Washington Redskins: The 25 Greatest Games in Team History

Andrew SheaContributor IIIMarch 9, 2011

Washington Redskins: The 25 Greatest Games in Team History

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    For nearly 80 years, the Washington Redskins have gripped the attention of their fans with iconic players, historic records and breathtaking finishes.  Their three Lombardi Trophies each tell their own stories, but together sum up the greatness of one of the league's most historic franchises.  From heart-stopping Dallas games, to record setting performances, to fourth-down Super Bowl conversions, the Redskins have made the most of 60 minutes time and time again.

    The Redskins moved to the nation's capital in 1937 from Boston.  They began their illustrious history in Washington, D.C. and shared Griffith Stadium with the Washington Senators, who would go on to become the modern-era Minnesota Twins.  The Redskins first owner and founder, George Preston Marshall, was the first owner to put an NFL team on television throughout the South.  This helped lead to the large fanbase the team has today.  The Redskins hit the ground running in D.C. by winning their division and winning the NFL Championship against the Chicago Bears in their first season in Washington.  Since then, they have been a huge part of the Washington community.

    The Redskins have played close and historic games nearly every season, but this is a list of the games that either helped begin a new era in Redskins history or took the team to the next level of success in the National Football League. 

25. First Game in D.C. (September 16, 1937)

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    George Preston Marshall moved the Boston Redskins to the nation's capital in 1937, due to poor fan attendance in Boston.  He chose the city of Washington D.C. because he felt there was a large amount of tourism that went through Washington, and his team would help entertain the travelers.  His wife, a native Washingtonian, helped him in the decision, stating that the "D.C." in Washington stood for "displaced citizens."  The Redskins debuted in Griffith Stadium against the New York Giants with a 13-3 victory.  Many were surprised by the team's instant success in a new city, and attendance to the games increased over the course of the season.  The rest is history.

24. Welcome to Washington (September 12, 2004)

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    In the 2004 offseason, one of the biggest trades in franchise history took place with the trade of Pro-Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to the Denver Broncos for their star running back Clinton Portis.  There were many critics of the move and believed that the Redskins had gotten the short end of the deal.  The anticipation of seeing Portis on the field built until their season opener at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  That criticism was quickly put to rest as Portis's first carry as a Redskin was a 74-yard touchdown.  The acquisition of Portis began a run that spanned seven seasons, and the rusher would go on to become the second-best back in franchise history.  

23. Only Playoff Win of the 2000's (January 7, 2006)

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell Williams weaves upfield for a gain against the Washington Redskins in an NFL wild card playoff game January 7, 2006 in Tampa.  The Redskins defeated the Bucs 17 - 10.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Normally, a wildcard victory wouldn't merit a spot as one of the greatest games in a team's history.  However, for the Redskins it was the lone playoff win of the decade.  The Redskins had began their 2005 season with a 5-6 record and looked like a less-than-mediocre team.  Their realistic playoff hopes seemed to disappear with an overtime loss against the San Diego Chargers.  The Redskins mustered five consecutive wins (three against division opponents) en route to a wildcard berth and a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were the clear favorites.  The game was very low scoring, thanks to a more-than-stellar performance by the Redskins defense.  Following a Clinton Portis touchdown, Sean Taylor returned a Cadillac Williams fumble for the game's second touchdown and a 14-0 Redskins lead.  The Redskins would go on to win 17-10.

22. First Game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium/FedEx Field (September 14, 1997)

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    The Redskins' first game in Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, now known as FedEx Field, took place on September 14, 1997 and resulted in a 19-13 overtime victory over the Arizona Cardinals.  The Redskins long-time owner Jack Kent Cooke passed away at the age of 84 due to congestive heart failure, and the new stadium was named in his honor by his son John Kent Cooke, who was a two-year owner of the team.  In 1999, the team was bought by Daniel Snyder, a long-time fan and native Washingtonian.  The first move as an owner was the renaming of the stadium to FedEx Field in November of 1999. 

