Washington Redskins Super Bowl Memories: Theismann, Riggins and the Hogs

Mike FrandsenCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2015

John Riggins scored a game-winning 43-yard touchdown as the Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII on January 30, 1983.
John Riggins scored a game-winning 43-yard touchdown as the Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII on January 30, 1983.Associated Press

The Washington Redskins have a more illustrious and successful Super Bowl history than all but a few NFL teams.

The Redskins won three Super Bowls in the decade from 1982 to 1991. They also lost two of the ultimate games, Super Bowl VII in January 1973 and Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984.

The Super Bowl that many longtime Redskins fans probably appreciate the most was the Redskins’ first victory in the big game against the Miami Dolphins—27-17—after the 1982 season. It was a rematch of Super Bowl VII when the undefeated Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 a decade earlier.

In 1982—Redskins coach Joe Gibbs’ second year at the helm—the Redskins won 12 of 13 games including the playoffs in the strike-shortened season.

The Redskins were led by quarterback Joe Theismann, running back John Riggins and the “Hogs,” a group of huge, dominating offensive linemen anchored by Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm on the left side. The Redskins also featured a stingy defense, with a powerful line featuring Dexter Manley, Dave Butz and Darryl Grant.

Miami struck first in Super Bowl XVII with a 76-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback David Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo. On the Dolphins’ next drive, Manley hit Woodley, causing a fumble that was recovered by Butz. Mark Moseley’s 31-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3.

The Redskins scored their first touchdown when Theismann lofted a four-yard pass to receiver Alvin Garrett in the right corner of the end zone with 1:51 left in the half. The Redskins had tied the game at 10, but that did not last long.

The Dolphins’ Fulton Walker shocked the Redskins when he took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to the end zone past a caravan of Redskins to give Miami a 17-10 lead that the Dolphins would take into halftime.

Late in the third quarter, with the Redskins trailing 17-13 and deep in their own territory, Theismann made a play that likely saved the game for his team. After faking right and scrambling to his left, Theismann threw to his left, but the ball was tipped high by the Dolphins’ 6’6” linebacker Kim Bokamper.

Theismann immediately ran toward the ball and dove, knocking it out of Bokamper’s waiting hands. Theismann’s quick decision and athletic play prevented a sure Dolphins touchdown. The play may not be remembered as one of the best in Super Bowl history, but it was certainly one of the most important.

The rest of the game belonged to Riggins and the Hogs.

On a 4th-and-1 from the Dolphins' 43-yard line with just under five minutes to go, the Redskins called their “70-chip” play, and the rest was history. Riggins ran behind the left side of the line and into Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal. McNeal hit Riggins high, but he just bounced off the powerful running back.

McNeal slid down toward the ground, grabbing Riggins’ jersey, but Riggins shook the cornerback off and rumbled down the sideline for the longest touchdown in Super Bowl history at the time. The Hogs mobbed Riggins in the end zone.

The play was immortalized in a photo that became a poster that many Redskins fans had on their walls through the 1980s and beyond.

The Redskins defense then stopped the Dolphins, who had no completions and just two first downs in the second half.

On their next drive, Washington kept the ball on the ground with Riggins, gaining yardage and taking time off the clock. That allowed Theismann to throw a six-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Brown in the right side of the end zone for the 27-17 final score.

Riggins’ iconic rushing touchdown became one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history. Riggins finished the game with 38 carries for 166 yards and won the MVP award.

The Redskins went on to appear in three more Super Bowls.

The next season, Washington went 14-2 during the regular season and set an NFL scoring record with 541 points. Theismann was the NFL MVP, and future Hall of Famers Riggins, Grimm and Art Monk led one of the best offenses in NFL history.

The Redskins’ two losses came by one point each. But in Super Bowl XVIII, everything went wrong for the Redskins, and the Los Angeles Raiders dominated, winning 38-9.

The Redskins returned to Super Bowl XXII after the 1987 season, routing John Elway and the Denver Broncos 42-10. Doug Williams threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns in winning the MVP award.

Rookie running back Timmy Smith ran for a then-record 204 yards and two touchdowns. The Redskins’ 35-point second quarter remains a Super Bowl record.

In Super Bowl XXVI, the Redskins defeated Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills 37-24 to cap one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NFL behind an MVP performance by quarterback Mark Rypien.

In 1991, the Redskins rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders totaled more than 3,000 yards receiving with 23 touchdowns.

Clark caught 10 touchdowns from Rypien for an unbelievable average of 45 yards per touchdown, a feat that will almost certainly never be duplicated. The Hogs allowed Rypien to be sacked just nine times.

The Redskins outscored their opponents 485-224 during the regular season and 102-41 in the playoffs. Charles Mann, Wilber Marshall and Darrell Green led a defense coached by Richie Petitbon that gave up just 14 points a game and shut out three teams.

Washington also won NFL championships in 1937 and 1942.

With all the success the Redskins have experienced in the playoffs and the Super Bowl, Washington's 27-17 triumph over the Dolphins 32 years ago remains the most memorable Super Bowl for most Redskins fans old enough to remember it.

Joe Theismann, John Riggins and the Hogs started off a decade in which the Redskins became one of the greatest dynasties of the Super Bowl era.

Article also posted at Examiner.com.