October 27, 2011

1991: Redskins Rally from 13 Points Down to Beat Giants, Stay Undefeated

The NFC East showdown on October 27, 1991 at Giants Stadium featured the host New York Giants against the undefeated (7-0) Washington Redskins, who were coming off their bye week. Under Head Coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins’ offense was led by previously-unheralded QB Mark Rypien behind an outstanding line. The running game, which featured veterans Earnest Byner and Gerald Riggs and rookie Ricky Ervins, was solid and Rypien had good wide receivers to throw to in Art Monk, Gary Clark (pictured above), and Ricky Sanders.

Washington had lost six straight games to the Giants coming into the showdown in the Meadowlands, and New York had won the Super Bowl the previous year. However, Head Coach Bill Parcells departed in the offseason, and the team was struggling under his successor Ray Handley. Star QB Phil Simms had been lost to injury late in the ’90 season and backup Jeff Hostetler was behind center the rest of the way. There was competition between the two in the preseason, and Handley benched Simms in favor of Hostetler, who showed promise but had difficulty getting the ball in the end zone. The once-formidable defense led by LB Lawrence Taylor was beginning to show its age, and the Giants were at 4-3 as they hosted the Redskins.

It looked as though New York’s domination of the Redskins would continue as the Giants scored on three of their first four possessions, although they twice ended up going for three points in situations that could easily have produced touchdowns. First, they had to settle for a 23-yard Raul Allegre field goal when Hostetler overthrew RB Rodney Hampton, who was open at the Washington one yard line. The next drive ended in a TD on a Hampton run from a yard out. But in the second quarter, the Giants lost out on a first down inside the Washington five when FB Maurice Carthon was penalized for unnecessary roughness. Once again, the result was an Allegre field goal, this time from 36 yards, and New York led by 13-0 at halftime.

The Giants outgained the Redskins in the first half by 207 yards to 35. Washington ran only 15 plays, held the ball for just over eight minutes, and never penetrated into New York territory.

Washington finally got into Giants territory for the first time with 5:36 left in the third quarter, and from that point the Redskins dominated the remainder of the game. They scored their first touchdown after controlling the ball on an 84-yard drive consisting of 20 plays that consumed almost nine minutes. The Redskins finished off the possession with a seven-yard TD pass from Rypien to Gary Clark.

After a short possession by the Giants, which ended with Hampton being tackled for a six-yard loss on a third-and-one play at the New York 29, the Redskins got the ball back. In a third-and-12 situation, Clark got behind CB Everson Walls to catch a Rypien pass for a 54-yard touchdown at just over two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Another punt by the Giants led to another time-consuming drive by Washington, with Ricky Ervins running the ball effectively. The 14-play, 62-yard possession culminated in Chip Lohmiller’s 35-yard field goal with 51 seconds left that clinched the 17-13 win for the Redskins.

Just as the Giants had dominated the first half, so Washington controlled the second. The Redskins converted nine straight third downs, six in the 20-play drive that led to the initial score, and accumulated 239 total yards. It was the Giants with just 18 plays and three first downs in the second half.

When the two halves were put together, the Giants had more total yards (271 to 254) while Washington had the edge in first downs (16 to 15). Neither team’s defense sacked the other’s quarterback and each suffered just one turnover. Even the penalties were even at five apiece.

Ricky Ervins carried the ball 20 times for 82 yards, all in the second half (the veteran Earnest Byner was held to 11 yards on 10 carries). Mark Rypien completed 12 of 25 passes for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one intercepted. Gary Clark was the most prominent receiver with three catches for 70 yards and both Washington TDs.

For the Giants, Jeff Hostetler was successful on 14 of 21 throws for 137 yards with no touchdowns and one picked off. Rodney Hampton (pictured at right) gained 83 yards on 21 carries that included a TD and also caught 6 passes for 39 yards. WR Stephen Baker (“The Touchdown Maker”) gained 77 yards on three pass receptions.

It was the first time the Redskins were ever 8-0 in franchise history. They eventually ran the string to 11-0 before losing to Dallas and ended up atop the NFC East with a 14-2 record. The winning continued on to the Super Bowl, a 37-24 dismantling of the Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, the defending-champion Giants failed to qualify for the postseason. They ended up with a disappointing 8-8 record to place fourth in the division.

Mark Rypien had a career year, passing for 3564 yards with 28 touchdowns as opposed to 11 interceptions and earning selection to the Pro Bowl. Ricky Ervins (pictured below) saw increasingly more action as the year progressed and ran for 680 yards on 145 carries (4.7 avg.). Gary Clark caught 70 passes for 1340 yards (19.1 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, also earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Until knocked out of action with a back injury twelve games into the season, Jeff Hostetler completed 62.8 % of his passes for 2032 yards and only four interceptions, but with just five TDs. Rodney Hampton was a bright spot on the offense with 1059 yards rushing and 43 catches out of the backfield.