Quick Links

Flashback Friday—Mel Gray

Flashback Friday—Mel Gray


Normally this space is given to recount great Redskins victories of the past. This one is about a gut-wrenching defeat. If you want to draw a scowl from any Redskins fan of my generation, there are two names that will do the trick. One is Clint Longley. The other is Mel Gray.

To say that the 1975 Washington Redskins were in a state of change would be like saying that the post-Watergate air in DC was a bit unsettled. Both the federal government and the Redskins were undergoing radical transformations.

Legendary quarterback Sonny Jurgensen had been pushed into retirement by coach George Allen. Running back Larry Brown, just three years removed from an MVP season had been pushed to the bench by second-year back Mike Thomas. Charley Taylor was still the team's leading receiver in terms of catches, but Frank Grant would wind up leading the Redskins in receiving yards. And Ford's pardon of Nixon had, well, you can read about that elsewhere.

Going into a November game at Busch Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals, it was all there for the Redskins. The two teams were tied atop the NFC East with 6-2 records and, having beaten the Cards earlier in the year, Washington could gain a stranglehold on the division. The Skins led most of the way and appeared to have come up with a key goal line stand to save the game. But then the pass went to . . .Mel Gray.

Billy Kilmer had been injured the week before, and with Joe Theismann not yet ready to play, the starting quarterback was journeyman Randy Johnson. The ex-Giant filled in more than adequately, completing 14 of 27 for 252 yards and two touchdowns. The first of those two touchdown strikes came midway through the second quarter as Johnson found Taylor from 36 yards to erase a 3-0 Cardinal lead. For the next 18 minutes, the Cardinals continually drove down the field only to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. St. Louis racked up 427 yards of offense for the game, including 230 with an effective thunder and lightning ground attack. Terry Metcalf provided the quickness, gaining 79 yards, while Jim Otis was the power back, grinding for 109 on 23 carries.

The Redskins were having their problems with turnovers as well, giving it away five times on the day. Still, midway through the third quarter, Johnson threw his second touchdown pass, this one to Thomas, giving the Redskins a 14-3 lead. St. Louis responded as a 47-yard pass interference call aided a drive that ended with Jim Hart throwing an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end J. V. Cain with 13:35 left in the game.

Mark Moseley kicked a 42-yard field goal with 6:18 left to put the Redskins up by seven. The Cardinals had to punt back to the Redskins. St. Louis burned all of its time outs, and one more first down would have allowed Johnson to kneel down on the ball and seal the win. Washington, though, came up short and punted. Metcalf returned it 19 yards to the Redskins 39 with 1:43 left.

Hart quickly completed two passes to move the Cardinals down to the six. After three incompletions, it was fourth and goal with less than thirty seconds left. Hart dropped back and fired over the middle to Gray a couple of yards deep into the end zone. The ball went into Gray's arms and, almost immediately, was knocked out by Pat Fisher. Was it a catch?

"It was not a catch," said Fischer. "The rule says he has to have possession and he didn't."

Gray, naturally, disagreed saying, "It was a good catch. It was a touchdown."

Immediately after the play, it seemed that the officials concurred with Fischer. The Redskins' defense began to celebrate and the offense headed onto the field.

But wait. The referees were huddling. They conferred and debated and discussed. And then they talked some more.

And eventually, some of them persuaded referee Fred Silva that Gray did have possession with two feet down. So, after what seemed like an eternity but was in reality only about three minutes, the huddle broke and Silva signed a touchdown.

"I've never seen them take so long to make a decision," said George Allen after the game, "That's like having a World Series and three minutes after the game ruling that the runner is safe at the plate." Jim Bakken's extra point tied the game at 17 and the contest went into overtime.

The dispirited Redskins lost the toss and offered little resistance as Otis powered a drive to set up a 37-yard field goal attempt by Bakken seven minutes into the extra period. It split the uprights, and the Cards won 20-17.

The loss sent Washington into a tailspin, the first of four losses in their final six games. They finished third in the division and were out of the playoffs for the first time since Allen became coach in 1971.

Quick Links

Jay Gruden at Senior Bowl: Redskins 'totally anticipate' Kirk Cousins will return in 2017

Jay Gruden at Senior Bowl: Redskins 'totally anticipate' Kirk Cousins will return in 2017

MOBILE – Jay Gruden provided a glimmer of optimism for Redskins fans freaked out about Kirk Cousins' contract situation. 

"I totally anticipate him coming back to the Washington Redskins," Gruden said. 

The Redskins coach talked from the sidelines of the Senior Bowl where he and much of the team's staff were scouting college seniors. 

Gruden explained he had texted back and forth with Cousins a few times this offseason and looked forward to watching him play in the Pro Bowl. 

Since Gruden named Cousins starter in 2015, the quarterback had passed for more than 9,000 yards and twice broken Skins franchise passing records. 

Some indications of a long term deal for Cousins land in the $120 million range, but the Washington organization also has the flexibility to use the franchise tag this season at a cost of nearly $24 million. 

MORE REDSKINS: Who else might want to trade for Cousins?

Quick Links

The Final Countdown: Redskins defense can't stop Matt Stafford for 5th worst play of 2016

The Final Countdown: Redskins defense can't stop Matt Stafford for 5th worst play of 2016

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 5 worst play of 2016

Redskins at Lions Week 7

0:22 left in Q4, Lions ball at the Redskins 18, 3rd and 10, Redskins leading 17-13

Matthew Stafford pass short left to Anquan Boldin for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

More Redskins: Podcast--All eyes now on Cousins

Tandler: The Redskins had just taken the lead on a nifty 19-yard option run by Kirk Cousins with 1:05 left to play. All they had to do was keep the Lions out of the end zone but the defense was not up to the task. In fact, it was laughably easy for Stafford. The first three times he dropped back he completed passes for 23, 14, and 20 yards and just like that the Lions were in the red zone. It looked for a minute like the Redskins might hang on as two passes went incomplete. But on third down Stafford found Boldin open inside the five and the defense couldn’t get there quickly enough to keep him out of the end zone.

Related: Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky

Finlay: 65 seconds was all the 'Skins defense needed to preserve a win by holding the Lions without a touchdown. 65 seconds away from a five-game win streak, and knowing what we do now, a playoff berth. The Redskins defense couldn't stop Stafford, or Boldin, and lost in Detroit. A gut wrenching loss as the momentum on the Washington sideline seemed incredibly high just minutes before when Cousins ran in what looked like the game-winning score. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!