The primary occasion got here in January 1992, after Detroit gained a franchise report 12 video games en path to the Central Division title and routed Dallas within the divisional spherical to clinch a date with Washington with a visit to the Tremendous Bowl on the road. Right here’s a glance again on the Lions’ 41-10 loss in that contest, which ended an impressed run in an emotional season and marked the beginning of the group’s 32-year championship recreation drought.
The Lions arrived in D.C. on a seven-game successful streak, which started with a Week 12 victory marred by tragedy. On the primary play of the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 21-10 defeat of the Los Angeles Rams, Lions proper guard Mike Utley suffered a spinal wire damage that left him largely paralyzed from the chest down.
Dan Campbell had a imaginative and prescient for the Lions. Three years later, it is actuality.
Utley flashed the thumbs-up signal as he was carried off the sector, and the gesture grew to become a rallying cry for the group, which devoted the rest of its season to the 25-year-old. After Detroit’s shocking 38-6 playoff rout of Dallas on the Pontiac Silverdome, group proprietor William Clay Ford delivered a recreation ball to Utley, who had watched the win on tv from the Englewood, Colo., hospital the place he was rehabbing.
The Lions have been 13½-point underdogs towards Washington, which was in search of its fourth Tremendous Bowl look in 9 seasons. Joe Gibbs’s squad had gone 14-2 and outscored its opponents by 261 factors throughout the common season.
Together with its 24-7 thrashing of the Atlanta Falcons within the divisional spherical, Washington was 8-1 at RFK Stadium, the place it was 4-0 all-time in NFC championship video games and had opened the 1991 season with a 45-0 win over the Lions on “Sunday Night time Soccer.” Detroit’s star working again, Barry Sanders, was inactive for that recreation with sore ribs, which provided the Lions and their followers some hope that the rematch could be extra aggressive.
“How poetic it might be for America’s Underdogs to deliver this season of future full circle with an upset victory towards a group nobody provides them a ghost of an opportunity of defeating,” the Detroit Free Press’s Bryan Burwell wrote within the week main as much as the sport.
Few NFL pundits picked Detroit to defeat the Cowboys, and a few Washington gamers admitted they have been mentally getting ready for a high-stakes showdown with their NFC East rivals.
“I believe everyone in the entire world thought Dallas would beat them,” Washington tight finish Don Warren mentioned. “However sit there and watch the Lions on tv, and so they’re enjoying nice and with quite a lot of enthusiasm. They’ve rallied round Mike Utley’s damage and so they’ve confirmed they need to get this far.”
“They seemed awfully spectacular,” Gibbs mentioned. “We all know what we consider Dallas, and in two tries we couldn’t come near what the Lions did towards the Cowboys. We’ve got our work reduce out for us, and we’ll must play nice.”
With their first Tremendous Bowl berth in sight, historical past wasn’t on the Lions’ aspect. Detroit was 0-15 all-time in D.C. relationship from video games at Griffith Stadium and had misplaced 14 straight to Washington since 1965.
“That was then; that is now,” Lions linebacker Chris Spielman mentioned. “We don’t have a look at the previous.”
Detroit heart Kevin Glover delivered an emotional message to his teammates throughout the Lions’ pregame prayer huddle. “We bought a man in Denver sacrificing as a result of he needs to go to the Tremendous Bowl!” he mentioned of Utley, who now lives in Utah and oversees a basis supporting function-restoring therapy for individuals with spinal wire accidents. “Sacrificing for us! Let’s give it to him!”
A special tragedy weighed closely on the hearts and minds of Washington’s gamers and followers. Earlier than kickoff, a message flashed on the RFK scoreboard that the sport was being devoted to beloved WUSA (Channel 9) sportscaster Glenn Brenner, who had been recognized with an inoperable mind tumor two days earlier. Gibbs instructed reporters the group provided a prayer for Brenner on Saturday evening. Banners studying “We love U Glenn” and “Win One for the Brenner” hung from the stands.