21. 21-Point Playoff Birth (December 30, 2007)

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    The 2007 Redskins season was one of the most feel-good seasons in Redskins history.  The team looked doomed for failure after their teammate Sean Taylor's murder and the season-ending injury to their QB Jason Campbell.  Campbell's replacement was Todd Collins, who had not started a game in over 10 years.  After starting the year at 4-7, the Redskins, motivated by Taylor's death, became the personification of team unity by winning their last four games.  The last of these games was a 21-point victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and it sealed the Redskins into the 2007 Playoffs.  The Redskins' defense held Cowboys rusher Marion Barber to -1 yard rushing and the Cowboys as a whole to 1-yard rushing for the game.  The 21-point margin of victory was symbolic of the team's motivation—Sean Taylor, who wore #21.

20. Still the Champs (December 13, 1992)

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    In Week 15 of the 1992 NFL Season, the Redskins came into Dallas as the defending Super Bowl Champions.  As the season was concluding, however, they looked far from super.  It was the Dallas Cowboys that had run away with the NFC East, and they had already proved they were the better team after defeating the Redskins 23-10 in Week One.  The Cowboys were on a dream run that eventually led them to a Super Bowl win, but on this day, the Redskins showed the Cowboys that they weren't quite the champions yet.  Washington forced Pro Bowl QB Troy Aikman to fumble in the end zone and won the game 20-17.  This game was also significant as it was the last Joe Gibbs game at RFK Stadium.

19. Monday Night Miracle (September 19, 2005)

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    By this point, the Redskins had become the doormat of the NFC East.  They had failed to beat the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas since 1995.  They had even failed to score a touchdown in seven consecutive quarters.  That's when the Redskins pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in the historic rivalry of the two clubs.  With only 3:55 left in the game, and a 0-13 deficit, the Redskins faced a 4th and 15.  The Redskins converted the 4th down with a long touchdown pass to newly acquired WR Santana Moss.  Redskins QB Mark Brunell threw another long touchdown passes to Moss on the next possession, as the Redskins came from behind to win the nationally televised game 14-13.   

18. Super Bowl XLVIII (January 22, 1984)

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 22:  Joe Theismann #7 of the Washington Redskins moves back to pass during Super Bowl XVIII against the Los Angeles Raiders at Tampa Stadium on January 22, 1984 in Tampa, Florida. The Radiers defeated the Redskins 38-9. (Photo by: Gett
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    This is a Super Bowl that the Redskins would love to forget.  They came into the championship game as the clear favorite and one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.  Their opponents, the Los Angeles Raiders, intercepted a Joe Theisman pass and returned it for a touchdown.  The game will probably be best remembered for Marcus Allen's 74-yard touchdown run.  Al Davis and the Raiders seemed like football's dysfunctional family, as they had tried to relocate to Los Angeles.  On this night however, they were World Champions with a 38-9 victory over the Redskins.

17. Monk's 820th (October 12, 1992)

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    On October 12, 1992, on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, Art Monk set the NFL record for career receptions with his 820th career catch, breaking Steve Largent's record of 819 receptions.  All of RFK stadium was on its feet to congratulate the Redskins' best receiver, and Redskins commentator Sonny Jurgensen stated, "it couldn't have happened to a more dedicated player."  All the Redskins players disregarded the game and lifted Monk onto their shoulders as the stadium looked on in applause.  Monk would go on to become a member of the NFL Hall of Fame family in Canton, Ohio. 

16. Goal Line Stand (October 8, 1973)

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    Roger Staubach had won his starting quarterback job for the Dallas Cowboys back after sitting out the 1972 season with a shoulder injury.  Although he had led the Dallas team to a 7-0 lead in the third quarter, legendary coach Tom Landry pulled him after he missed an important signal.  He put QB Craig Morton in his place, and the move backfired for the Cowboys.  George Allen's Redskins tied the game at 7-7 nearing the end of the fourth quarter, only to take a sudden late lead with a Brig Owens interception of Morton for a touchdown.  Morton and the Cowboys engineered a miraculous drive with only seconds left as they marched down the Redskins' one-yard line, only to fall short as a Redskins defender tackled Dallas' Walt Garrison just inches from a score.  The Redskins held on for a 14-7 win.

