NFL – Throwback Thursday: Coaching Legends Collide

10 Dec

On this week’s NFL schedule the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team face each other. For Throwback Thursday, we’ll highlight the NFC Championship game for the 1983 season, played between these 2 teams on January 8, 1984 that was a matching of wits between a pair of future Hall of Fame coaching legends – Bill Walsh of the 49ers and Washington’s Joe Gibbs. The Redskins entered the title game as the class of the NFC for the ’83 season, winning the NFC East title with a stellar 14-2 record. The Niners, on the other hand, had gone through a stretch where they lost 4 of 5 games, then rebounded to win their final 3 to clinch the NFC West crown at 10-6. A one point 24-23 win over Detroit advanced San Fran to the title game, while Washington had destroyed the Los Angeles Rams 51-7 to earn their title game berth.

The Redskins were heavy favorites, and played like it for the first three quarters of the contest. John Riggins, Washington’s hard-nosed back who would grind out 123 yards rushing on 36 carries for the day, scored a pair of touchdowns from 4 and 1 yard out to put the ‘Skins ahead 14-0. When Joe Theisman connected with Charlie Brown on a 70 yard touchdown pass to up the lead to 21-0 after 3 quarters, it looked like it would be smooth sailing to the Super Bowl for Washington. The 49ers were a proud franchise and weren’t about to go down quietly. They had won the Super Bowl just 2 years prior and although this was the pre-Jerry Rice, John Taylor, etc. era, Walsh had one potent weapon at his disposal, his unflappable quarterback, Joe Montana.

Joe Cool proceeded to mount a furious fourth quarter comeback. He guided 3 touchdown drives which he ended with scoring passes. A 76 yard hookup with his favorite target of that season, Freddie Solomon (4 catches for 106 yards on the day), was sandwiched between short scoring tosses to Mike Wilson. The stunned Redskins now found themselves in a 21-21 deadlock. With time running out, Theisman engineered a drive downfield, helped by some questionable penalty calls against the Niner secondary, the most costly being a defensive holding call against Ronnie Lott that prolonged the drive, cost San Francisco precious time when they got the ball back, and set up the game winning points. They were provided by the Redskins’ Mark Moseley, one of the last of the NFL’s straight-away kickers. Moseley, who had missed 4 field goal attempts in the game already, knocked a 25 yarder through the uprights to give his team a 24-21 win.

The 49ers felt they were robbed by the dubious penalties, but nevertheless Washington earned their second straight Super Bowl appearance. The defending champs may have been better off not advancing, as they were throttled 38-9 by the Raiders on Super Sunday.


John Riggins eyes the end zone vs. 49ers (Sports Illustrated photo)

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