On Jan. 26, 1992, the Redskins dismantled Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI, 37-24, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The 13-point margin failed to magnify the Redskins’ dominance. They led 24-0 in the third period and 37-10 in the fourth until the Bills scored two late touchdowns.
It was the last of three Super Bowl wins during the Redskins’ glory era under Joe Gibbs from 1981-92.
The victory also capped the most spectacular single-season run by the Redskins. They finished 14-2 in 1991, tying the 1983 team for the most wins in franchise history, and rolled over Atlanta and Detroit in the playoffs. By the time the Redskins took to the field for Super Bowl XXVI, they were primed to apply the final imprint on an outstanding season.
“Against Buffalo, we knew we had a special team that year that would be hard to beat if we played up to our standards,” said receiver Gary Clark, who caught seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown that day.
Buffalo, playing in its second of four Super Bowls in the early-1990s, pounded its chests in the days preceding the game.
Bills running back Thurman Thomas, the league’s MVP and AFC’s top rusher, touted himself as the “Michael Jordan” of his team in response to a remark by offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda that superstar quarterback Jim Kelly was the “Michael Jordan” of the Bills’ offense. Thomas also complained of not getting enough respect from the media and skipped a mandatory news conference.
“There were rumors that they were debating or fussing about who would be MVP of the game between (defensive end) Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas,” Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman said. “We were very low key. We were on a mission to go out and win a football game.”
The MVP turned out to be Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien. In the crowning moment of his 13-year NFL career, he completed 18 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
Rypien was one of many Redskin standouts. Receiver Art Monk complemented Clark by catching seven passes for 113 yards. He also had a touchdown reception overturned by instant replay.
Gerald Riggs ran for two scores, and fellow running back Earnest Byner tallied 49 yards rushing and 24 receiving to accompany a touchdown catch. The Hogs, the Redskins’ famous offensive line of the Gibbs’ era, manhandled the Bills’ 3-4 defensive front led by Smith, now the NFL all-time leader in sacks.
The Redskins’ defense, meanwhile, handcuffed Buffalo’s high-powered offense that featured a quick-strike, no-huddle attack. Kelly threw four interceptions on his 28-of-58, 275-yard day and was pressured all game by blitzes. His 58 pass attempts set a Super Bowl record.
Safety Brad Edwards picked off two passes, made a legion of bone-jarring hits and received MVP votes. Linebacker Wilber Marshall was devastating with a team-high 11 tackles and two forced fumbles. The Bills rushed for only 43 yards, with Thomas gaining 13 on 10 carries.
Buffalo’s frustrations began on the opening possession, when Thomas couldn’t find his helmet and missed the first two plays from scrimmage. It was an ominous sign of things to come.
Neither team scored in the first period, but the Redskins crafted back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter. Rypien’s 41-yard pass to receiver Ricky Sanders set up Chip Lohmiller’s 34-yard field goal 13:02 before halftime.
The Bills went three plays and out, and a short punt gave Washington possession on its 49. The Redskins moved to the Bills’ 10, and Byner caught Rypien’s pass in the flat and dove into the corner of the end zone for a score.
The Bills’ offense again sputtered, and cornerback Darrell Green intercepted Kelly on the Bills’ 45. Rypien hit Clark for 34 yards, and Ricky Ervins’ 14-yard run gave the Redskins a first down at the 1. Riggs waltzed in for a 17-0 lead. In less than six minutes, the Redskins had scored 17 points.
The rest of the half was scoreless, although toward the end of the second quarter, the Bills, who by then had abandoned their running game, moved to the Redskins’ 20.
On third down, Kelly misfired on a pass to receiver Andre Reed in the end zone. It appeared that Edwards had climbed Reed’s back. But when no flag was thrown, Reed slammed his helmet to the turf and was whistled for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“That is a real sign of desperation and frustration,” Edwards said. “You could tell that they collectively were frustrated, not only being down by 17 points and having an opportunity not realized at that point, but also not exactly knowing what they were up against.”
The onslaught continued in the third quarter. Redskin linebacker Kurt Gouveia intercepted his third pass of the playoffs and returned it 23 yards to the Buffalo 2. Riggs rumbled in for another touchdown and a 24-0 lead.
The Bills trimmed the margin to 14 points on a field goal and Thomas’ 1-yard run. But the Redskins, with their Hogs keeping the Bills’ defense off balance, responded with an 11-play, 79-yard scoring march that broke Buffalo’s back.
Rypien completed four passes to Clark, including a 30-yarder when Clark faked out his man on a post-corner route and caught the ball in stride for a touchdown that put the Redskins up, 31-10.
“That was the icing on the cake,” Rypien said. “Gary was so good at making the post-corner fake. I just laid the ball out there.”
After two Lohmiller field goals made it 37-10 with 11:36 to play, Kelly led two long scoring drives that ended on short scoring passes to cut the lead to 13. But the Redskins held on and exited the field as champions.
Kelly, who was knocked woozy in the final period and had to leave the game for a play, sounded a bit forgetful in the post-game press conference.
“Forgive me if I don’t remember everything that happened,” he said. “I don’t think I want to.”