For some reason the Raiders then switched into a zone. Before they had gotten out of it, the Skins had driven the length of the field, down to L.A.'s seven, where Mark Moseley kicked a 24-yard field goal. Washington trailed 14-3. Not a good spot to be in, but not untenable, either. The Raiders picked up a couple of first downs and punted. The Redskins had the ball on their 12 with 12 seconds left before the half, and the fans were moving out to beat the lines at the concession stands.
Washington lined up three receivers on the right side, a Hail Mary. In the old days you'd take your 14-3 deficit into the locker room and get ready for the second half, but this is the modern era, the age of miracles—anything can happen in 12 seconds. And it did.
Something clicked in Sumner's brain. He remembered that when L.A. played the Skins in October, they'd been in a similar situation and thrown a little screen pass to Joe Washington on the left side. It had picked up 67 yards. He yanked Millen out of the game and sent in Jack Squirek, a faster linebacker. "I almost didn't get him in on time," Sumner said.
"I was mad," Millen said. "I'd called a blitz, and I was cranked up for it, but he told Jack to play the screen and sent him in. I guess Charlie knows what he's doing, huh?"
The three rightside receivers took off, and Washington slipped out to his left. Alzado, the end on that side, smelled the screen. He drifted to the outside, between Washington and Theismann, and Theismann had to loop his pass to get it over Alzado. Squirek took the ball on the run and the Raiders had TD No. 3. Gibbs's strategy was severely questioned afterward. "There were 23 seconds left," he said, missing the number by 11. "I thought we could set something up. The same play worked last time."
"What surprised me," Washington said, "was that they had me double-covered over there with only seven seconds left." His watch was running fast.
It was 21-3 at the half, and the Raider heroes were a couple of guys named Squirek and Jensen. Theismann was 6 for 18, and the Skins had picked up only 113 yards, total. The only thing in their favor was that the L.A. defense had been on the field a long time—39 plays, compared to 27 for Washington's defenders. When the Skins drove 70 yards for the TD that made it 21-9—Moseley's extra point was blocked by Don Hasselbeck—on their first possession in the third quarter, there was hope for Washington again. It had scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter in that earlier game against the Raiders.
Los Angeles' next drive turned out the lights. It stretched 70 yards and was built around a 38-yard interference penalty—Green on Barnwell—on the second of only three times in the game that Plunkett went deep. (His third bomb, to Barnwell later in the third quarter, would go incomplete.) Allen's five-yard TD climaxed the march, and his 74-yarder, three possessions later, would officially certify this as a blowout.
In the locker room afterward, the 34-year-old Alzado, who had played for a month with pain-killers in his damaged right ankle, broke down and cried. "I've been an athlete for 27 years and never a champion," he said. "There's nothing left now. This is the best, this is everything."
"Lyle has left a lot of his blood on the field in 13 years in the NFL," Long said. "He's spent most of his life playing football. I feel very good for him. It's probably the nicest part of this thing."