Supposedly, Willie Gault’s specialty is catching passes. But he didn’t catch a single one Sunday.
Instead, his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown triggered a record 31-point second quarter for the Chicago Bears, who went on to rout the Washington Redskins, 45-10.
“Willie Gault’s play was outstanding,” Bear Coach Mike Ditka said after his team improved to 4-0. “It was the catalyst. The kickoff return turned on everybody. Even the fans.”
And, also, quarterback Jim McMahon.
“That play turned the entire game around,” McMahon said. “We weren’t doing much at first, and then Willie got us going.”
Until Gault’s kickoff return, the Redskins had control of the game. On their first possession, they marched 59 yards in 13 plays with John Riggins scoring on a seven-yard run.
Late in the first quarter, George Rogers ripped off successive runs of 28 and 29 yards, which led to a 32-yard field goal by Mark Moseley on the second play of the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
Then the Redskins’ Jeff Hayes, who also punts, kicked off to Gault. Hayes was injured on the kick and was unable to return to the game.
And the Redskins missed him in a hurry.
After Gault’s touchdown, Chicago took advantage of Washington quarterback Joe Theismann’s one-yard punt to take over at the Redskin 14.
McMahon immediately hit Dennis McKinnon on a 14-yard scoring pass. McMahon later hit Emery Moorehead on a 10-yard touchdown, and the Bear quarterback then capped the four-touchdown blitz by catching a 13-yard halfback option pass from Walter Payton.
Kevin Butler added a 28-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half to give the Bears their biggest single-quarter scoring splurge--and a 31-10 lead.
Late in the game, Mike Richardson intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 90 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Dennis Gentry as the Bears dealt the Redskins their worst defeat since a 53-0 loss to the New York Giants in 1961.
McMahon and Payton left the game in the fourth quarter.
McMahon finished with 13 of 19 passes for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns. Payton rushed seven times for six yards for his sixth lowest total and lowest since 1981 when he was held to five yards by the Redskins.
“But we’re unbeaten and one step closer to the Super Bowl,” Payton said.
Washington Coach Joe Gibbs, whose team has been outscored, 121-36, this season, could only shake his head after his team fell to 1-3.
“From a Redskins’ standpoint, I can’t believe what’s happening to us right now,” he said. “I felt like our guys really wanted to play, and they did well in the first quarter. And then, we had one of the most devastating plays I’ve ever seen in football happen against us.
“We suffer a 99-yard kickoff return and lose our punter all on one shot.”