In our ongoing Best of the Best series, Rich Tandler makes a case for all four of the semifinalists.
From the moment he chased down Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett from way behind in his NFL debut game in 1983, we knew all we really needed to know about Darrell Green. He was fast and he never gave up on a play. His speed and tenacity served him well for 20 NFL seasons, all of them with the Redskins.
Green never picked off a lot of passes. His career high in a season was five, a total he achieved in 1986 and again in 1991. But he was consistent, getting at least one interception in 19 straight seasons. Green’s signature moments are limited because opposing quarterbacks generally avoided throwing to his area.
The one play he made that sealed his legacy after just a few seasons in the league came not on defense but on special teams. The Redskins were playing the Bears in Chicago for the right to host the 1987 season NFC championship game. Jim McMahon and company jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter but Doug Williams led two touchdown drives to tie it up at the half. Then in the third quarter, Green dropped back deep to field a punt. A Bears tight end named Cap Boso ran down in coverage not knowing that he was about to become a footnote to Redskins history.
Green fielded the punt at his own 48 and headed towards the goal line. It appeared that Boso would either tackle Green or knock him out of bounds at around the Bears’ 30. That was until Green hurdled the would-be defender and, while in the air, changed direction back to the middle of the field.
The jaw-dropping move cost Green a torn rib cartridge that would keep him out the rest of the game, but it gained the Redskins the go-ahead touchdown as he glided into the end zone, clutching both the ball and his rib cage. Washington had a 21-14 lead. All Chicago could muster was a field goal later in the third period. Washington was headed home to host the NFC title game.
—From The Redskins Chronicle by Rich Tandler
The Redskins went on to play the Vikings at RFK Stadium the following week. A late Vikings bid to tie the game ended when a fourth-down pass from the Washington six bounced out of the intended receiver Darren Nelson’s hands and Green made sure it would fall harmlessly to the ground by delivering a hit to Nelson. Two weeks later, the Redskins were Super Bowl champs after beating the Broncos.
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