Lohmiller lifts Skins in game of hit-or-miss

November 04, 1991|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Evening Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- Chip Lohmiller's cubicle in the Washington Redskins' dressing room is the closest to the exit, which for many kickers, would be appropriate.

After all, who wants to hang around if you're the guy who missed a 33-yard gimme field goal that could have won the game in regulation?

But, in a profession where you are only as good as your last boot, Lohmiller has no reason to take off early, for his last boot yesterday gave the Redskins a hard-won 16-13 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers.

"We made a lot of mistakes out there. The turnovers made a difference," said Lohmiller. "But we also got a lot of breaks and I was just glad I could be in that position."

Lohmiller, who has missed just four field goals all year -- all from 44 yards out or beyond -- nailed a 41-yarder with 10:59 left in the overtime to keep the Redskins perfect this season at 9-0.

"This is definitely my biggest kick of the season," said Lohmiller. "You're not going to make every kick, but I knew it was good."

"There was never any doubt in my mind that Chip would make it," said cornerback Martin Mayhew. "Chip has got to have nerves of steel."

Lohmiller, in his fourth year out of Minnesota, has rebounded from a shaky rookie season to become one of the NFL's top kickers. He has hit on 74 percent of his field goals since his rookie year, and leads the league in scoring with 84 points, as he did last season.

Moreover, Lohmiller, who is 6 feet 3 and 213 pounds, looks more like a football player than most place-kickers. His bulk and affable demeanor have made him a popular fixture in the usually happy Washington locker room.

"Very few times in this league do you meet a kicker you like," said tackle Russ Grimm. "Chip's a great guy. He's a down-to-earth guy."

"Chip fits in real good with this team," said defensive end Charles Mann. "One of the reasons he fits in is because he makes his kicks. That helps.

"But also, he doesn't have the physique of a wimp. Last year, he made a couple of tackles. You gain respect like that. He tries to hang with the rest of the team. He doesn't go off by himself. He's one of the guys and because of that, we embrace him and take him in."

Lohmiller's performance served as the perfect counter-balance to Houston kicker Ian Howfield, who hooked the potential 33-yard game-winning field goal wide left with just one second left in regulation.

Howfield has struggled at times this season, missing four extra points in 28 attempts, including three last week against Cincinnati, and field goals in three of his last four games.

But the Oilers (7-2) had won their last four, and none of the misses looked as large as yesterday's did.

"Just a blown kick. Everything was perfect. It was all me," said Howfield, a two-year veteran. "I rushed it a little bit. I should have been more relaxed."

"I knew he was having some trouble in the last couple of weeks, but you never know," said Lohmiller. "We all have our ups and downs and right now, he's just not kicking well."

Lohmiller's right leg actually turned out to be one of the few efficient pieces of offensive machinery for either Washington or Houston, who entered the game as the first and third most productive point machines in the league. Yet each were held without a touchdown until the fourth quarter.

Both defenses neutralized the big-play capability of the offenses by playing in zones and not allowing receivers to roam free. Most of the passing plays that worked were dumpoffs over the middle or quick-out passes to the sidelines.

"They played more zone than we thought," said Washington quarterback Mark Rypien, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 195 yards and one interception. "They are a good football team. Their front four are probably one of the best in the league."

Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, who threw for 250 yards (25-for-44) and two interceptions, was likewise impressed with Washington's defense.

"They made it tough because they didn't want to give us anything deep," said Moon.

"The defensive coaches have done a great job all year and today was no exception," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. "We gave them a lot of fronts and looks. That's what you've got to do against somebody as good as Moon."

The Redskins further attempted to neutralize the Oilers' vaunted run-and-shoot offense by chewing up the clock. Their second drive of the game ate up 10:36, the longest drive of the year, while the second possession of the second half consumed 9:04.

Both drives ended in field goals, but certainly served their purpose.

"Our main concern this week was to help our defense out," said Rypien. "We wanted to keep the ball and give them some rest and hopefully the long drives helped them."

Running back Earnest Byner, who has seen rookie Ricky Ervins get more and more playing time, responded with a strong performance, rushing for 112 yards on 21 carries.

In the mammoth 17-play first-half drive, Byner carried the ball nine times, including on five straight calls.

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