40 years ago, Dexter Manley was involved in perhaps the biggest play in Redskins history at RFK Memorial Stadium.
Even more, in that NFC Championship game 40 years ago, Manley was actually in on two huge plays that day, and yes, one was the most significant defensive play by the Redskins in RFK history.
Washington had started the season 4-0, but then Dallas came to RFK, sacked Joe Theismann seven times, as Dallas handily defeated Washington 24-10.
Now, it was January 22, 1983, the NFC Championship Game as the No. 1 seed Washington Redskins were hosting the No. 2 seed Dallas Cowboys at RFK.
The stadium was already filled 45 minutes prior to kickoff, and chants of "We Want Dallas" loudly rang throughout. It was a precursor to the game itself, as RFK never before or since seemed to have such crowd intensity as this day.
Washington led Dallas 14-3 in the last minute of the opening half. Dallas QB Danny White dropped back to pass. Richie Petibon's defense ran a scheme/stunt rush, as Manley looped inside, was not picked up, and had clear sailing to White.
Manley met White straight on, and drove White to the cold, hard turf while White's helmet slammed to the ground. Frank Herzog called it this way, "White got shaken up by Dexter Manely. Danny White looks like he is knocked out!"
He was. White would not return to the game, even saying in the locker room following the game, he did not remember much about the game.
Dallas would have to go with backup Garry Hogeboom the rest of the way. Actually, Hogeboom engineered two efficient touchdown drives ending with touchdown passes to Drew Pearson and Butch Johnson. Dallas now only trailed 21-17.
After a Mel Kaufmann interception led to a Mark Moseley field goal and a 24-17 Washington lead, Dallas was at their own 20 with just over seven minutes remaining.
Herzog called it this way, ""Play-action fake to Dorsett, hid the ball well. Set up a screen, batted in the air. Picked off by Darryl Grant! TOUCHDOWN, WASHINGTON REDSKINS! I Don't believe it! Unbelievable! Oh, what a play! Dexter Manley tipped the pass! Darryl Grant got the interception, and NOW the stadium shakes!"
Manley had rushed, leaped into the air, and got his hands on the screen pass. Tackle Darryl Grant, literally seconds earlier, had realized it was a screen pass, quit his pass rush, beginning to make his way to his right toward Dorsett.
In an instant, Manley deflected the pass, and it came to Grant, he made the catch and ran ten yards into the end zone, and Washington was going to Super Bowl XVII.
Manley a guest on the "Kevin Sheehan Show" podcast last week, expressed his memories of the day.
It was great to hear Manley say, "Thank God, I am still here", announcing he has been clean (drugs) for nearly 17 years now.
40 years later, Manley could have bragged of his accomplishments. Still, he was actually quick first to point out Richie Petibon, Larry Peccatiello and Torgy Torgeson put the players in good position. (They were defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and defensive line coach, respectively).
"We kicked their butts that day," said Manley.
The view of the play from the end zone reveals had Manley not deflected the pass, Grant slightly hesitated and was out of position. Dallas had the screen set up well and Dorsett would have most likely run for a big gain on the play.
But Manley did get close enough to Hogeboom; he did leap and did deflect the pass. It remains the most significant play for the franchise in RFK history.
Congratulations 40 years later to Dexter Manley and Darryl Grant.
Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire