Redskins roll in the mud, 24-7 Washington runs amuck in rain, soils Falcons' glitter

January 05, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- This was a game that should have been televised in black-and-white instead of color. It was a throwback to the days before artificial turf and domed stadiums, when players named Bronko and Pudge made a career out of slopping through the mud.

It was played in a steady rain and strong wind that turned the grass field of RFK Stadium into a quagmire that was perfect for a team with an offensive line called the Hogs.

In a mud bowl, the Washington Redskins' old-fashioned running game dominated the Atlanta Falcons, 24-7, in a divisional playoff, as they qualified for the NFC title game a week from today.

It was a perfect game for RFK, which doesn't have any of those new-fangled things such as luxury boxes or scoreboards showing replays. It's a no-frills stadium for a no-frills team, and the crowd of 55,181 fans loved it.

Most of the fans stayed, huddled in their ponchos, to the end. When the Redskins wrapped the game up, the fans sailed giveaway seat cushions onto the field.

"It was nasty. It was wet. It was John Madden football at its greatest," said Redskins defensive lineman Eric Williams.

"We like to say it's Redskins weather," said coach Joe Gibbs in a sort of inside joke. Gibbs always says when the Redskins play outdoors that it's their weather.

Offensive guard Mark Schlereth said it was fun playing in the mud.

"It's fun. When you fall down, you slide about 3 yards and get a big bellyful of water. I weighed about 310 out there in my uniform today," said Schlereth, who is listed at 285.

With Schlereth and the rest of the Hogs pounding through the mud, the Redskins ran 45 times for 162 yards -- including a 23-for-104 day by rookie Ricky Ervins -- while the Falcons ran 14 times for 43 yards out of their high-tech, run-and-shoot offense.

"It was a big-time playoff game at RFK," Gibbs said. "That was an emotional day today. Our fans were great. I was afraid they might come out and take it easy, but they were ready from the word go."

The Redskins will face the winner of today's game between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys for the right to play in Super Bowl XXVI on Jan. 26 in Minneapolis.

Although the Redskins used one new wrinkle with the no-huddle at the start of the game, the result showed that old-fashioned football -- the popular term is now "power football" -- wins in bad weather in playoffs.

Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the Redskins defense, points out that no team has won a title with the run-and-shoot offense. He says it's likely to self-destruct in January's bad weather. The Falcons' version did yesterday.

"It has problems. It's just such a one-dimensional thing that when the weather turns bad, it's very tough for people to execute," Petitbon said.

Petitbon said the weather also hurt the Redskins' passing game. Mark Rypien, who threw for 442 yards and six touchdowns in the team's 56-17 victory over the Falcons on Nov. 10, threw for 170 yards and no touchdowns this time.

"They didn't have any alternatives; we did," Petitbon said.

The alternative was the running game.

Even flashy Atlanta cornerback Deion Sanders said the Falcons were handicapped by the run-and-shoot.

"It's like having a gun with one bullet," Sanders said.

The Falcons like to live on the edge with their rapping style, but the Redskins pushed them over the edge into the mud yesterday.

Rypien managed to stay on his feet, but Falcons quarterback Chris Miller often slipped.

"I wouldn't let my kids play in that stuff," Miller said. "It was flat-out impossible at times to stay on my feet. With us counting on the pass so much, it was really tough to get things going."

Coach Jerry Glanville also blamed the weather for the Falcons' abandoning their blitzing defense -- which Rypien bombed in the first game -- for a soft zone.

But the players said the Falcons planned to use the zone anyway because of Rypien's success against the man-to-man.

Glanville hates playing zone, so he apparently didn't want to concede he had decided to use it, but it probably kept the Falcons in the game, because it took away the Redskins' deep passing.

"They gave us some looks we didn't think we could get," Rypien said.

The Redskins had a 6-1 edge in turnovers (they intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles), so the game could have been a blowout if the Redskins hadn't bogged down several times.

The Redskins were ahead by only 14-7 at halftime after the Falcons drove 80 yards for a late second-period score. The drive was kept alive when Darrell Green's interception was nullified by a pass interference call.

"We thought we had a chance at halftime. We thought we were sitting right where we wanted to," Glanville said.

He was sitting there because Chip Lohmiller missed field-goal attempts of 47, 37 and 44 yards in the first half because he couldn't get his footing.

Lohmiller made a 24-yarder in the third period, but the Redskins were ahead by only 17-7 when the Falcons' Norm Johnson

missed a 45-yard field-goal try on the second-to-last play of the third period.

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