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Dashed Dreams: The 1972 Washington Redskins



History remembers the victors much better than it does the losers. the teams that win it all are instantly immortalized as one of the sport's greatest while the loser can only stand on the sidelines watching as their legacy is forever tarnished all the while thinking: "Was all that work wasted?". Sometimes they find redemption, but for the most part, the losers of the Super Bowl never return. But this article is not about what happened before or after the Super Bowl. Instead, this is the story of a single, forgotten team: the 1972 Washington Redskins.


The Lead-Up


Ever since Vince Lombardi took over as their coach in 1969, the Washington Redskins had seen significant change occur within their locker room. Even after Lombardi's untimely death a year later, the franchise never lost his focus and drive, quickly hiring the Rams old coach George Allen. As the Redskins new coach, he fostered an environment entirely focused on two core values: total dedication to veterans and the evisceration of the hated Dallas Cowboys.



For while the Redskins had never liked the Cowboys, it could hardly be described as a rivalry up until this point. It lacked a certain hatred so critical to all great rivalries. With the Cowboys reveling in the spoils of victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super bowl VI, the Redskins knew that they had their work cut out for them.


The Season



Brimming with confidence after making it to the playoffs the previous year, the Washington Redskins knew that they had the men to reach the Super Bowl. Still, having lost to San Francisco 24-20 in the Divisional Round in 1971, they would have to find a way to go further than they had since 1942.


The Redskins began their 1972 campaign perfectly under the lights of Monday Night Football against one of the great teams of that era, the Minnesota Vikings. After Bill Malinchak returned a blocked punt 16 yards for the season's first points, Minnesota clawed their way back to take a 14-10 lead into the half.


But the Washington Redskins were men of a different breed, often thriving in the second half after resounding locker room speeches from George Allen. Both Larry Brown (three yards) and Charlie Harraway (nine yards) scored on touchdown runs to put the game out of reach, giving the Redskins a 24-21 win.



Riding the momentum from the previous week, the Redskins coasted to a 24-10 win over the lowly Cardinals in their home opener. They were caught off guard by the Patriots the following week as Jim Plunkett's strike to Josh Ashton clinched the 24-23 upset. It would be the last loss that the Redskins would suffer for the next eight weeks.


But despite their overall excellent record, Washington's fans wanted more excitement in the game and demanded that George Allen start future Hall-of-Famer Sonny Jurgensen over Billy Kilmer. Weary of their plea's, Allen aqcuiesed and handed over the once-conservative offense into the hands of one of Pro Football's great gunslingers.


After a closer-than-the-score-indicated 14-0 win over the Eagles, the Redskins handed the Cardinals a 33-3 pasting before heading back home to defend their turf against the invading Cowboys. Combined with two Toni Fritsch field goals and a 39-yard Craig Morton-to-Ron Sellers connection, Dallas handled Washington throughout the first half as the score was 13-0 before Larry Brown caught a Sonny Jurgensen pass and ran 19 yards down the field just before the half to cut the deficit in half.


The Cowboys kept the pressure on the Redskins early in the second half with Walt Garrison's one-yard plunge into the end zone, but George Allen had fostered a certain level of hate within his charges for this very moment. Down 20-7, Brown's exhilarating 34-yards scamper again cut the deficit in half with Curt Knight's ensuing 42-yard field goal bringing the Redskins to within three. Finally in the fourth quarter, Charlie Harraway ran in the game winner from 13-yards. The Redskins won the thriller 24-20.



Emboldened by the comeback, Washington went on to beat the Giants (23-16), the Jets (35-17) and the Giants again (27-13). The Redskins took something from each of those victories. While Brown dominated the Giants to the tune of 191 and 106 yards respectively, Billy Kilmer outgunned Joe Namath at Shea Stadium passing for 222 yards and three touchdowns against one interception while Namath passed for a measly 140 yards one touchdown and three interceptions.


But all was not well in the Redskins' locker room. Sonny Jurgensen had torn his Achilles tendon in their win over the Giants and was lost for the year. Their offense as well as all of their hopes and dreams of Super Bowl triumph now rested soly in the hands of Billy Kilmer


The Redskins buried Atlanta's Bob Berry with six sacks in a 24-13 win over the Falcons. Finally after a 23-7 thrashing of the Eagles, the Redskins had won eight games and had clinched the division. Ultimately, regular season ending losses to the Cowboys (34-24) and Bills (24-17) didn't matter in the standings. After all, the Redskins had homefield advantage.



The Playoffs


The first round of the 1972 NFL playoffs was uneventful for the Redskins. As they drubbed Green Bay 16-3, they found their minds wandering to the next week. It was an understandable mindset for who awaited them was none other than their eternal nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys.


Coming off an resounding comeback over San Francisco the previous week, the Cowboys looked like the team that had won it all the year before and had just gotten Roger Staubach back into the lineup after almost an entire year without his services due to injury.


But the months away from the action only proved to render his elite skills rusty as he faced the gauntlet of a vey hungry Redskins defense. While the Redskins poured 26 points on Dallas's famed Doomsday defense, Roger Staubach completed nine of 21 passes and was sacked three times as the Redskins held his usually potent offense to just three points. With victory in hand, the Redskins found themselves on the way to the Super Bowl.


Super Bowl VII



While the Redskins may have had a tougher schedule, the Miami Dolphins had faced their share of adversity too. Earlier in the year, they had lost their quarterback Bob Griese to a broken leg. In his stead stepped Earl Morrall, Although he was well past his prime, the Dolphins system proved to be exactly his brand of football. With a trifecta of excellent running backs at his disposal and a potent receiving core, Morrall led the Dolphins to an undefeated regular season.


While they continued to dominate in the playoffs, the Dolphins found themselves trailing the resurgent Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Seeking a spark, coach Don Shula called up his now-healed signal caller and Bob Griese led his teammates to victory and another trip to the Super Bowl. They hungered for redemption after the previous year's 24-3 shellacking at the hands of the Cowboys.



Although the score indicated something a bit different, the game was never close. While the Dolphins entered halftime up 14-0, they would fail to score again the rest of the season, letting their dominating defense take charge the rest of the way. Billy Kilmer was bewildered for much of the afternoon, coughing up three interceptions with two against the game's MVP, safety Jake Scott.


The Redskins still had yet to score late in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins lined up for a field goal, thinking that they would end the game 17-0 with a 17-0 record. But fate had another idea. At the snap their holder failed to securely place the ball which forced their kicker, Garo Yepremian, to try a pass. As he comically bobbled the attempted heave, Mike Bass picked up the fumble and returned it 49 yards for Washington's only points of the afternoon.


The Redskins lost 14-7.


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