One thing you can forget, however, is the notion that team solidarity during the strike will count for anything on the field. Here was Washington, Team Together, playing the Jets, Team Inner Strife, and they were nearly equal. Both were atrocious for the first three quarters. Rust never sleeps. How atrocious? Witness the moments just after the second-half curtain went up:
•Washington was assessed two penalties in its first five plays and then punted 20 yards.
•Given gorgeous field position, New York proceeded to go directly backward—from the Skins' 43 to the Jets' own 43. Punt.
•The Redskins were called for a penalty on the punt return. Then Monk dropped his first pass of the day. Griffin ran for 13 yards. Monk dropped another pass. Monk dropped another pass. Deciding to give Monk's hands a breather, Schroeder threw a third-down pass to Bryant—in a moment we'll explain how he and his hamstring got involved in this mess—who, naturally, dropped it. Punt.
Games like this make Washingtonians go home and flip on the Mondale Campaign highlights film. "Everybody wasn't on the same page today," said Schroeder afterward. No, everybody wasn't even in the same bookstore.
The Redskins had taken a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter on a 20-yard Schroeder-to-Gary Clark touchdown pass, but they had done next to nothing since. In fact, until Washington's final two drives, Schroeder had completed only 9 of 28 passes for 164 yards with one interception. He had at least three chances to throw surefire TD passes and overthrew all of them. But, then, he underthrew quite a few others, too. "I figured the fans were going to boo before I got on the field," said Schroeder afterward. "But at least they waited until I had thrown my first incomplete pass."
If Schroeder's worthy counterpart, Jets quarterback Ken O'Brien, had been given even a moment to find an open receiver, New York would have gotten its first win ever over the Redskins in four tries. Three of the four times the Jets moved inside the Washington 20, their instruments failed, and they had to settle for field goals. Two Pat Leahy three-pointers and one O'Brien blitz-read TD pass to tight end Mickey Shuler gave the Jets a 13-7 lead. On the kickoff after Leahy's second field goal, Griffin, who earlier had fumbled from scrimmage, dropped the ball. It bounced back into his hands, but Griffin only reached the Washington 10. After three Schroeder incompletions, the Skins had to punt from their end zone. The Jets promptly drove to the Washington four, where Leahy booted a 21-yard field goal to put them ahead 16-7.
Twice during all this, Gibbs had asked Bryant if his "twitching hamstring" felt good enough for him to go in. Twice Bryant, who had been in for just a few plays, had said, "No, coach, it's still a little tight." But now, with 7:54 left, Gibbs wasn't an inquiring mind. He sent Bryant in to replace Griffin—this time to stay. All Bryant did was wreck the Jets.
The biggest play came when Schroeder dumped a pass over the middle to Bryant, who on one hamstring goes approximately as fast as a BMW and might inspire loathing if you could get him on two. He bolted 39 yards to the New York seven. Three plays later the Kelvinator did a simple down-and-out on Jets linebacker Bob Crable in the end zone. Schroeder's two-yard pass was on the money, and the Skins were within two, 16-14. "I was surprised he put me in," said Bryant, "but I guess I did a pretty good job." Well, only if you consider 17 yards running, 67 catching and a touchdown in one eighth of a game a pretty good job.
Now was when the Jets had to come through. Now was when they didn't. In fact, they did worse. Not only did they not score, but they also held on to the ball for only 2 minutes and 10 seconds and wasted a timeout to boot. O'Brien got sacked on second down, this time by Dave Butz. Butz had spent the night before in the hospital with the flu.