The Green Bay Packers were facing a major challenge as they hosted the Washington Redskins on October 17, 1983. At 3-3, Head Coach Bart Starr’s Packers were a team that could put points on the board, especially with QB Lynn Dickey (pictured above) passing to wide receivers James Lofton and John Jefferson and TE Paul Coffman. But they also gave up points and came into the game with the 28th-ranked defense in the NFL. They also had to make adjustments on the offensive line, with G Tim Huffman out with an ankle injury that necessitated moving Greg Koch over from his OT position and starting Charlie Getty at tackle.
Having a poor defense was not a good situation to be in when facing the Redskins. Coached by Joe Gibbs, they were coming off a Super Bowl-winning season and, if anything, were even stronger in ‘83. Behind the best offensive line in the league, QB Joe Theismann was a proficient passer and RB John Riggins a powerful force running the ball. If there was a weak point, it was the defensive backfield, but Washington was cruising at 5-1, with a close opening-game loss to the Cowboys the only blemish.
There were 55,255 fans in attendance for the Monday night game at Lambeau Field. Just over a minute into the first quarter, they had reason to get excited when Green Bay LB Mike Douglass forced RB Joe Washington to fumble and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown and, with Jan Stenerud’s extra point added, the early 7-0 lead.
DB Mike Nelms returned the kickoff 41 yards and the Redskins drove 55 yards in six plays, highlighted by Theismann’s pass to WR Art Monk for a 34-yard gain. The series ended with John Riggins fumbling into the end zone and TE Clint Didier recovering for a TD. Mark Moseley tied the score with his PAT.
Green Bay responded with a 10-play, 40-yard drive. Lynn Dickey threw to Paul Coffman for 17 yards and John Jefferson for 13 along the way and Stenerud kicked a 47-yard field goal that put the Packers back in front by three.
Washington moved the ball quickly downfield with Theismann connecting with Monk for a 22-yard gain and with RB Nick Giaquinto for 31 more yards. But the Green Bay defense came through with back-to-back sacks of Theismann and the Redskins had to settle for a 42-yard Moseley field goal. The eventful first quarter ended with the score tied at 10-10.
Things did not slow down as the game approached the second quarter. Dickey threw to James Lofton for 21 yards and the Packers picked up 15 more on a penalty when CB Darrell Green hit the receiver out of bounds. Dickey then tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Coffman. Stenerud added the extra point and the home team was back in front by 17-10.
Back came the Redskins, moving 67 yards in seven plays and highlighted by a 36-yard carry by Riggins. Riggins scored from a yard out and Moseley again knotted the score with the successful PAT.
The Packers reached the Washington 33 on the next series before a Dickey pass was intercepted by CB Anthony Washington. After getting a first down, the Redskins were finally forced to punt and Green Bay came back with a 73-yard, seven-play possession. RB Eddie Lee Ivery tossed an option pass to Coffman for 15 yards and a first down at the Washington 9 from where Coffman caught a scoring pass, this time from Dickey. Stenerud added the extra point and once again the Packers were in front by a touchdown.
With less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Redskins came out throwing. Theismann completed five passes to reach the Green Bay 11 and Moseley booted a 28-yard field goal as the clock reached five seconds. The Packers carried a 24-20 lead into the intermission.
Starting off the third quarter, the Packers struck quickly as they advanced 80 yards in just 42 seconds. Dickey threw to Coffman for 40 yards and then RB Gerry Ellis, taking advantage of a big hole, ran 24 yards for a touchdown. The home team had its biggest lead of the day at 31-20.
Washington seemed on the verge of responding with a touchdown, reaching the Green Bay four, but an offensive pass interference penalty nullified an apparent scoring catch and once again the Redskins settled for a Moseley field goal, this time from 31 yards.
Up by eight points, the Packers were forced to punt on their next series and Bucky Scribner’s kick was blocked to give the Redskins the ball at the Green Bay 19. Five plays later, Theismann threw to Joe Washington for a six-yard TD and, with Moseley’s PAT, the Green Bay lead was down to 31-30.
Washington’s defense again asserted itself as Dickey was sacked twice by DT Dave Butz. Nelms made a good return of the ensuing punt by Scribner to give the visitors possession at their 46. From there, the Redskins again moved deep into Green Bay territory, but after reaching the nine yard line, Douglass tackled Joe Washington for a loss and once again Washington was held to a field goal. Still, Moseley connected from 28 yards and put the visitors ahead by 33-31 with ten seconds left in the period.
