November 2, 2009

1986: Schroeder and Redskins Overcome Kramer and Missed PATs

The game between the Minnesota Vikings (5-3) and host Washington Redskins (6-2) on November 2, 1986 at RFK Stadium was a hard-fought battle that went into overtime. Ultimately, it was a heartbreaking loss on a record-setting day for Vikings QB Tommy Kramer. The Redskins, who came into the Week 9 matchup in a three-way tie atop the NFC East, skirted with defeat but managed to come from behind to force OT and eke out the win.

Washington struck first with a two-yard TD run by RB George Rogers and a 25-yard Max Zendejas field goal to take a 10-0 lead. But the Vikings answered with two touchdowns of their own, including a 67-yard pass play from Kramer to WR Leo Lewis to lead 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.

Redskins DE Dexter Manley returned a fumble 26 yards for a TD in the second quarter, but the extra point attempt failed. A 39-yard field goal by Minnesota’s Chuck Nelson made the score 17-16 in favor of the Vikings at the half.

Kramer had two more long TD pass plays in the third quarter, first to TE Steve Jordan for 68 yards and the second to Leo Lewis once again, this time for 76 yards. In between, Washington added a field goal and 40-yard TD run by Rogers to make the score 31-26 at the end of three quarters.

When Tommy Kramer tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the day, this time a short one of only a yard to RB Darrin Nelson, the Vikings appeared to be in control with a 38-26 lead and just 5:16 remaining on the clock. But Washington QB Jay Schroeder hit WR Art Monk for a 34-yard touchdown (again the PAT attempt was missed) and, with 1:03 remaining in regulation, Rogers scored his third TD of the game from two yards out. However, for the third time the extra point attempt failed, thus taking the game into sudden death.

A Schroeder to WR Gary Clark pass play of 38 yards ended the struggle and gave Washington a 44-38 win. Drained Head Coach Joe Gibbs said afterward “I feel like we’ve been playing for twelve hours….like we won, lost, won, lost, and won all at the same time”. For Vikings Head Coach Jerry Burns it was a bitter defeat, “a very tough loss to take. I thought we had it.”

Tommy Kramer set a Minnesota team record with 490 passing yards, completing 20 of 35 passes with 4 TDs and an interception. Including the two long touchdowns, Leo Lewis ended up with 159 yards on just three receptions, but he wasn’t the highest yardage producer of the receivers – that was Steve Jordan with 179 yards on six catches and a long score of his own.

Both of Washington’s starting wide receivers, Gary Clark (123 yards) and Art Monk (102) reached triple figures, each with six catches. Schroeder, the second year quarterback, completed 24 of 47 passes for 378 yards with two TDs and an INT. George Rogers was the game’s leading rusher with 88 yards on 19 carries, including the three scoring runs.

The gunslinging Kramer ended up with an even 3000 yards in 1986 and led the NFL with a passer rating of 92.6, with an uncharacteristically strong ratio of 24 TD passes to 10 interceptions. Minnesota ended up with a 9-7 record, in second place in the NFC Central.

The Redskins went 12-4 and were a wild card entry in a postseason that saw them advance all the way to the NFC Championship before falling to the division rival Giants. Kicker Max Zendejas, of the three missed PATs, did not last that far – he was replaced prior to the regular season finale. Second-year quarterback Jay Schroeder had the best of his three seasons with Washington, passing for 4109 yards, although tossing as many interceptions as touchdown passes (22 each). On this day, he had skill enough to bring his team back from the brink and pull out a victory.