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This time the Redskins kicked off deep, but Plunkett couldn't get a first down, and after the two-minute warning the Raiders had to punt. Perhaps if L.A. had had Running Back Marcus Allen in the lineup—bothered by a hip pointer, he was in for only one play, the power kick—things would have been different. But then, with Allen in the lineup the whole game would have been different.
From his own 31 Theismann moved the Skins steadily goalward, and in just five plays he had his touchdown—on a six-yard flip to Washington over the middle with 33 seconds left. Three of those plays were completions of nine, 26 and 28 yards to Brown, who took advantage of L.A.'s alleged prevent defense. Both his long gainers were on elementary "in" patterns that struck uncustomarily deep in the Raider zone. "They played a soft zone and we just picked it," said Brown.
Near the goal line, however, the Raiders went back to man-to-man. The Redskins lined up in a strange formation—Washington was the lone back but he was stationed outside his left tackle. The Skins can run out of the formation, but it's basically designed to get Washington isolated on a linebacker—and that's just what happened. L.A.'s Rod Martin tried to chuck him at the line, but Washington skimmed off, went inside and took Theismann's lob over Martin's outstretched hands for the touchdown that ended one of the most spectacular comebacks in Redskin history.
The game answered one of the major questions about the Redskins: Can they win without Riggins? The answer seemed to be no before Joe Washington's eleventh-hour spectacular. Riggins had averaged more than 26 carries in the Redskins' first four games, seven more than anyone else in the league, and that pattern didn't change in the first half. Though Riggins had been sick with the flu most of the week, Theismann sent him into the line 18 times for 67 yards in that first half. Riggins' steady gains, plus the remarkably unsteady play of Plunkett, who threw three interceptions, two of which led to Washington scores (a two-yard run by Riggins and a 28-yard field goal by Moseley), helped Washington to a 17-7 lead.
"We wanted to do the same thing in the second half," said Redskin Offensive Tackle George Starke. "Riggins right. Riggins left. That's still what works best for us. But when we got behind, that had to go down the drain."
It's nice, of course, to have something else in reserve—like Joe Washington, who in the off-season had surgery on both knees. He's still not completely happy in his role as Riggins' backup—"It's something that concerns me, but I'm not about to jump off the bridge over it"—but he's a whole lot happier than he was in Baltimore, where he was ready to jump off the bridge before coming over to Washington in a 1981 draft-day trade.
Or like Brown, who in his second year out of South Carolina State is already recognized as a big-play man. Brown will undoubtedly be getting the ball less than he did Sunday (his 11 catches gained 180 yards) now that Art Monk has recovered from a sprained knee suffered in the second preseason game. But Brown's performance Sunday underlined what had become apparent in his outstanding performance in the playoffs last year—that Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard never made a better eighth-round draft selection. And Beathard showed good judgment in agreeing to renegotiate Brown's $60,000 salary in training camp; Brown got a four-year package estimated to pay him $175,000 for this season. "I feel now I'm getting paid what I'm worth," says Brown.
Theismann would like to get paid what he thinks he's worth. Certainly his contract renegotiation talks with Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke got a boost from his 23-of-39, 417-yard performance. Theismann is in the second year of a four-year contract that will pay him about $315,000 this season, but there are more than a dozen NFL quarterbacks who make more, none of whom took their team to the Super Bowl last January. Though he's still a walking, and most especially a talking, personification of the Me Decade, Theismann has become a true leader of these Skins.
With all the high-profile guys on offense—the talkative Theismann, the unpredictable Riggins, The Hogs on the line, The Fun Bunch catching passes—it's tough for the Redskin defense to get noticed. Defensive End Dexter Manley is trying his best, though. This year he shaved his head into a Mr. T Mohawk style and has consequently dubbed himself Mr. D. Like Brown, Mr. D succeeded in renegotiating a $60,000 salary in training camp after announcing he wanted to be paid as much as Dallas' Randy White, who gets $318,000. Manley didn't get that, but he did sign for something like $140,000 for this season, with bigger bucks to follow. For the Raider game, Manley appeared in black shoes like those of his pass-rushing cohort, Tony (Mac the Sack) McGee. McGee (three) and Manley (two) accounted for Washington's five sacks, all in the first half when they repeatedly harassed Plunkett. But in the second half the Redskin defense got tired or Plunkett put some Geritol into his 35-year-old arm because he found Wide Receiver Calvin Muhammad for touchdown passes of 25 and 22 yards and marched the Raiders 69 yards for another TD, which came on a two-yard pass to Tight End Todd Christensen.
Everyone knows the way to beat Washington is through the air because All-Pro Safety Tony Peters (who has pleaded guilty to drug-related charges) and Cornerback Jeris White (contract problems) aren't around. But so far only Dallas has done it. Veteran safeties Mark Murphy and Curtis Jordan now work with a very inexperienced crew: second-year man Vernon Dean at right corner and rookie Darrell Green, the 1983 No. 1 draft pick out of Texas A&I, at left corner. Nickel Back Ken Coffey is a first-year man.