Redskins Show Up and Show Bears Out of the Playoffs, 27-13
Dexter Manley of the Washington Redskins reached into his locker after Saturday’s 27-13 playoff upset of the Chicago Bears and pulled out a plastic flute--orange, about a foot long, with a green mouthpiece. Then he played a little tune.
“That’s a Flutie,” he said.
Sure enough, the surname of Bear quarterback Doug Flutie had been engraved on the side of the musical toy. “I bought it out on the street,” Manley said.
The 6-foot 3-inch, 257-pound defensive end, who along with Washington’s other manly types chased the itty-bitty Flutie all over Soldier Field, fondled the $2 flute in both of his very large hands.
Then he snapped it in half.
Point taken, Dex. Not since The Who used to end their concerts by smashing their guitars has any performance deserved such an ending. The Redskins did a real number on the Bears, silencing Flutie, forcing Walter Payton into an Eric Dickerson-like killer fumble, scoring 20 second-half points on the mighty Chicago defense and stopping the defending National Football League champions’ Super Bowl mission before it even got started.
It was the most points scored on the Bears since Cleveland got 31 in a losing cause in the season opener.
Next Sunday, in the National Football Conference title game, the Redskins will meet the winner of today’s game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. The ‘Skins again must win on the road--but if they do, they will be in the Super Bowl for the third time in five seasons.
Two touchdown passes from Jay Schroeder to Art Monk, two field goals by Jess Atkinson and a touchdown run by George Rogers--the first rushing touchdown the Bears had surrendered in their last 36 quarters of play--did the trick. So did a defense that rattled Flutie into an 11-of-31 passing day and stonewalled Payton into 38 yards in 14 carries.
Even so, the Bears had led at halftime, 13-7, partly by virtue of Flutie’s 50-yard touchdown pass play to Willie Gault. Few suspected at the time that Flutie would complete only five passes in the second half and that Washington would not give up another point.
This sort of thing was not supposed to happen. For weeks, a Bears-Giants collision appeared to be in the offing. Coach Joe Gibbs’ wild cards from D.C. were not expected to win this game--and they knew it. They even made jokes about it.
But the jokes often were accompanied by winks. Free safety Curtis Jordan commented before the game: “We’re lucky to even be here, right?” His smile said different.
The Bears and their disciples laughed it up all week. They pointed to their 14-2 season record (the Redskins were 12-4) and to the fact that they had won 34 of their last 38 games. They enjoyed Coach Mike Ditka’s new music video. Walter Payton co-hosted a half-hour show that centered on the prospect of a Bear “dynasty.” A headline in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune suggested the Bears would do well--”If Washington Shows Up.”
Did the Bears overlook the Redskins?
“Absolutely,” Manley said. “They looked past us. They were out getting sized up for their Super Bowl rings. Mike Ditka was down there doing his Super Bowl Shuffle.”
“And looking after his restaurant,” Redskin trainer Bubba Tyer kibitzed.
“Yeah,” Manley said.
Several players, Manley included, mentioned that morning headline, which, incidentally, represented a comic sentiment that did not reflect the Tribune story. Said Jordan: “Yeah, it kind of ticked us off. Like not only did we not have a chance, but we didn’t even belong on the field. Like we were scared to show up.”
Rogers, the subdued, understated running back, was heard to say: “Hey, man! We showed up! The Redskins showed up! Yeah! For sure! Redskins! Yeah! Number one! Yes, buddy! We showed up! We surely did show up!” Well put.
Among those Redskins who showed up was Schroeder, the young quarterback who pitched touchdown passes of 28 and 23 yards to Monk. For the game, Schroeder was 15 of 32 for 184 yards, with only 1 interception.
Rogers supported him with 72 yards rushing in 28 carries, including a one-yard touchdown plunge in the opening minute of the final quarter. That gave the Redskins a 21-13 lead, and Atkinson added field goals of 35 and 25 yards to send the Bears back to their caves for the winter.
The whole experience was so galling for the Bears that they finished the game on the Redskin five-yard line, with Flutie throwing three incompletions from there. Flutie was intercepted twice in the game, and overthrew many receivers.
“The ball sort of flew on him today,” Ditka said later.
Making only his second NFL start, Flutie was as wild as a young baseball pitcher. “I don’t think I was nervous at all,” he said. “The fact that I haven’t been here very long, I don’t think that had an effect. Things just weren’t clicking.”
Naturally, Manley had something to say as well.
“I figured we’d have no problem with an inexperienced quarterback. I think it would have been a shame if someone like that would have beaten us. I can’t recall when a young quarterback ever beat the Redskins.”
As when the Rams fell last week to the Redskins, the Bears repeatedly blew good chances to score. Dennis Gentry returned the opening kickoff 60 yards and a later one 48 yards, and on neither occasion did Chicago come away with a point. The first time, Kevin Butler missed a 49-yard field goal. The second time, at the Redskin 13, Payton fumbled away the ball.
That fumble, personnel from both sides agreed, marked the turning point of the game, coming as it did in the third period with the Redskins having just taken a 14-13 lead. Gentry’s kick return had, momentarily, restored momentum to the Bears.
No one in the NFL dares fault Payton for much of anything, considering what the man has accomplished, but one cold fact remains: He has fumbled six times in the last seven games. Presumably, there is nothing wrong with Payton, but it didn’t exactly improve his mental outlook lasts week to read a not-so-veiled hint in a local gossip column that he and his wife have been experiencing some marital problems of late.
Said Ditka: “It would be silly to get involved in a conversation as to who did what and who didn’t do what. It’s their (Washington’s) day. It’s a big disappointment, but I take satisfaction in what we accomplished this season under some difficult situations.”
Losing quarterback Jim McMahon, for instance. Chicago counted once too often on its defense to save the day. This time, the Bears were able to sack Schroeder only twice. Defensive end Richard Dent, double-teamed all afternoon, had but one tackle and two assists. And cornerback Mike Richardson was burned three times, twice by Monk on touchdown passes, and later when he was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
The 28-yarder to Monk, late in the first quarter, was answered early in the second quarter when Flutie and Gault hooked up for the 50-yard score. Two Butler field goals later, the Bears had what was, for their defense, a fairly comfortable lead. When Washington’s Steve Cox missed a field goal from 50 yards just before halftime, the Bears felt even better.
Early in the third period, though, Flutie, looking for Gault, was intercepted by cornerback Darrell Green at the Chicago 43. It took Washington only three plays to score, Schroeder finding Monk again, this time from 23 yards out.
Mistakes kept killing the Bears. On the next possession, Schroeder threw incomplete on third and six from the Chicago 29, but Dan Hampton was offside. Richardson’s interference in the end zone put the ball on the one-yard line, from where Rogers bulled over.
On their next two possessions, the Bears failed to get a first down. On Washington’s next two possessions, the Redskins killed plenty of time and came up with field goals. They were on top, 27-13, with 2:25 remaining in the game, and while Flutie felt he could get the Bears back in it, few others in the crowd of 65,141 did.
Ditka left him in all the way. “There was no point in taking anybody out,” Ditka said. “I tried to get myself out of there, but that’s about all.”
Flutie said he felt bad that he had let down the team but that he hoped there would be another day, another shot. Ditka, too, refused to discount Flutie’s chances of running the club next season. “He’ll come storming back,” Ditka said.
It was painfully obvious, though, that the Bear offense that scored 46 points in Super Bowl XX with McMahon at quarterback was but a shadow of its old self.
The Redskins’ Jordan had more of a bottom-line response when asked the difference about the Bears of this season.
“They’re not going to the Super Bowl,” he said.
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