15. Last Game at RFK (December 22, 1996)

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    The Redskins' last game at their favorite home field was a Christmas Dallas Cowboys game that ended with a 37-10 victory for Washington.  RFK Stadium finished with an overall record of 173-102-3 for the Redskins.  This included an 11-1 record for the postseason.  One of the fondest memories of RFK was the crowd shaking the stands yelling "We Want Dallas!"  Today, RFK still stands in Washington and is the home of MLS's D.C. United.  RFK also was a temporary home for the Washington Nationals when they arrived from Montreal in 2005, and baseball was played in the stadium until the team opened Nationals Park in 2008.

14. 1942 NFL Championship (December 13, 1942)

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    The 1942 National Championship was the third meeting in the NFL's championship between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins.  The two teams had split their first two meetings in the title game, and this game served as a tie-breaker between the league's best teams.  The Redskins won the game—and their second championship—as they defeated the Bears, 14-6.  The Redskins would not appear in another championship game for a quarter-century.

13. A Time to Remember (December 2, 2007)

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    This game took place after the tragic loss of Sean Taylor.  Although the game ended in a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, it was not so much the game that made this game special.  The fact that the Redskins even played a game on this day was significant in itself.  Many had felt that the Redskins should forfeit the game, but after Taylor's father told the team that the best thing they could do is play on in Sean's honor, the team showed up on game day.  They began the game by remembering Sean with a tribute video and a moment of silence.  There was also a memorial garden outside the stadium with Taylor's number on the grass.  On the first play of the game, the defense took the field with only 10 players, giving the impression that Sean was still on the field with them in spirit.  The game triggered a surprising fourth-game winning streak and a berth in the 2007 Playoffs.   

12. Super Bowl VII (January 14, 1973)

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    On this day, the Redskins battled with perfection.  The Miami Dolphins met the Redskins in Super Bowl VII without a single loss on the season.  Although George Allen's Redskins played with heart, their efforts proved little against Don Shula's perfect Miami squad.  The Redskins' only points came from a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.  No team has ever matched that perfect season that the Miami Dolphins accomplished in 1972.  Even the 1991 Redskins, who began the year at 11-0, fell short of that mark.  The most recent run at a perfect season was the 2007 New England Patriots who fell to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII to finish 18-1. 

11. One Un-Timed Down (November 5, 2006)

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    It looked like a typical Redskins loss.  After Nick Novak missed a 49-yard field goal attempt, the Dallas Cowboys set up in excellent field position to attempt to break the 19-19 tie.  Mike Vanderjagt, one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, lined up for a 35-yard game winning field goal with six seconds remaining.  Troy Vincent, who had only been with the Redskins for a few days, blocked the field goal attempt, sending the ball bouncing to the turf.  Sean Taylor, the Redskins safety, scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the Dallas 45-yard line.  Due to a personal foul against the Cowboys for grabbing at Taylor's facemask on the return, the game was extended by one un-timed down.  Nick Novak connected on a 47-yard field goal with zero seconds left, giving the Redskins a 22-19 win and sending FedEx Field into thrilling pandemonium. 

10. Redskins 72, Giants 41 (November 27, 1966)

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    This offensive shootout turned into the highest scoring game in NFL history.  Giants QB's Tom Kennedy and Gary Wood threw a combined five interceptions and three touchdowns.  Redskins QB Sonny Jurgensen was 10 for 16 on the day for 145 yards and three touchdowns.  The game was a revenge game for Sam Huff, who was let go by the New York Giants, and picked up by Washington.  With the score at 69-41, and only seconds on the clock, Huff wanted the team to kick a field goal, so they could hang 70+ points on his former team.  The Redskins scored seven touchdowns in the game, as the Giants surrendered four sacks and committed six turnovers. 

