into the playbook because Mitchell, a college quarterback, is the up back on the punting team. It's easy for him to step up under center.

Sevier said the Redskins put the play in last week but not specifically for the Cowboys game. But when the Redskins faced a fourth-and-one at the Washington 48 late in the third period, it was the perfect time to try it.

Raleigh McKenzie lined up over center, and Brandes, the long snapper, moved to guard. If the Cowboys were in a defense that would have snapped the play, McKenzie and Brandes could have switched and the Redskins could have punted.

But Mitchell saw it was open, called the play and got the first

down to keep the go-ahead touchdown drive alive.

"He was double-checking and taking his time," Sevier said. "He handled it well."

On Kelvin Martin's fumble on a punt return in the first quarter, Mitchell hit a Cowboy to keep the ball alive, and Ravin Caldwell made what Sevier called a "tremendously athletic fumble recovery." Sevier said Caldwell was going forward, but the ball bounced backward and Caldwell "reached back and scooped it up and rolled over." The recovery set up the Redskins' first touchdown.

Mitchell also had a 24-yard punt return in the third quarter that didn't lead to any points, but Sevier counted it as one of the special teams' big plays.

The victory means the Redskins will be playing the 2-0 Phoenix Cardinals for sole possession of first place in the NFC East on Sunday.

"That should be a fun game for us," Gibbs said. "We'll be playing at our place and playing for first place."

NOTES: S Terry Hoage, who was limited to a few plays because of back spasms Monday night, was hospitalized and put in traction yesterday, but the Redskins hope he'll be back at practice tomorrow. Hoage first started suffering the spasms when he picked up his baby while changing diapers Sunday. . . . Frank Herzog, the sports director for WJLA-TV (Channel 7) in Washington, issued an apology on the air yesterday after a free-lance camera crew in Dallas inadvertently showed a naked Washington player (Tim Johnson) while interviewing another player in the Redskins locker room. "For those of you who were offended, we apologize," Herzog said in the statement. "He [Johnson] was totally unaware he was on the air. It was one of those inadvertent things that happen in a live situation. But that doesn't mean we regret it any less." The station didn't send its own crew to Dallas for the game.

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