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Green vs. Vikes in ’87–The Myth Persists

Jan 21, 2005, 10:36 PM EST

The myth endures.

On their Website, the Redskins ran an article on the 1987 season NFC Title game against the Minnesota Vikings. The set the stage for the game-turning play:

The Minnesota Vikings had the ball on the Redskins’ 6-yard line with 56 seconds left in regulation. The down and distance was fourth and four, but the Vikings were looking for the touchdown. They trailed the Redskins 17-10 in the 1987 NFC Championship Game at RFK Stadium on Jan. 17, 1988.

When they described the play, however, they delved into mythology that Darrell Green himself refutes.

The Vikings called “Smoke 83 Option,” a play that would use (WR Anthony) Carter as a decoy in the corner of the end zone and would have (RB Darrin) Nelson in a one-on-one situation with linebacker Monte Coleman just past the goal line.

(QB Wade) Wilson dropped back to pass and found Nelson, who had eluded Coleman as planned. What the Vikings didn’t count on was Redskins’ all-everything cornerback Darrell Green.

One week after returning the biggest punt of his life–a 52-yard touchdown at Chicago to propel the Redskins to a 21-17 win–Green made possibly the biggest defensive play of his epic 20-year career. Carter was forced into the wrong pattern, leaving Green in position to cover him and make the play.

Green, who had played the whole game with sore ribs suffered on that punt return a week earlier, collided with Nelson as soon as the ball hit the running back in the chest. Green knocked the ball away–and the Redskins were Super Bowl-bound

A review of the play on a recording of the game reveals a couple of key errors in the account. First, Nelson was not in the end zone, he was around the one. Second, Green never touched the ball. Nelson dropped it before he even got there. Even Green himself admits that the ball bounced out of Nelson’s hands before he got to the back. After the game Green said:

I looked like I was a hero; everybody thought I knocked it out, but Nelson wouldn’t have caught the ball anyway.

Darrell Green accomplished so many outstanding feats on the football field that he doesn’t need to get credit for any that he didn’t actually do. The record should be set straight.

  1. Anonymous - Feb 26, 2005 at 12:47 PM

    I was at that game and had a good view. I could tell that Green didn’t knock the ball out, but it appeared to me that Green may have distracted the receiver or interfered with the receiver’s view of the ball to such an extent that the catch was made more difficult. Would he have caught it if Green wasn’t there? I don’t know, but I think the catch would have been an easier one to make without Green there. So, while Green didn’t knock the ball out, I give him credit for effecting the outcome of the play, none the less.

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