9. 1987 NFC Championship (January 17, 1988)

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    The 1987 NFC Championship came down to one play.  With seconds remaining, the Minnesota Vikings, who had knocked off the No. 1 seed San Fransisco 49ers the previous week, lined up for a fourth and four at the Redskins six-yard line.  Joe Gibbs could only watch, as he dropped to his knees and prayed that his defense could hold for one last play.  The Vikings tried to pass the ball to Darren Nelson, but the pass was broken up by Darrell Green, who was labeled by some as too injured to play in the game.  Green ran with his arms in the air screaming "I'm going to the Super Bowl!"  Redskins QB Doug Williams later would go on to say that "everything I could have had crossed was crossed" on that final play.

8. Clash of the Titans (January 8, 1984)

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    The 1983 NFC Championship pitted the Super Bowl XVI Champions against the Super Bowl XVII Champions.  The 49ers were two years removed from their title, and the Redskins were the defending champions.  Notre Dame QB's Joe Theisman and Joe Montana faced each other with a trip to Super Bowl XVIII at stake.  The game ended with a controversial holding penalty against the 49ers Ronnie Lott that set up a Mark Mosley field goal.  Mosley had been 0-for-4 throughout the game but connected when it mattered most, sealing a 24-21 Redskins victory and a berth in the Super Bowl.  RFK Stadium was witness to an NFC Championship back-to-back years. 

7. "Scabs" vs Dallas Cowboys (October 19, 1987)

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    The 1987 strike by the NFLPA paved the way for one of the greatest upsets of all time.  NFL Films ranked this game as the seventh greatest upset in NFL History, as replacements for the actual Redskins defeated a Dallas Cowboys team who had nearly a dozen players who had crossed the picket line.  Among these players were future Hall of Famer RB Tony Dorsett, starting QB Danny White and many of Dallas's starters on defense.

    The Redskins "scab" team consisted of walk-on players and, in some cases, ex-convicts.  Tony Robinson, who had recently been released from prison, took the field as the starting QB for the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys.  The Redskins shocked the nation with a 13-7 victory, as they appeared to be a cohesive unit versus a dysfunctional Dallas squad.  The win would set the stage to even greater things for the Redskins in 1987.  Shortly after the thrilling victory, Tony Robinson was sent back to prison in Tennessee for cocaine charges.

6. 1937 NFL Championship (December 12, 1937)

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    The 1937 NFL Championship pitted the newly relocated Washington Redskins against the Chicago Bears.  The Redskins, led by their famed quarterback from TCU "Slingin" Sammy Baugh and smashmouth running back Cliff Battles, won the game 28-21.  The game was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and it was the first championship season in Washington Redskins history.  This game would be the first of three championships played between the Bears and Redskins, with Washington winning the series 2-1.  Sammy Baugh would continue his success in Washington, becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in franchise history. 

5. 1972 NFC Championship (December 31, 1972)

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    Redskins coach George Allen lived for this game.  Allen psychologically created the rivalry between the Redskins and Cowboys, telling his players that everything that Dallas did was "cocky" and "arrogant." From their coach Tom Landry, to QB Roger Staubach, to even that blue star on the helmet, Allen wanted to instill a hatred of everything that had to do with the Dallas Cowboys.  After defeating the Green Bay Packers at RFK Stadium to qualify for the NFC Championship game against Dallas, Allen yelled to his players in the locker room, "Let's go get those God damn Cowboys!"  The game was close and hard fought through the fourth quarter with a 10-3 Redskins lead, but it was then that the Redskins broke the game wide open.  Washington would go on to win 26-3, and the Redskins carted their emotional coach off the field on their shoulders.