Washington’s dominant protection set the tone from the beginning. On Detroit’s second play from scrimmage, defensive finish Charles Mann maneuvered round rookie proper deal with Scott Conover and leveled quarterback Erik Kramer, forcing a fumble that defensive finish Fred Stokes recovered on the Lions’ 11. Two performs later, working again Gerald Riggs barreled into the top zone from two yards out to provide Washington a 7-0 lead barely a minute into the sport.
Linebacker Kurt Gouveia intercepted a Kramer go on Detroit’s ensuing possession to arrange a 20-yard discipline purpose by Chip Lohmiller.
Kramer, who began the ultimate eight video games of the common season after Rodney Peete suffered an Achilles’ tear in Week 9, responded with an 18-yard landing go to Willie Inexperienced. Riggs’s second landing run prolonged Washington’s lead again to 10, however Eddie Murray’s 30-yard discipline purpose earlier than halftime pulled the Lions inside 17-10.
Washington capped its first drive of the third quarter with one other Lohmiller discipline purpose. After Jumpy Geathers blocked a discipline purpose try on Detroit’s subsequent possession, quarterback Mark Rypien broke the sport open with a wonderfully positioned 45-yard landing go to broad receiver Gary Clark.
Rypien added a 21-yard landing go to Artwork Monk within the fourth quarter, by which level followers have been chanting “We would like Buffalo!” in anticipation of a Tremendous Bowl matchup with the AFC champion Payments.
“In the event you put him in Alaska, he would have heated the place up,” Lions security Bennie Blades mentioned of Rypien, who wasn’t sacked and accomplished 12 of 17 passes for 228 yards. “That’s how sizzling he was.”
Washington defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon introduced stress early and sometimes, and linebacker Wilber Marshall had three of Washington’s 5 sacks.
“You hit a man and he’s both going to fold or turn out to be Joe Montana,” Washington defensive deal with Tim Johnson mentioned of Kramer, who was 21 for 33 for 249 yards and an interception earlier than being benched for Andre Ware. “It was price a strive.”
Washington cornerback Darrell Inexperienced accomplished the scoring with an interception return for a landing.
Sanders, who was restricted to 44 yards on 11 carries, mentioned Washington was “too bodily and too mature” for the Lions. Gibbs praised his group’s protection and the raucous sellout crowd of 55,585, which mixed to make life depressing for Detroit’s offense.
“It was so loud the receivers had no likelihood to listen to,” Glover mentioned. “I’m proper beneath Erik and a few instances I couldn’t hear him.”
“Wow,” Lions Coach Wayne Fontes mentioned after his group’s season ended the identical approach it started — with a blowout loss at RFK. “Did that seem like a replay of the final recreation or what?”
“This one is the sweetest by far,” Washington linebacker Monte Coleman, a 13-year veteran, instructed reporters after the sport. “It doesn’t evaluate to anything on the planet. I don’t know if I’ll have an opportunity to do that once more.”
Amid the celebration within the victorious house locker room, Washington’s gamers and coaches expressed their unhappiness over Brenner’s situation.
“What’s occurred with Glenn Brenner makes you notice how fragile life is,” mentioned Gibbs, who delivered a recreation ball to Brenner at George Washington College Hospital that evening. Brenner died two days later at 44.
“Retailer the Roar” was the headline atop the sport story within the Free Press.
“I’m very, very pleased with this group,” Fontes mentioned after the loss. “I cannot return to Detroit with my head down. And my group won’t go house with their heads down.”
On the Tremendous Bowl in Minneapolis two weeks later, Washington gamers gave the thumbs-up signal throughout pregame introductions as a tribute to Utley. Washington went on to defeat the Payments, 37-24, with Rypien incomes MVP honors.
The Lions’ loss to Washington was the primary of their NFL report nine-game playoff shedding streak that ended with a first-round win over the Los Angeles Rams this month. Detroit’s run to the NFC championship recreation makes Washington, which has performed digital interviews with Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn for its teaching emptiness, the one NFC group that hasn’t appeared in a minimum of one convention championship recreation for the reason that 1991 season.