The Matchup: Washington Redskins (11-4 regular season, 3-0 playoffs) vs. Denver Broncos (11-4-1, 2-0). The white-hot media spotlight was on the two quarterbacks. John Elway was in his prime and seemed to be a one-man team. Washington's Doug Williams, who didn't get a firm grip on the starting job until the playoff opener, was the first black quarterback ever to start in a Super Bowl.
Early Worries: On Elway's very first play from scrimmage, he went deep to receiver Ricky Nattiel for a 56-yard touchdown. On Denver's second possession, it was Elway again, this time catching a pass from running back Steve Sewell to set up a field goal for the Broncos to make it 10-0.
The Turning Point: Following the field goal, Ricky Sanders returned the kickoff and fumbled due to a viscous hit. A huge pileup ensued and it appeared that Denver had come up with the ball. Somewhere in the bottom of the pile, though, the Redskins came up with it and remained alive.
The Game Breaker: That was Timmy Smith's 58-yard touchdown run. Denver had just put together a drive and, although it resulted in a missed field goal, the Broncos were still very much in it a 14-10.
From the Washington 42, Smith took a handoff and burst off the right side. Tackle Joe Jacoby sealed off the inside and Smith was off to the races. Fortunately, he was racing Denver's Tony Lilly, a slow-footed safety. Smith easily won the duel and got down the sideline for the 58-yard touchdown run.
After having been hit twice through the air, the Denver defense had been victimized on the ground and seemed to lose all hope after that.
The Clincher: The final touchdown of the wild second quarter turned the period from a remarkable 15 minutes of football into an historic quarter. On a drive that started from the Washington 21, Smith tore off 43 yards into Denver territory. Williams took it from there, going to Sanders twice for 21 then seven yards. From the seven he tight end Clint Didier in the back of the end zone for the TD.
That made for 35 points and 357 yards of offense, all accomplished in 5:47 of possession time. The Redskins faithful present were hoarse from singing "Hail to the Redskins" so often in such a short period of time.
Afterwards: Joe Gibbs was characteristically humble. "Thank God I have a chance to work in an organization like this. Thank God I have a chance to be a part of this."
Williams echoed similar sentiments saying, "I was blessed."
No doubt, the rest of the team and its fans felt the same way.
Rich Tandler is the author of the upcoming book Gut Check: The Complete History of Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. Read accounts of each games that Gibbs coached for the Redskins, data on every player who played for him and every coach who coached under him, offseason and between-games headlines and much, much more. For details on how to obtain this book, a must-have for any true Redskins fan, go to www.gutcheckbook.com
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