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Flashback: Riggs' Day Set Standard


The Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles have played some classic games, but one of the more memorable contests came on a day that former Redskins running back Gerald Riggs will remember forever.

On Sept. 17, 1989, Riggs set the team record for most rushing yards in a game with 221 against the Eagles at RFK Stadium.

The Redskins had opened up that 1989 season with a heartbreaking 27-24 Monday Night defeat at the hands of the New York Giants at RFK.

The following week, the Redskins aimed to get back in the win column.

What better way to do it than against another division rival and the defending NFC East champs, the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Buddy Ryan?

And what better way than by using one of the Redskins' newest weapons?

Riggs had been acquired by the Redskins the previous offseason to be team's power back, complementing also newly acquired Earnest Byner in the backfield.

Riggs had posted three 1,000-yard seasons in his seven-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons and was just what Washington needed to re-establish its ground attack.

In 1989, Riggs led the team in rushing with 834 yards, nearly doubling his total in his final year with the Falcons.

He was a major factor in the team increasing its rushing net yards from 1,543 in 1988 to 1,904 in 1989.

Against Philly on Sept. 17 that season, Riggs produced over one quarter of his 1989 output.

Although he ran for 111 yards against the Giants in the opener, Riggs was angered by his two-fumble performance.

He was further angered by comments of the irascible Ryan, who had stated earlier that season that, "Riggs is older than I am." (Riggs was 28 at the time.)

"After that Giants game, my goal was to come back and shut people up," Riggs told reporters back in 1989. "Shut Buddy up. He was saying I was old, and I wanted to make sure that when he walked out of RFK, he had to say at least something good about our running game."

Riggs, who rushed for 202 yards against New Orleans in 1984, was set to deliver from the start.

On his first run of the game, Riggs took a Mark Rypien handoff 41 yards up the middle, running past linebacker Byron Evans and cornerback Eric Allen on the way to a touchdown and a 13-0 Redskins lead.

The Redskins later pushed their lead to 20-0 and 30-14 at halftime.

Riggs had posted subsequent runs of 46 and 58 yards, but the Eagles got back into the game.

With 1:30 to play in the game, Riggs' 58-yard scamper put the ball on the Philadelphia 22-yard line as the Redskins held on to a 37-35 lead. Riggs sat out the following play to catch a breather and then went back in.

Although 28 of Riggs' 29 carries that day were successful, it's the 29th that he will always remember.

With 1:16 left in the game, the Redskins had possession inside the Eagles' 20-yard line. Riggs got the ball and mistakenly collided with guard Raleigh McKenzie, jarring the ball loose.

Eagles' linebacker Al Harris scooped up the ball and handed it to safety Wes Hopkins, who ran 77 yards to the Redskins' 4-yard line.

Philadelphia turned to dynamic quarterback Randall Cunningham, who threw to tight end Keith Jackson in the end zone to give the Eagles a 42-37 win.

Randall Cunningham found tight end Keith Jackson in the end zone and Philadelphia left RFK with a 42-37 win.

The fumble may have dampened the day for Riggs and the Redskins, but his accomplishments will not be forgotten.

Riggs' day represented the best rushing performance of the 1989 season. A week later, Greg Bell of the Los Angeles Rams ran for 221 yards against the Packers.

The career-high performance of Riggs remains the single-greatest rushing effort by a Redskin back.

Way back in 1933, Cliff Battles of the Redskins rushed for 215 yards versus the Giants and 1985 George Rogers had 206 yards against the Cardinals.

Timmy Smith's 204-yard game came in Super Bowl XXII versus Denver and remains the team's postseason high.

The Redskins went on to record a solid 10-6 record in 1989, finishing one game behind the Eagles for a Wild Card spot.

Riggs spent two more seasons as a Redskin, helping them to a playoff appearance in 1990 and the Super Bowl title in 1991.

In what would be the final game of his career, Riggs scored two touchdowns in the Redskins' 37-24 Super Bowl XXVI victory over the Bills.

Riggs finished his career with 8,188 rushing yards.

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