4. Super Bowl XXVI (January 26, 1992)

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    Joe Gibbs's third Super Bowl title was the final chapter in one of the most successful seasons in Redskins and NFL history.  The Redskins came into Super Bowl XXVI as the NFC Champions with a 16-2 overall record.  Washington had made their amazing run under the leadership of their 1986 sixth-round draft pick Mark Rypien.  They were the favorites by seven points over the Buffalo Bills, who had also had a great season coming into the title game with a 15-3 record.  The Redskins built a 24-0 lead through the thrid quarter—a deficit from which the Bills could not recover.  Buffalo made a run at a rally in the fourth quarter behind their QB Jim Kelly, but their fate was sealed.  The Redskins won the game 37-24, winning their third and most recent Super Bowl.  Mark Rypien was named the Super Bowl MVP and played in the Pro Bowl one week later.  Joe Gibbs, who became the only head coach to win three Super Bowls with three different QB's, retired the next season.

3. Super Bowl XXII (January 31, 1988)

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    The Redskins were not supposed to be playing in Super Bowl XXII.  They had pulled off a surprising win over the favorite Chicago Bears two weeks previous, and the NFC's top seeded San Fransisco 49ers had been eliminated by the Minnesota Vikings.  After the Redskins held off the Vikings 17-10 in the NFC Championship, they matched up against John Elway and the Denver Broncos for the Lombardi Trophy in 1987.  The Redskins came into the playoffs with a QB controversy, unaware of who would be the starter between Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder.  Williams, who had backed up Schroeder during the year, was named the starter for the Redskins, even though he had struggled starting during the year.  On this day, however, the time for unproven players was on football's grandest stage.  After falling behind 0-10, Doug Williams threw four touchdowns to become the Super Bowl MVP.  Rookie RB Timmy Smith, who took the place of Redskins' leading rusher George Rodgers, set a Super Bowl record with 204 rushing yards.  The Redskins scored 42-unanswered points to defeat the Denver Broncos 42-10.  The victory was the first Super Bowl win by an African-American QB. 

2. 1983 NFC Championship (January 22, 1983)

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    A rematch of the 1972 Washington Redskins—the fans at RFK had waited for this game.  The two most successful teams of the early 1980s met in the NFC Championship game in 1983.  This was not just a title game, but a rivalry elevated to the biggest possible stage.  The Redskins and Cowboys clawed back and forth as the game progressed, and just before the half, Redskins' Dexter Manley sacked Dallas QB Danny White and took him out of the game.  It appeared that the first team to make a mistake would be done for the year.  Dallas was that team, and as Redskins' tackle Daryl Grant picked off Dallas QB Gary Hogeboom and returned it for the decisive touchdown  The Redskins led 31-17 with 12 seconds remaining, when all of RFK rushed the field, tried to tear down the goal post, and the Dallas Cowboys left the stadium.  The referees had to clear the field and bring the Cowboys back to finish the final 12 seconds.  The Cowboys simply took a knee, and again RFK erupted in celebration.  The win propelled the Redskins to their second Super Bowl appearance. 

1. Super Bowl XVII (January 30, 1983)

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    That picture says it all.  John Riggins ran like a man possessed during the 1982-1983 playoffs.  The Redskins faced off against the Miami Dolphins in their second Super Bowl appearance for the second time, after losing to Don Shula's undefeated Dolphins 10 years before.  The Dolphins took a 17-10 lead into the half, but that's where Redskins RB John Riggins began to heat up.  With a 20-17 lead, the Redskins faced a fourth and one at the Miami 43-yard line.  Instead of punting, Washington opted to attempt a fourth-down conversion by running with Riggins.  John Riggins picked up the first down and much more as he broke a Don McNeal tackle on his way to a 43-yard game winning touchdown.  The Redskins won the game 27-17, after scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half.  John Riggins was named Super Bowl XVII MVP, ending one of the best post-season performances by a running back in league history.  Washington and Riggins set a Super Bowl record for rushing yards with 276 yards on the ground.  The win was the first Super Bowl victory for Joe Gibbs, Joe Theisman and the Washington Redskins franchise.