- John Keim, ESPN Washington Redskins reporter
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@john_keim Grant TD most memorable cause that game biggest (?) win in franchse history. All thought 'Boys would win. Charlie Brown syndrome.
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) July 2, 2014
This is the first of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Darrell Green’s punt return to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game and John Riggins’ fourth-down, game-winning touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII against Miami. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins’ most memorable play.
Score: Redskins 31, Cowboys 17
Date: Jan. 22, 1983 Site: RFK Stadium
The day, and the game, were big enough already. Fans inside RFK Stadium started the chant long before kickoff, energizing the players and creating a lifelong memory. The chant, which started earlier that postseason in wins over Detroit and Minnesota, is brought out on occasion -- “We want Dallas!” -- but never was it said with more gusto than on Jan. 22, 1983, in the NFC Championship Game against the Cowboys.
There was a sense of excitement, a sense that perhaps the franchise was in the early stages of a good run under second-year coach Joe Gibbs.
What did it mean to the players, hearing the chant in the locker room?
“It sent a chill down your spine,” Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm said in "America’s Rivalry" (a book I helped write).
Redskins fans who lived through the 1950s and '60s were used to disappointment. More accurately: They were used to bad football. From 1950 to '70, the Redskins managed three winning seasons. But a strong run in the 1970s under coach George Allen elevated expectations.
However, although they got close -- a Super Bowl loss that capped Miami’s perfect 1972 season -- they never pushed through. And they had not been to the postseason since 1976.
So, with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left against Dallas, the Redskins clung to a 24-17 lead, but the Cowboys had hope. With backup quarterback Gary Hogeboom having earlier entered for a concussed Danny White, they had moved the ball and, after all, they had won six straight over their hated rivals. Fans were understandably nervous, still stung by the memory of another Cowboys backup passer: Clint Longley and his 50-yard bomb to beat the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day 1974.
But in this game, from their own 20, the Cowboys called for a screen that Washington had correctly anticipated. That led defensive tackle Darryl Grant to run to the area he knew the ball would be thrown. And when rushing defensive end Dexter Manley tipped the ball, Grant plucked it out of the air and high-stepped 10 yards into Redskins history. It's easily one of the most memorable plays in franchise history for what it represented and when it occurred. It clinched a victory and sent Washington to its second Super Bowl. Grant’s spike landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
And the city, and franchise, started a party that lasted a decade.
This is the first of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Darrell Green’s punt return to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game and John Riggins’ fourth-down, game-winning touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII against Miami.