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NFL Classic Rewind: Last-Second FG Miss Gives NFC East Title to Redskins

Posted on September 15, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The last game of the 1984 regular season for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Redskins had significant playoff implications as well as the potential for some NFL history.

The winner of the game would be crowned NFC East Champions and would host a divisional playoff game after first-round bye.

But the stakes were even higher for the 9-6 Cardinals because if they lost the game, they would not make the playoffs.

St. Louis had one of the most explosive offenses as the Cardinals scored 30 or more points seven times during the season thanks to quarterback Neil Lomax who entered the Redskins game having thrown for over 4,000 yards and wide receiver Roy Green, who as the league’s leader in receiving yards with 1,359 yards on 70 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

The Cardinals also had a flair for the dramatic as they pulled out three victories in the final ten seconds courtesy of kicker Neil O’ Donoghue who made game-winning field goals in those three wins, including a 21-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 26-24 win over the Redskins in Week 8 of the season.

While the Week 16 game was crucial for the Redskins, it was not deadly as they already secured a playoff spot with a loss to the Cardinals only meant they had to play in the NFC Wild Card Game the following weekend.

The Redskins got off to a slow start in the 1984 season as they lost their first two games of the season to start 0-2, but bounced back to win 10 of their next 13 games to enter the game with the Cardinals with a 10-5 record.

The Redskins were led by quarterback Joe Theismann and running back John Riggins, who had helped Washington, get to the previous two Super Bowls, but the Washington player with the best season in 1984 was wide receiver Art Monk.

Monk had been a solid receiver through his first four seasons with the Redskins, but in 1984 he took the league by storm as though 15 games of the season, he caught 95 passes for 1,236 yards and five touchdowns.

Not only did Monk led the league in receptions, but he needed seven catches in the last game of the season to break Charley Hennigan’s single season record of most receptions in a season, which Hennigan set in 1964 as he caught 101 passes with the Houston Oilers.

Monk got closer to the record on the Redskins’ second drive of the game when he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Theismann, which followed a 44-yard completion to tight end Clint Didier, to give Washington a 6-0 lead (kicker Mark Moseley missed the extra point).

In the second quarter, the Redskins forced a turnover when Cardinals running back Ottis Anderson fumbled the ball after he caught a screen pass from Lomax, with Redskins cornerback Vernon Dean recovering at the Washington 48-yard-line.

Art Monk became the first wide receiver since the AFL-NFL merger to catch over 100 receptions in a season.

Nine plays later, Theismann found Monk again for a touchdown, this time from 13 yards out and after Moseley made the extra point, the Redskins had a 13-0 lead.

Midway through the quarter, the Cardinals got on the board when Lomax snuck it in from one yard out, one play after cornerback Wayne Smith intercepted a Theismann pass and returned it 12 yards to set up the touchdown which cut the Washington lead to 13-7.

After the Cardinals touchdown, the Redskins would score 10 points to end the half, a five-yard touchdown run by Riggins which was set up by a 60-yard pass to Calvin Muhammad and then a 21-yard field goal by Moseley following a blocked punt to give Washington a 23-7 lead at halftime.

Trailing by 16 points, Lomax and the Cardinals came out passing in order to trim the deficit and save their postseason hopes.

The Cardinals got three points on their first drive of the second half as O’ Donoghue kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-10, then after forcing a Redskins punt, Lomax threw a pass over the middle to Green, who made the catch and then outran Redskins cornerback Darrell Green, the NFL’s fastest man, for a 75-yard touchdown that put the Cardinals within a touchdown at 23-17 with 8:14 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing Redskins possession, the Redskins would not only increase the lead, but Monk would make his record-breaking 102nd catch, a 36-yard reception that put Washington inside the Cardinals’ 20-yard-line and set up a 37-yard field goal to make it 26-17 in favor of the Redskins.

The Cardinals got those three points back early in the fourth quarter after a 34-yard field goal by O’ Donoghue cut the lead to 26-20 and after forcing a Redskins punt, got the ball back on their six-yard-line with over eight minutes to play.

That is where Lomax led the Cardinals on a six-play, 94-yard drive with Lomax going 5-of-5 on the drive for 82 yards, the last pass completion going for 18 yards and a touchdown to Green and with O’ Donoghue’s extra point, the Cardinals had their first lead of the game at 27-26 with 6:15 to play in the game.

Behind for the first time, the Redskins drove to inside Cardinals territory where they faced a 3rd-and-19 at the St. Louis 47-yard-line.

That is where Monk made his biggest catch of the day, a 20-yard reception to give the Redskins a first down at the Cardinals’ 27-yard-line.

Monk would finish his historic day with 11 receptions for 136 yards, setting his new record for most receptions in a single season with 106 receptions, a record that would stand for eight years.

After Monk’s key third down catch, Riggins ran the ball three straight times for six yards and caused to the Cardinals to use up their timeouts.

Neil Lomax's 467 yards, 314 on 25-of-28 passing in the second half alone, wasn't enough for the Cardinals

Then on fourth down, Moseley came onto the field and kicked a 37-yard field goal that put the Redskins ahead 29-27 with 1:33 remaining.

Now with no timeouts, the Cardinals took over at their own 20-yard-line and 1:27 to try and get into range for O’ Donoghue to make another game-winning field goal in the final seconds.

While the Redskins had the lead and time on the clock, they had been unable to stop Lomax who up to that point had completed 19 of 22 passes for 267 yards in the second half alone.

With the Redskins defense only rushing three and playing six defensive backs, Lomax would complete five straight passes to put St. Louis at the Washington 38-yard-line with 21 seconds to go.

The Cardinals needed one more completion to get into reasonable range for O’ Donoghue, and they got that completion, but it was only for five yards to Danny Pittman and he failed to get out of bounds.

With no timeouts, O’ Donoghue and the field goal unit had to rush onto the field in hopes of getting a kick off before the clock expired.

The Cardinals were able to snap the ball before the clock struck zero, but O’ Donoghue’s kick was wide right and the Cardinals’ season was over.

The Cardinals never seemed to recover from the bitter 29-27 bitter defeat at RFK Stadium, as they would encounter three straight losing seasons before the franchise moved to Phoenix in 1988 and it would not be until 1998 when the Cardinals finally made the playoffs.

As for the Redskins, the win gave them the NFC East title and earned them a home playoff game against the Chicago Bears in the Divisional Playoffs but their hopes of reaching a third straight Super Bowl were shattered as the Bears upset the Redskins,23-19.

The following season, the Redskins lost Theismann after his famous leg injury at the hands of Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, which ended Theismann’s career and Riggins who also retired after the 1985 season.

Monk would remain with the Redskins for nine more seasons and was a part of their Super Bowl winning teams in 1987 and 1991, then broke the all-time career receptions record with his 820th catch in a 1992 Monday night game against the Denver Broncos.

Monk would finish his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1995, and then retired after 16 NFL seasons with 940 receptions for 12, 721 yards and 68 touchdowns.

Thirteen years later, Monk was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame.

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