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February 08, 2010
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February 08, 2010

The Vault

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Every SI Story ... Every SI Photo ... Ever SI.COM/VAULT

EXCERPT | Feb. 2, 1983

Power and Glory

John Riggins made Super Bowl XVII a one-man show

Few players have dominated a postseason the way Washington's John Riggins did after the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. In the three games heading into Super Bowl XVII, he rushed 98 times for 444 yards. SI's Paul Zimmerman was on hand at Pasadena's Rose Bowl for his finale.

Super Bowl XVII—the game, the week preceding it and its aftermath—was molded in the image of John Riggins. It bore his stamp right from the opening gun, the Tuesday Picture Day, when the Redskins' fullback implacably stared out over his sea of questioners, and it carried his signature last Sunday night when he stood on a platform in the steaming press tent and acknowledged his selection as MVP after Washington had knocked off Miami 27--17.

What he had done on that long day's journey into night was grab modern NFL football by the scruff of the neck and toss it a few decades back into a simpler era—big guy running behind bigger guys blocking. His numbers: 38 carries for 166 yards, one pass reception for 15.

The game had other elements, of course. Washington tried a whole battery of fancy stuff in the first three quarters: a flea-flicker off a reverse, another one off a straight handoff and pitch-back, a tight end reverse, rollouts and half rolls and cross-field screens, even a brand new stunt called the Explode Package that had all five eligible receivers shifting before the snap. But all of it merely served as an appetizer for the meat-and-potatoes main course—Riggins and those big hogs in front of him.

Riggins and the Skins reached Super Bowl XVIII, but fell to the Raiders 38--9. He retired in '85 having rushed for 11,352 yards and 104 TDs.

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