Redskins reach 10-0 dreamland Rypien burns Falcons, 56-17, with 6 TD passes

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

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins hope their alarm never sounds this year.

They don't want to wake up now, because they're enjoying a dream season.

"Everybody on the team is just trying to keep the dream alive. It'd be nice to finish undefeated," wide receiver Gary Clark said yesterday after the Redskins moved one step closer to the second perfect season in NFL history.

With Mark Rypien throwing for 442 yards and tying Sammy Baugh's team record with six touchdown passes -- three to Gary Clark -- the Redskins burned Atlanta's gambling defense and routed the Falcons, 56-17, to boost their record to 10-0.

"Ten and 0, you can't ask for much more. Just a little sunshine, and I think we'll get the rainbow anyhow," Clark said.

The only cloud on the horizon is that the Redskins keep suffering injuries in bunches.

Five players -- running back Earnest Byner (knee), tight end Ron Middleton (ankle), offensive lineman Russ Grimm (ankle), defensive lineman Charles Mann (knee) and defensive lineman Tim Johnson (shoulder) -- went out yesterday.

Middleton, who left the locker room on crutches, and Byner appeared to be the most seriously injured, and the Redskins will get an update today on their status.

But the Redskins seem to have the depth to overcome injuries, which is why this is fast becoming a season for the history books.

They are the 14th team in NFL history to start 10-0. If they win two more, they'd be one of four teams to start 12-0.

Only one team in NFL history -- the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- posted a perfect season, including playoffs, although the Cleveland Browns were perfect in 1948 in the All-America Football Conference.

Things are going so well for the Redskins that they never seem to face an opponent at its best.

The Falcons came in without quarterback Chris Miller, pTC cornerback Deion Sanders and offensive left tackle Mike Kenn.

The loss of Sanders made it difficult for the Falcons to play their normal, pressing defense with the corners one-on-one against the Redskins' Posse of Clark, Art Monk and Ricky Sanders.

"They lived by the blitz, and they died by the blitz," said Redskins middle linebacker Matt Millen. "It wasn't very scientific. They brought a lot of people, and Ryp had some nice reads."

The problem is that the Falcons didn't once get to Rypien, who's been sacked only four times all season. That gave him the time to wait until his receivers got deep against man-to-man coverage and then unload.

Offensive guard Mark Schlereth said, "It was unbelieveable that they would come [blitz] that much."

Clark said, "It puts a lot of pressure on your defensive backs."

The result was that Rypien hit Clark on touchdown passes of 61, 19 and 82 yards and also threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Terry Orr and touchdown passes of 19 and 64 yards to Monk.

"That's their style of football," Clark said. "They play rough and tough, and they say they're going to come at you with all they've got. It's worked for them against other teams."

Clark, though, said that not many teams try to play the Redskins that way these days.

"We used to get a lot of one-on-one in the old days. Since 1987 or 1988, we haven't gotten much one-on-one," Clark said.

Most teams figure it's too dangerous to play the Redskins' receivers that way.

"That's what we're paid to do [get open]," Clark said. "If we don't get open against man-on-man, we're not earning our money."

They earned it yesterday. Clark caught four passes for 203 yards, Monk seven for 164 and Sanders three for 29.

Linebacker Jessie Tuggle and defensive backs Tim McKyer, Elbert Shelley and Brian Mitchell (twice) were the victims on the touchdown catches. On Clark's second touchdown catch, he was alone because the Falcons tried a zone. That didn't work, either.

"We couldn't play man [without Deion Sanders], and we couldn't play zone without a mental breakdown," Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville said.

McKyer, who offered to take the blame on all of the throws, said: "We gave up a lot of big plays. We got beat bad. The only thing we can do now is put this behind us and look forward to next week."

The Falcons hurt themselves by committing six turnovers. The Redskins didn't have a turnover.

Despite the lopsided score, the Falcons rallied from a 28-3 halftime deficit with two touchdown passes by Billy Joe Tolliver to cut the deficit to 28-17 in the first 2:42 of the third quarter.

But the Redskins' Brian Mitchell -- no relation to the Falcons' Brian Mitchell -- returned the kickoff 34 yards, Gerald Riggs went 29 yards on third-and-one and then Monk beat the Falcons' Mitchell for a 19-yard touchdown catch.

That put the Redskins back in control, 35-17, and then Rypien connected on the 82-yard pass to Clark and the 64-yard pass to Monk in the fourth quarter to make it a blowout.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who rarely pulls his starting quarterback even with a big lead, let Rypien sit out the last 10 minutes.

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