Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl Moment IX: The Diesel finds his gear on fourth and 1...

You can't arm-tackle the Diesel...

The very brief disclaimer: this isn’t a list that’s ranked in any order other than chronological…so don’t judge too much. It’s Super Bowl moment number 9 on the list of the top 25.

With the unfortunate prospect of an NFL lockout growing more likely with every antagonistic Antonio Cromartie tweet, the top Super Bowl moments countdown draws to the 1982 season. This was the first NFL lockout of the modern era, when nearly half of the regular season was wiped from the schedule.

What made it even stranger was that the strike took place after the season had started. Two weeks into the ’82 season (from late September through late November) the players’ union and the owners locked horns, both sides at an impasse in dividing up the NFL’s ballooning profits.

Finally, an agreement was worked out and the season resumed. Due to the length of the strike, the league extended the regular season into January for the first time and created a special 16 team playoff format, disregarding divisions (seeding teams on their record alone).

The Washington Redskins, who for so long had been a team of with a tremendous following that unfortunately didn’t reflect their achievements, finally had gotten back to the Super Bowl. Under second year head coach Joe Gibbs, they had started on a season-long odessy of discovering virtually every conceivable way to win a game.

It came as no surprise then when kicker (yes, kicker) Mark Moseley won league MVP. Whether or not you agree with a kicker ever fully warranting the MVP, no one can argue with Moseley’s stats: 20-21. And no one could argue with the endorsement he got from teammates.

“Mark Moseley, without question, was the most valuable part of our football team” noted quarterback Joe Theisman. “Every time we needed a clutch kick, Mark would get it done.”

The Redskins prided themselves on having stayed more focused and worked harder than anyone else during the lockout, with Theisman taking the lead in organizing players-only practices.

Coming out of the strike, the Redskins continued their hot start to finish the regular season 8-1.

Reaching the Super Bowl, they faced Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins. Revenge was on the minds of the Washington faithful, remembering quite well the loss Shula and his team had handed out in the 1972 Super Bowl (the year the Dolphins were perfect).

The game went largely against the Redskins, and with barely ten minutes to go they trailed 17-13. It was right around that time that they faced a pivotal fourth and one just inside Miami territory.

This was a seminal moment in the game and it was in this moment that Joe Gibbs and the Redskins turned to their All-Pro offensive line: the Hogs (arguably one of the great nicknames in football history) to block in a short-yardage run.

And it helped that when you need one yard at a crucial moment, your running back is nicknamed The Diesel.

Up stepped John Riggins, one of the great fullbacks in history. He was famous for his loose demeanor and drinking beers in a shed after practice with his linemen (and also pretty famous for running the football).

Calling “Goalline 70 Chip,” Washington went off-tackle to their left. Miami, guessing a short yardage run, were positioned perfectly to stop it. But the Diesel found his gear and simply ran over Miami cornerback Don McNeal, stomping 44 yards to the endzone.

Washington took the lead and never looked back, winning 27-17. With their first Super Bowl in hand, the Redskins would see two more in the Joe Gibbs era, undoubtedly the finest period in their history.

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