The Washington Redskins are preparing to kick off their 81st campaign on the heels of one of the most exciting finishes in franchise history.
The 2012 NFC East Champs were led by the marvelous play of quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris. The tandem rumbled over opposing defenses en route to a league-high 2,709 yards on the ground. The offensive charge led the team back to postseason play for the first time since 2007.
Back in the 1970′s, the Redskins were a consistent Lombardi Trophy threat because of clutch plays made on the defensive side of the pigskin.
One play at RFK Stadium on a Monday night primetime matchup against the Dallas Cowboys symbolizes just how great that unit was during the decade.
Ken Houston was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1967 and transitioned to his new role at the professional level without missing a beat. In his rookie season he intercepted four passes in a telling sign of what was to come from the defensive back.
By 1973 he was already a five-time Pro Bowler and arguably the best player in the league. However, in a shocking trade with the Redskins, the Oilers shipped Houston to the Nation’s Capital for five players in return. The Oilers believed that while Houston was clearly a dominate force, they had holes that needed to be filled on both sides of the ball and the only way to patch those problems was to give Houston to the Redskins.
The Redskins logic was simple; acquire one of the best players in the league and let him loose in the secondary.
Houston quickly became a leader on a Washington defense that already had incredible talents such as Chris Hanburger and Brig Owens.
In Week 4, the Redskins hosted the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in a matchup that pitted two of the best teams in the league in a pivotal early season game. Dallas was looking to extract revenge after losing in the NFC Championship Game the season before.
To thicken the plot, the Cowboys had been looking to reach their third straight Super Bowl before the Redskins eliminated that scenario with the 13-3 victory.
In the Monday night affair, the Cowboys were looking to flex their offensive muscles after beating the Saints and Cardinals in Weeks 2 and 3 by a combine score of 85-13. Houston and the rest of his Burgundy and Gold teammates, however, didn’t flinch at the thought of the Cowboys powerful attack.
In the second quarter, Dallas would strike first on a 15-yard pass from Roger Staubach in was quickly becoming a defensive affair.
After being held scoreless through the first 45 minutes, the Redskins finally found the endzone on a Charlie Taylor touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was followed by a Brig Owens interception return for a touchdown that gave Washington a 14-7 lead.
With only one more chance to tie the game, the Cowboys began a march towards the Washington goal line late in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-4, the Cowboys had momentum in their favor and a tie game seemed certain.
On a swing pass to Walt Garrison, the Cowboys found themselves inches away from a touchdown. Houston, however, became an instant hero for Redskins Nation as he stopped Garrison in his tracks, confirming a Redskins victory over their arch rivals.
When asked about the play, Houston remembers it like it was yesterday and how could he not.
“I do remember that really well and it was very good for my career. We played the Cowboys on Monday Night [Football], 1973 and it was fourth-and-4 on the four. They were throwing a swing pass between Walt Harrison and Jean Fugett and Brig Owens and I had this combo coverage they call it and I actually thought that I could of stepped in and make the interception,” Houston said. “I’m glad I didn’t because it seemed like I made a great tackle and that’s why I say desperation. I just held the guy up, Walt Garrison, and it was one of the greatest plays of my career.”
Now I know for me at least, if I were to have made a play like that I would have been telling everyone about it for the rest of the night. Believe it or not, Houston didn’t speak of the play for the rest of the evening.
“You know it was really an eerie feeling because I remember all the people at RFK [Stadium] and it was quiet for like two seconds. I remember yelling ‘Brig’ for Brig to come and help me, because I thought he was going to get over,” Houston said after making the tackle. “Then all of a sudden it was like a staccato noise that came back and I didn’t speak for the rest of the night. I mean it was exciting.”
Chime in our your recollections of one of the great plays in team history.
Tags: Alfred Morris, brig owens, ken houston, Robert Griffin III
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