Redskins fit for crown as kings of NFL jungle

MIKE LITTWIN

January 13, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

WASHINGTON -- You don't explain seasons like this one, except that the Redskins have them every couple of years when the guys get higher than the national debt and everything seems to come together.

It looked pretty easy yesterday, but that can't surprise anyone. Detroit was here before, remember? A hint: The score was Redskins 45, Detroit 0. I don't care if Barry Sanders wasn't there. What's he gonna do, score seven touchdowns?

In yesterday's game, in the second half, Sanders, the NFL's greatest back, was two carries for minus-1 yard. Next case.

(Next case is Buffalo. Super Bowl. Skins by two touchdowns. I told you: It's that kind of season.)

You had to like the Lions -- I don't mean I thought they'd win. I mean, like them. They had this great run and a heartwarming story and a town that needs a break, but heartwarming gets you only so far in Washington. If you want to win in this town, bring a lawyer.

The Redskins did what they do. The defense buried quarterback Erik Kramer (last week's story), and the big-gun offense blasted holes all through the field. If you want to see something beautiful, watch Rypien go deep to Clark. The big kid's got a touch. This is the season when Ryp makes people think he's Terry Bradshaw.

It was a blowout, a 41-10 recapitulation. "Did that look like a rerun of last time, or what?" wondered Lions coach Wayne Fontes. Yes, it did.

So, given all that happened, I have two questions for you:

* One, if Lee Iacocca ran this Detroit team, do you think he would have given himself a bonus yesterday?

* Two, why were Redskins veterans Russ Grimm and Charles Mann scared to death?

The first question is obvious. Yes, he would, and he'd blame the loss on Japan.

In the second case, it's sort of clear, too. The Redskins have these seasons, but you don't have them unless you win the games. The big opponent yesterday for the Redskins was expectation, and they buried the big fella. "This one feels a little bit different than the others," said Grimm, speaking of his fourth Super Bowl trip in 10 years, "because we were expected to get there. We expected it. The media expected it. We knew if we didn't get there, we'd feel like dogs."

They got there in the '82 and '83 and '87 seasons, and there are several Redskins who have been there for all of them. They recognize these seasons as they happen. And they pray that they continue to happen.

This is what went through Mann's head before the game. He thought about the Lions and about winning, and the more he did, the more it shook him up.

"I've never been this nervous before a game before," said Mann. "My hands were shaking. I was walking around, and I didn't know what to do with myself. I looked over at Fred Stokes. He was kicking back, all relaxed. I said, 'Hey, you just don't understand.'

"I've been to the other side of the mountain. I know what it's like. I know all the accolades, how you guys say how great we are."

He's been there, and each one gets better. Each one is more precious. Each time, you get scared you won't get back. So, on the second play of the game, Mann clobbers Kramer, who fumbles and, two plays later, the Redskins have a touchdown.

They do so much so well. One hot offense after another came to town, and the defense took it apart. The Redskins rushed Kramer and harried Kramer and sacked Kramer, who fumbled three times. And when the Redskins offense started cranking up, it took Sanders out of the game.

No one has taken anything away from the Redskins all season. They've got a quarterback who throws deep, receivers who can get open, a line that never lets you anywhere near the quarterback and a big-play offense that somehow never seems to make mistakes. Did you ever hear of an explosive offense that didn't occasionally blow up in its own face?

Here's how the game blew apart: It's 20-10 in the third quarter, but the Lions are driving when Andre Collins sacks Kramer on third down and Jumpy Geathers blocks a field goal on fourth. The Redskins turn around and score on a 45-yarder to Clark. It's 27-10. The Lions get the ball. First play, they false start. Second play, Sanders stopped for minus-2. Third play, Mann buries Kramer. Fourth play, delay of game. Fifth play, short pass. Sixth play, punt. And the Redskins drive again, scoring on a 21-yarder to Monk. Just that fast.

"I think this is the most talented team we've ever had," said center Jeff Bostic, who has played on three previous Super Bowl teams. "We've got depth at every position. And we've got quality depth."

The announcers call it deep depth. The Redskins have it all over the field. It's one of those seasons.

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