Some numbers from Seattle’s stunning overtime victory over Green Bay in the NFC championship game:
71 – the number of seconds that the Seahawks led in regulation the entire game
16 – the number of points the Seahawks trailed by at halftime. The second half comeback is the largest in a championship game since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
9 – the number of points the Seahawks trailed by going into the 4th quarter. They are the first team win a championship game in which they trailed by at least seven in the 4th quarter.
31 – the number of years since an NFC team went to back-to-back Super Bowls as a number one seed.
Last team to do that? The Redskins in 1982 and 83. But in that repeat year, they came dangerously close to dwarfing the above ugly Packers numbers in the NFC Championship game at RFK against San Francisco.
The game was played January 8, 1964. The Redskins had been virtually unbeatable during the 1983 season. They’d lost only two games by one point each and had set a record by scoring 541 points in 16 games. Their divisional playoff game the week before against the Rams was a laugher. The Skins won 51-7 with three touchdowns from John Riggins, capped off with Darrell Green’s 72-yard pick six of Vince Ferragamo in the 4th quarter. They were as hot as any team has been going into a championship game.
So nobody was surprised when the Redskins ended the third quarter with a 21-0 lead on the 49ers. It didn’t even matter that Mark Moseley had missed three field goals on the sloppy RFK turf. After a pair of Riggins touchdowns, Joe Theismann’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Charley Brown put the icing on the cake. A return trip the Super Bowl seemed guaranteed.
That’s when perhaps the greatest ever to play quarterback delivered a “don’t pack your bags just yet” message. Over the course of seven minutes and 29 seconds, Joe Montana threw three touchdown passes. Two went to Mike Wilson. The other went to Freddie Solomon – for 76 yards! Uh oh.
Now tied at 21, the Redskins started their drive at their own 14 after a kickoff penalty. They needed to score, but score slowly. No way they wanted to put the ball back in Montana’s hands.
A catch by Art Monk got the ball out to the 45 of San Francisco. Two plays later, the Redskins caught a break. On a pass to Monk that sailed way over his head, 49ers cornerback Eric Wright was called for pass interference. A second penalty on Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott put the ball in the red zone.
Finally on fourth down at the San Francisco eight-yard line, coach Joe Gibbs nervously sent out Moseley to try a 25-yard field goal. At this point, Moseley had missed four times!
The kick was good and the Skins led 24-21 with 44 seconds left. Number 44 (Riggins) would later joke, “I felt like offering him (Moseley) a blindfold and a cigarette.”
Montana was intercepted on the final play and the Redskins escaped with the win. Imagine having to live with blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead in the NFC championship game? Of course, the reward for winning may have been worse. The Redskins were embarrassed in the Super Bowl two weeks later, falling to the Raiders 38-9.
I guess it’s always better to get to a Super Bowl than not get there, but 31-years later that one still stings. Just think. Without the thwarted 49er comeback, the term “rocket screen” wouldn’t haunt us and this year’s Packers would be off the historical hook.