John Riggins is the Redskins all-time leading rusher, an impressive accomplishment especially considering that he didn’t joint the team until his sixth NFL season and that George Allen really wasn’t sure how to use him after he gave him a large free agent contract. And let’s not forget that he sat out a season in his prime, right after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1978-1979. Fortunately, Joe Gibbs persuaded him to return, prompting Riggins to declare, “I’m bored, I’m broke and I’m back.”
He was good during the 1981 and 1982 regular seasons but as the Redskins entered the ’82 playoffs Riggins took it up a notch. A big notch. In his previous 24 games he had gained over 100 yards just twice. Riggins went in to Gibbs, told him, “give me the ball”, and the rest is history.
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In the three playoff games leading up to Super Bowl XVII, Riggins rushed for 119, 185, and 140 yards. He saved his best for last.
In Pasadena against the Dolphins, the Redskins seemed to be the better team but they still trailed 17-13 when the Dolphins punted. With 10:28 left to play, the Redskins faced fourth and one at the Miami 43. We’ll let my book pick it up from here:
"Gibbs didn’t hesitate in his decision to go for the first down. The call was Seventy Chip, run from goal line formation. As he had been doing all game, Gibbs added motion to the play to try to create just a moment of confusion in the Miami defense.
On this play, the motion caused more than confusion. From the tight, jumbo formation, tight end Don Warren went in motion from the left side of the line to the right. Dolphins’ cornerback Don McNeal shadowed Warren. When Warren got to the right end of the line, he reversed his direction. McNeal slipped slightly and was a step or two behind Warren as the ball was snapped.
The Hogs exploded off the line, blocking back Otis Wonsley sealed off the end, and Riggins easily had the first down after taking Joe Theismann’s handoff and going off left tackle. McNeal was left unblocked and his attempted arm tackle was useful only in that it provided a snapshot that has adorned the dens of thousands of Redskins fans. After brushing aside McNeal, Riggins easily rolled into the end zone for the TD. The extra point made the score 20-17.
After the defense forced another three and out, the Redskins drove for the kill. From the Miami 41, Riggins carried five straight times to the 23. Five plays later, the Diesel gained the last of his 166 rushing yards to get the Redskins down to the six. Two plays later, right after the two-minute warning, Theismann rolled right and fired it to Brown, who managed to keep both feet in bounds in the right side of the end zone, and the celebration could begin."
--From “The Redskins Chronicle” by Rich Tandler