RB Harlan Huckleby returned the ensuing kickoff for 54 yards to the Washington 39 and the fourth quarter started with Dickey throwing to Ellis for 32 yards. Shortly thereafter, TE Gary Lewis scored a touchdown from two yards out on an end-around that put the Packers back in front.
The Redskins came right back again as Theismann threw to Monk for 25 yards and WR Charlie Brown for another 15. Riggins blasted into the end zone from a yard out and the Washington was again in the lead of the wildly back-and-forth contest.
The Packers responded with another score of their own, with Dickey completing passes covering 19 yards to Jefferson and 17 yards to Lofton. An 11-yard touchdown pass to FB Mike Meade, followed by Stenerud’s extra point, again put Green Bay in front at 45-40.
Now it was Washington’s turn again. Theismann (pictured at right) threw to Monk for 21 yards and Joe Washington ran for two first downs. A sack of Theismann by DE Byron Braggs momentarily derailed the Redskins, but a pass to Giaquinto picked up 35 yards and set up a five-yard scoring toss to Washington. Moseley added the point and, with 2:50 left on the clock, the visitors were back on top at 47-45.
It looked bleak for the Packers when, following the kickoff, Dickey tossed two incomplete passes. But then he found Ellis on a short pass over the middle that turned into a 56-yard gain to the Washington eight and, after conservatively running the ball into the line three times, the dependable Stenerud came on to kick a 20-yard field goal. It was the fifth lead change of the final period and put the Packers ahead by a point.
There were still 54 seconds remaining in the contest, however, and while the Redskins had no timeouts remaining, they quickly moved the ball down the field. Theismann completed three passes to Joe Washington, gaining a total of 33 yards, and the running back made it out of bounds after each. Theismann then threw to Brown for 22 yards, but the clock was still running and the quarterback had to hurriedly toss a pass out of bounds with three seconds to go. On the last play of the game, Moseley missed a 39-yard field goal attempt, the fans erupted, and the Packers came away with the 48-47 win.
The combined 95 points was a new high for Monday Night Football. The teams also combined for 1025 yards of offense, with the Redskins topping Green Bay by 552 to 473. They had more first downs (33 to 23). Each team turned the ball over once, and there were just three punts in all (one by Washington, two for Green Bay, one of which was blocked by the Redskins).
Lynn Dickey completed 22 of 31 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns with one intercepted. Paul Coffman had 6 catches for 124 yards and two TDs while Gerry Ellis (pictured at left) contributed 105 yards on four receptions to go along with his three carries for 41 yards that included a score. James Lofton caught 5 passes for 96 yards and John Jefferson added 50 yards on his four catches.
For the Redskins, Joe Theismann was successful on 27 of 39 throws for 398 yards and two TDs and no interceptions. Joe Washington caught 9 passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his 80 rushing yards on 16 carries. John Riggins, who had to sit out much of the second half with a hip injury, nevertheless led the club on the ground with 98 yards on 25 attempts that included two TDs. Art Monk gained 105 yards on five catches and Charlie Brown had 6 receptions for 91 yards.
“It was about the wildest thing I’ve ever been in,” said Lynn Dickey. “I wish I had been in the stands or at home watching on tv, it was that good.”
“It was a tremendously inspirational win because you could see the sort of enthusiasm and intensity that was on display tonight,” said Bart Starr. “You have to salute both teams because Washington, for the reasons demonstrated on the field, is a world-championship team. They are magnificent.”
The Packers lost their next two games on the way to an 8-8 finish that put them second in the NFC Central (and cost Coach Starr his job). Tellingly, while they ranked fifth in the league with 429 points, they also gave up a NFL-high 439 points. Washington didn’t lose again during the regular season, compiling a 14-2 record that was best in the league as well as the NFC East. Along the way, the Redskins set 18 NFL records that included points scored with 541. However, after repeating as NFC Champions, they came up short in the Super Bowl, losing decisively to the Raiders.
Lynn Dickey led the NFL in passing yards (4458) and touchdown passes (32), although also in interceptions (29). James Lofton (58 catches, 1300 yards, 8 TDs) and Paul Coffman (54 catches, 814 yards, 11 TDs) were both selected to the Pro Bowl.
Joe Theismann had a MVP year as he ranked second in passing (97.0 rating) while compiling 3714 yards and 29 touchdowns. John Riggins was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection as he rushed for 1347 yards and set a new league standard with 24 touchdowns. Joe Washington added 772 rushing yards and 454 yards on 47 pass receptions.