QB Vince Evans led the injury-plagued 1992 Raiders to win over Redskins in Washington.
December 26, 1992
The Christmas season of 1992 was not a joyous time for the Los Angeles Raiders. An injury-riddled squad was beset with personnel problems of various sorts and would not spend the holiday season preparing for the playoffs. And, the Grinch who stole Christmas had put the Raiders on the road over Christmas. Cross-country in Washington, D.C., the men of the '92 Los Angeles Raiders were away from family and loved ones. Their Christmas dinner had been served at 33,000 feet up on a jet charter. By being scheduled to play on Saturday on the road, these Raiders went into the final game of the '92 campaign with neither Christmas companionship nor championship chances.
By contrast, the hometown Redskins would be playing before a sellout crowd of rabid rooters, families and friends. If they emerged victorious, they would be guaranteed a spot in the 1992 NFL playoffs.
The weather in RFK Stadium was clear at kickoff time, but windy and cold. With a 4:00 p.m. kickoff so the interconference clash could be the featured second game of the Saturday national television pairings, the darkness would soon settle in and the temperature of 36 degrees at kickoff would rapidly fall below freezing. Injuries would keep veteran OTs Bruce Wilkerson and Steve Wright and impressive rookie DT Chester McGlockton either out or available only on a limited basis for this season finale. MLB Riki Ellison was another late season casualty as Head Coach Art Shell and his staff primed their charges.
At quarterback would be Jay Schroeder, a former Redskin when Washington was a Super Bowl team. Schroeder, who had shared time at QB with Todd Marinovich, was finishing an erratic season. Schroeder had completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had thrown only 11 touchdowns. Perhaps his familiarity with the swirling winds in RFK would help spark a big game.
The Redskins came out tough from the very beginning, driving from their own 16 to the Raiders 20 on their first possession. The Raiders defense stiffened, with key hits by LBs Aaron Wallace and Winston Moss. A missed 38-yard field goal by Chip Lohmiller left the scoreboard blank.
Just four plays later, a Schroeder long pass intended for WR Sam Graddy was intercepted by the Skins and returned to their own 41. Three incompletions by Washington QB Mark Rypien and the Silver and Black had the ball back. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, though the Redskins held the ball for nearly 11 of the 15 minutes played.
The hometown Redskins got a major break early in the second quarter when a Terry McDaniel pass interception was nullified by a penalty. With second life, the Washington team moved down the field and ended with a 39-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead that stood at halftime.
On the final series of the first half Coach Shell made a change at quarterback, inserting 37-year old, 13-season veteran Vince Evans under center. Evans completed two of his four attempts but also ran twice for 15 yards to add another dimension to the Raiders offense that had netted only 90 yards in the half.
Late in the third quarter, the Raiders went ahead 7-3 when speedy WR Alexander Wright - who had joined the Silver and Black in an October trade engineered by Al Davis with the Dallas Cowboys - out-ran a Redskins defender to complete a brilliant 41-yard touchdown play and a Raiders march of 69 yards in just six snaps.
But Washington, responding to the wildly supportive crowd and the strains of "Hail to the Redskins," came right back as Rypien hit old pro Art Monk for 49 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. Redskins 10- Raiders 7.
There had been only 17 points scored in the game's first 45 minutes. There would be 24 points scored in the final 15.
Early in the fourth period, Tim Brown fumbled on an end around and Washington LB Andre Collins ended up with the ball and an apparent clear field down the right sideline. But young Brown and ageless Evans were in hot pursuit, avoiding blockers and forcing Collins out of bounds on the Raiders six-yard-line.
Three plays later a determined Raiders defense had kept the Redskins five yards away from the end zone. Washington booted a 22-yard field goal, upped their lead to six, 13-7, but had settled for four important points less than the touchdown would have produced.
A 22-yard kickoff return launched a Raiders drive from their own 33. With pro sophomore Nick Bell as the heavy duty ball carrier and Evans completing short passes to Brown, Marcus Allen, Napoleon McCallum and Wright, the Raiders moved forward relentlessly. The touchdown came on a sweep left by Bell from five yards out, with 4:03 left to play. Jeff Jaeger's extra point was good and the Raiders led, 14-13.
Back came the Redskins, fighting for a playoff possibility. This time, a 43-yard Rypien to Monk pass put them in close, and a one-yard run by Ricky Ervine put them back ahead, 20-14, with only 1:57 remaining on the game clock.
Coach Shell huddled his troops on the sideline and reminded them of the need to keep their poise, the need to play intelligent physical football for every one of the 117 seconds that remained in their 1992 season.
"Play Raider football," directed Shell. "Now, let's go."
And "go" they did. Starting on their own 20 after the kickoff, the Raiders faced a wild, hostile crowd, a wild, hostile opponent, in cold, windy conditions. The three time outs had been carefully hoarded by Coach Shell and would be pivotal in the long drive. A field goal would have no value. The white-jersied Raiders would have to travel the full 80 yards to earn a win. Evans was angered. Several of his teammates talked of being tired. He would hear none of it.
"We can win this game. We WILL win this game," he yelled.
The drive started in reverse. A six-yard run was followed by a holding penalty on the next pass and the time grew shorter and the distance longer. Now, with 1:43 left, the Raiders were 86 yards away. Evans then passed to Allen for 13 yards. After the timeout, a Raiders sweep and a Washington offsides moved the chains. First-and-10 on the Los Angeles 37.
Then, with flawless protection from the big front line, Evans found former Olympian Willie Gault streaking down the left hash mark, deep into Washington territory. A perfect pass, a perfect catch, and the Raiders had a 50-yard gain. It was now first-and-10 on the Washington 8 with 51 seconds left. Another timeout stopped the clock as the Silver and Black offense regrouped. Bell ran right for three yards, then up the middle for two more. The Raiders called a timeout.
The Silver and Black had three yards left, 21 seconds left, and two downs left. The crowd roared for their Redskins to "hold that line." The only support for the Raiders came from an excited sideline. The cold was no longer noticeable. Everyone was sweating this one out.
The third-down pass, Evans to TE Ethan Horton, fell incomplete. Now it was fourth-and-goal from the three. More accurately, it was now forth and game from the three. Evans took the snap, set straight back. A Redskins blitzing linebacker bore down on the Raiders quarterback. This pass would have to be thrown quickly, and it was. Evans drilled Brown breaking straight along the goal line, just inside the end zone. Brown made the catch and the crowd suddenly silenced. The official's arms went straight up. Touchdown Raiders.
A perfect snap from center Dan Turk to holder Jeff Gossett, a perfect spot and a perfect extra-point kick by Jeff Jaeger completed a patented Raiders rally, and the 1992 season for the Silver and Black closed with a classic comeback victory over the Washington Redskins, 21-20.
"It's definitely great to come back the way we did," G Max Montoya said in the noisy Raiders locker room.
"Athletes dream about times like this," said a tired but elated Evans. "I really felt good out there... I've always felt my latter days would be better because of a sense of maturity. And when it happens, it's really beautiful."