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Rewarding Moments In Redskins History: Redskins Topple Undefeated Lions, 1956

Posted Nov 9, 2017

In today's Rewarding Moments In Redskins History presented by Maryland Lottery My Lottery Rewards, we look back at the Washington Redskins holding off a late comeback by a 6-0 Lions team with four Hall of Famers to win, 18-17.

In today's Rewarding Moments In Redskins History presented by Maryland Lottery My Lottery Rewards, we look back at the Washington Redskins holding off a late comeback by a 6-0 Lions team with four Hall of Famers to win, 18-17.

It’s considered one of the 50 best Redskins games in the team’s history.

The Redskins faced the undefeated Lions at Griffith Stadium on Nov. 11, 1956. At that point, the Lions had four Hall of Famers on their roster – quarterback Bobby Layne, linebacker Joe Schmidt and defensive backs Yale Lary and Jack Christiansen. This was a team that had won the NFL championship in 1952 and 1953.

The deck was stacked in their favor, you could say.

But Washington came out strong. They connected on a field goal to open the scoring and then rookie Dick James (pictured above) ran the ball 41 yards for a touchdown to give them a 10-0 lead.

Throughout the game, because of unsatisfying play and injuries, Al Dorow and Eddie LeBaron took turns at quarterback, and by halftime, the Redskins had managed to make it 13-3.

The third quarter brought its share of frustrations. The Lions drove down the field and scored a touchdown, thanks in part to a fourth down by the goal line that was overruled. The Redskins pushed back with a 75-yard drive of their own but instead of kicking a field goal on fourth down, they decided to go for it. They couldn’t convert.

Then as the Lions began sputtering on offense, backed up in their own territory, Detroit head coach Buddy Parker called for an curious intentional safety, to give the Redskins a 15-10 advantage. Kicker Sam Baker pushed through a 31-yard field goal to up the lead to eight points with just minutes left.

The Lions hurried down field and rallied for an 80-yard touchdown drive. But their onside kick with a minute fell into the Redskins’ Ralph Thomas’ hands, thwarting the threat and securing the improbable 18-17 victory.

For one of the few times in his life, wide receiver Art Monk was nervous before an NFL game.

On the eve of the Redskins’ Monday Night Football matchup with the Broncos at RFK Stadium, Monk knew he had the opportunity to break the NFL receptions record.

He wanted to get it out of the way, and so did the Redskins, who faced the Eagles the next week and wanted Monk’s attention, and the team’s attention, on their division rival.

For a moment, on that Oct.12 night, it looked as though the record would have to wait. The Redskins were crushing the Broncos and throwing the ball wasn’t particularly practical as the fourth quarter ran down. But head coach Joe Gibbs pressed on.

He called three pass plays in a row for the eventual Hall of Famer during a final fourth quarter drive.

The third pass was the record-setter, a 10-yard throw from Mark Rypien that Monk caught by the Broncos sideline with just more than three minutes left to play. The reception made history, pushing past Steve Largent, and Monk was quickly lifted into the air by his teammates to celebrate.

"I knew it was for the record. It was a play designed for me to catch," Monk said after the Redskins’ eventual 34-3 victory. "I'm glad it's over. I was nervous before the game--that's something I'm not used to. I was glad to be able to do it here."

With the game in hand, those that didn’t leave early for traffic were rewarded for their patience and roared for their wide receiver.

Monk finished the night with seven catches for 69 yards and would finish his career with 940 receptions, now 17th overall on the all-time receptions list in NFL history.

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