Gibbs Greatest Hits: Vol II

The Redskins came into this game at 5-5, desperate for a win that would keep them in the playoff hunt. Part of the reason the team had been struggling was the poor play of Joe Theismann, who had just seven touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. Joe Gibbs, however, was reluctant to pull Theismann in favor of backup Jay Schroeder, whose only experience had come in mop up work earlier in the season. After this game, Gibbs had no choice.

11/18/85
WASHINGTON (6-5) 23, Giants (7-4) 21

RFK Stadium—Everyone watching on Monday night football, will remember the broken leg, the grotesque angle that Joe Theismann's shin took when Lawrence Taylor took him down from behind, Taylor's frantic gesture towards to Redskins sideline to get help for the quarterback, and the removal of Theismann in the stretcher. Redskins fans will remember all that, too, but will also recall how an untested quarterback came off the bench to save the season for Washington.

Theismann, in the midst of one of his worst seasons, started slowly, able to complete just a couple of short passes on the Redskins' opening drive. On fourth and two at the Washington 43, punter Steve Cox threw to Raphel Cherry for 11 yards and a first down in New York territory. After misfiring on a long pass to Monk, Theismann settled in and completed three passes for 36 yards to finish the drive, including a 10-yard TD pass to tight end Don Warren to give his team a 7-0 lead.

It didn't take long for the Giants to come back. Two series later, running back Joe Morris got loose on a run off left tackle and couldn't be caught, going 56 yards for the tying touchdown.

On first down at the Washington 46, the play call was "50 Gut Pitchback", which called for John Riggins to take a handoff up the middle, stop, and pitch back to Theismann. The maneuver was designed to delay the Giants pass rush long enough to enable Theismann to find an open receiver downfield.

The Giants weren't fooled. Linebacker Harry Carson and tackle Jim Burt pushed Theismann to his left, where Taylor was waiting. Taylor dragged the quarterback down from behind, falling on Theismann's right leg in the process. The television replays caught the moment where the leg suddenly gave out, bending in mid-shin in a manner that made even the strongest viewers cringe. Those fainter of heart had a much stronger reaction.

A stretcher took Theismann off the field to a thunderous ovation, and the game resumed. It took just two plays for Jay Schroeder to evoke an ovation of his own. The second-year quarterback, who had thrown just eight NFL passes, zipped a 44-yard completion to Art Monk for a first down at the New York 13. Riggins fumbled the ball away three plays later to kill the scoring threat, but things did not seem quite as bleak as they had as Theismann was lying on the turf. The score remained tied at seven at the half.

Apparently, Joe Gibbs was anxious to see what Schroeder could do after halftime, so he called for an onside kick to start the half. Cox executed it to perfection and recovered the ball himself. Schroeder went back to Monk, this time for 50 yards to the New York four. Riggins scored from a yard out three plays later and the Redskins had a 14-7 lead.

Another long Morris touchdown run, this one of 41 yards, soon had the game tied again. Then George Rogers fumbled the ball back to the Giants at the Washington 23. With a shorter field to work with, Morris only had to run eight yards for his third touchdown and a 21-14 New York lead.

With the game getting away from them, the Redskins responded. They drove 65 yards to a 28-yard Mark Moseley field goal with 11:25 left to play. Gibbs called for another onside kick and it worked as well, with Greg Williams making the recovery at the New York 46. Five plays later, cornerback Elvis Patterson tipped Schroeder's pass, but Clint Didier snared it for a 14-yard touchdown. Although Moseley missed the point after, the Redskins held a 23-21 lead with 8:52 left to play.

The Giants were unable to cross midfield after that and Washington had an improbable win. On the day, against the NFC top-ranked defense, Schroeder was 13 for 20 for 221 yards.

The Redskins would go on to win five of their last six, but they would lose out on a playoff berth on tiebreakers.

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins. For information on this book, go to www.GutCheckBook.com


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