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A Look Back at Super Bowl XXVI and the Greatest Season in Hogs History

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It was 25 years ago when one of the greatest NFL teams of all time held up the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Buffalo Bills 37-24. It was also the Skins’ third Championship in 10 years. This was the first, however, that was over a full 16-game schedule, with the other two Championships won after strike-shortened seasons.

The team ranked first in offense during the regular season, and also had the second-ranked defense. Outscoring opponents by 332 points through the regular season and post-season combined, the Redskins didn’t trail once after the regular season had ended. Incredible.

Joe Gibbs Washington by Keith Allison (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Harry Connick Jr. had the unenviable task of following Whitney Houston’s previous year’s performance of the National Anthem as the 13-3 Bills were getting ready to face the formidable 14-2 Washington Redskins.

The Bills’ second shot

The Buffalo Bills were trying to overcome the heart-breaking loss of Super Bowl XXV when they lost the game by one-point after Scott Norwood missed a last second 47-yard field goal.

The Bills were regarded as the more talented team: Jim Kelly was clearly a better QB than Mark Rypien, as Thurman Thomas was head and shoulders over Ernest Byner. But the Redskins were more of a team than the “bickering Bills”, who were rumoured to be spending too much time partying during Super Bowl week.

It didn’t start well for the AFC Champions when future Hall-of-Famer Thomas lost his helmet on the sideline. Kenneth Davis was no slouch but Thomas was the NFL’s MVP and integral to the Bills’ no-huddle attack.

Early strike for Redskins

The Redskins scored first, with Chip Lohmiller scoring a 34-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter. Just over three minutes later, after a woeful 23-yard punt from the Bills, Ernest Byner caught a Rypien pass for a 10-yard TD, sealing a 5-play 51-yard drive. After RB Gerald Riggs ran in for a 1-yard TD at the end of an almost identical drive to the first (55 yards in five plays), the Bills found themselves 17 points down at the half.

After a frankly dreadful awful half-time show, the Redskins were in no mood to slow down, scoring early in the 2nd half with a Riggs 2-yard run. The Bills’ Thurman Thomas responded with a 1-yard TD of his own.

The Bills scored twice in the fourth quarter, with Kelly throwing touchdowns to TE Pete Metzellars and WR Don Beebe (the latter after a successful onside kick), but it was too late.

Then and Now

The Redskins have struggled ever since that victory, with only six playoff appearances arriving in the intervening 25 years. Although they aren’t out of the playoff race yet this year, the 2017-18 season isn’t giving Hogs fans anything to shout about, either, with the Redskins as far out as 61.00 in the latest sports betting odds to win the Super Bowl this time out. Unlike the Bills, of course, they do have three Super Bowl victories to look back on- with Super Bowl XVVI being the sweetest of all.

Ah, the memories!

Rypien can certainly look back on the game with pride, having completing 18 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns, he was named the game’s most valuable player. His counterpart Jim Kelly tied a Super Bowl record with four interceptions.

Ricky Ervins had 72 yards rushing on the ground, with Ernest Byner adding 73 yards from scrimmage with 49 yards rushing and 24 yards receiving. Art Monk and Gary Clark had near identical days as both caught 7 passes for 113 and 114 yards respectively. Gerald Riggs only carried the ball 5 times and for just 7 yards, but that’s because two of them were for touchdowns on goal line runs. That’s how the Hogs rolled back then. Smash mouth football. That offensive line allowed just nine sacks in the entire year – regular season and playoffs combined.

It was the second of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances for the Bills. No team has achieved that feat since. That team remains one of the most talented NFL teams assembled, and certainly the most talented to not win a Super Bowl. Scott Norwood’s missed kick in Super Bowl XXV continues to haunt the Western New York franchise.

It was the third Super Bowl for Joe Gibbs, with three different quarterbacks – the only coach to ever accomplish such a feat. It was arguably the greatest Redskins team ever – one of the best NFL teams ever – and most certainly the greatest season ever put together by an offensive line. Hail to the Hogs!

More By Mark Solway

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