It was the final game of the 1974 season, and the Redskins were pummeling the Bears.
Running back Charlie Evans ran one yard for a touchdown with time running out to put the Redskins up, 41-0. Punter Mike Bragg, subbing for injured kicker Mark Moseley, would come in to kick the extra point.
Not quite. Deacon Jones, arguably the best pass rusher in NFL history and one of the most feared players to ever play the game, tried it instead. The 6-5, 270-pound defensive end converted to cap a victory that improved the Redskins to 10-4.
How did it all unfold?
Jones, who died in June at age 74, was in his 14th and final season at the time. He’d played his first 11 years with the Los Angeles Rams, where he anchored the legendary “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line. The line was key to the Rams’ distinction as one of the NFL’s elite teams in the mid- to late-1960s.
Jones played his next two seasons in San Diego, before being reunited in D.C. in 1974 with his coach for five years in L.A., defensive mastermind George Allen.
Jones served as a Redskins third-down rushing specialist. But with Moseley out, he hoped to get a chance to kick in the Bears game and practiced in the days prior with fellow defensive end Verlon Biggs, a former Jets kicker. Jones claimed to have been a back-up kicker in high school and college, and with the Rams and Chargers.
With the Redskins routing Chicago in the fourth quarter, Jones lobbied Allen for the chance to kick an extra point if they scored again.
“Coach thinks, `Okay, the Bears are just going to run the clock out, and this won't even matter,’” Bragg said in a recent interview. “But (Allen) says `yes, you can do it.’ Then the Bears fumble, and we score, and it’s 41-0.”
After Evans’ touchdown, Allen made good on his promise. But the point-after didn’t seem automatic for an inexperienced kicker.
A rule change prior to the 1974 season moved the goal posts from the goal line to the back of the end zone. The kick was thus from 20 yards out.
Author John Klawitter captured the moment in his book, Headslap: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones.
“In the face of the on-charging, snarling, roaring Bears line,” Deacon just barely got the kick off,” Klawitter wrote. “It was an ugly thing, wobbling like a drunken duck, but it hit the upright and went over for the score!”
Bragg had kicked the five previous extra points with quarterback Sonny Jurgensen holding. But rookie quarterback Joe Theismann would hold for Jones’ conversion.
The moments before the kick were a bit chaotic, according to Bragg.
“Deacon goes into the huddle, and I stay on the sideline because coach says, `Let him kick it,’” Bragg remembered. “Sonny calls timeout. He comes to the sideline, goes over to coach Allen and says, `You really want to let him kick this?’ Coach says, `Yeah, I promised, let’s just get this over with.’
“Sonny said this is getting to be a three-ring circus. This is like rubbing salt in their wounds. He said he wasn’t going to hold for it. So Theismann goes in and holds, and Deacon bounced it off the upright, and it fell over.”
Following the resounding win, Jones was certain that the Redskins, a wild card team, would go all the way in the postseason.
“I’d have retired two years ago if I had one of those Super Bowl championship rings,” he told reporters. “I’ll get it this time, for sure. There’s blazing confidence everywhere now.”
It wasn’t to be. The Rams topped the Redskins in the first round, 19-10, the last game of Jones’ storied career.
In addition to the 180.5 sacks he’s believed to have tallied (sacks weren’t an official stat when he played), the Hall of Famer was responsible for five points. One of them came on an extra point he sorely wanted to kick. His wish was granted.
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is redskinshistorian.com. Check out his Facebook Friend and Fan pages and follow him on Twitter.