When last seen, a public enemy named Diron Talbert, who has been known to lead the Washington Redskins in prayer and then say, "All right, let's go out there and kill them folks," was still holding New York Giant Quarterback Craig Morton prisoner in a concrete edifice on the outskirts of our nation's capital. Talbert is a defensive tackle, although last Sunday he was in the Giants' backfield so often he was frequently mistaken for Wellington Mara. When Talbert wasn't there, a number of other Redskins were, and among them, they gained almost 70 yards on the ground. In pro football, a defense can do this by folding up the opposition's quarterback and rolling him along the grass, backwards. Redskin Coach George Allen has been heard to say, "We were not put on this earth to enjoy ourselves," and when last week's game was over, the poor Giants certainly understood that. Redskins 49, Giants 13. Diron Talbert, nine confirmed kills, or thereabouts.
Only two games of the NFL season have been played, and it is not as though the Redskins have gone around whipping up on the likes of Oakland and Pittsburgh. But there are many reasons for excitement in Washington, reasons which add up to 90 points in two games against the New Orleans Saints and the Giants. The Redskins' special teams are doing their handiwork with customary thoroughness, Quarterback Billy Kilmer has merely thrown six touchdown passes so far, aching Larry Brown is running gingerly but effectively and, as the Giants had the misfortune to find out, the Redskins' defense, led by that rowdy 6'5", 255-pound Texan, Talbert, is as scary as a castle full of monsters.
The Giants had stung the Philadelphia Eagles 23-14 in their opener, and they went to Washington filled with hope. Indeed, in the first quarter of play they appeared to be immensely better than the team that had loitered around New Haven a year ago, ringing up a 2-12 record for new Coach Bill Arnsparger. The Giants led the Redskins 7-0 after the first 15 minutes because Morton managed to stay upright and guide them 44 yards in a 10-play drive. And that was it as far as the visitors were concerned.
Kilmer, who no longer has Sonny Jurgensen for a roommate (or was it Eddie LeBaron or Sammy Baugh?), had already discovered that he could have sent Edward Bennett Williams into the Giants' young, confused and leaky secondary and found him as open as the sunlit sky. It was only a matter of Kilmer getting on target. He did. Toward the end of the first quarter, he hit Roy Jefferson crossing the deep middle for 32 yards to set up a four-yard Brown touchdown.
When Brown zipped almost untouched around right end on the first play of the second quarter for the score, it was the first of a hurricane of 28 points the Redskins would get in the period. All of a sudden, what had started out to be a decent football game turned into something scripted by Mel Brooks and produced by Diron Talbert.
The next time the Redskins got the football—on a Joe Dawkins fumble on the Giant 48-yard line—Kilmer fired a 31-yard strike to Jefferson for the touchdown that made it 14-7.
Allen has a tendency to get bored if no one is doing anything wonderful for him except his offense. He likes the defense and the special teams to win games, which is why he used to enjoy benching Jurgensen for throwing touchdown passes. For the rest of the second quarter, Allen had his way.
A couple of minutes after the Redskins had taken the lead, some crazy business happened down near the Giants' goal line. Morton had the football and was hoping to throw it to somebody in one of those new New York uniforms that make the Giants look as if they are playing for Buffalo. Meanwhile, Talbert had gathered up practically the entire Giant offensive line and seemed to be hurling guards and tackles at Morton, one by one. When Talbert ran out of Giants, he chucked his teammate, Bill Brundige, at Morton. Presently, Morton was in his own end zone under a ton of burgundy and gold, and the ball was being squeezed out of his grasp like that good, hard-to-get-at part of a lobster. When the debris was cleared, Redskin End Ron McDole had the ball and six more points for Washington. Brundige received credit for the tackle and McDole for the touchdown, but Talbert deserved at least a share of both. Still, even without that play registered among his accomplishments, he personally nailed Morton five times behind the line of scrimmage.
These events had to be to Allen's liking. Moments earlier, when the Redskins had jumped in front, he had said to Talbert and his pals, "Play everything like a pass. Just tee off." Which is just what they did.
Not that Talbert forgot the amenities. He and Morton are old friends, so Talbert kept a friendly conversation going. "Sometimes I'd holler at him before we'd get to him," Talbert said. "I'd yell, 'Hey, Craig, how's New York?' Or I'd say, 'How you doin', old buddy?' Then I'd stick him."
At one point when Morton was in the familiar position of picking himself up—he was dropped seven times by Talbert, McDole, Brundige and two good young linemen, Brad Dusek and Dennis Johnson—he slammed the ball down and said: "Damn it, Talbert. Where you comin' from?"
Talbert might have answered, "Aw, just anywhere I want to." Instead he waited until after the game to explain: "We were stunting every play. We do that more than anybody else. I can't go straight over anybody anymore because the refs allow the offensive lines to hold. That's O.K. They let ours hold, too. Anyhow, I go outside, around the guard, or come in on the center."
Talbert had so much success getting past Giant Guard Dick Enderle that Arnsparger replaced him with Karl Chandler, a second-string center from Princeton. It would only have made a difference if Arnsparger could have replaced Enderle with the Lincoln Memorial.
Allen's special teams had their most triumphant moment later in the second quarter. Larry Jones gathered a punt in on his own 48-yard line and lit out down the shady side of RFK Stadium. Then Jones changed direction to his left and, as he came straight across the field toward the side where Ed Williams sits in his private quarters with all those Senators and other Washington notables, various Redskins began knocking down various Giants. Five Giants were blind-sided in rapid succession, smacked so hard that their white jerseys seemed to be floating in the air like confetti. Jones then cut down the unshady sideline and went all the way. Washington 28, New York 7.
The second half was largely a case of Kilmer and his new backup man, Randy Johnson, working on their passing stats. Kilmer found Jefferson for another touchdown early in the fourth quarter and finished the day with 14 completions in 24 attempts for 176 yards and two scores. Then Johnson, a former Giant who once had been denied the opportunity to beat out the legendary Norm Snead, came on and had a perfectly enjoyable time. He completed six of six, two of them for touchdowns to Charley Taylor and Alvin Reed. After the second one, Johnson raised his fist in the direction of the Giants' bench. If he spoke, you couldn't print it.
All in all, it was a frolicking day for what might be the best Redskin team since the one that reached the Super Bowl three seasons ago. It took Washington five games last year to score 90 points; now Kilmer and Johnson look like a combination that might put up that many in a single game. Larry Brown is not the Larry Brown of old, but he is still good. And Rookie Mike Thomas is a fine backup with splendid potential. Jones is going to be a threat anytime someone kicks to him. He is the Redskins' "most improved" player, they say, and he looks capable of becoming a Cliff Branch-type receiver.
Moreover, the Redskins' schedule does not become fierce until well into November. As Washington wit Morrie Siegel phrased it, "They ought to be 6 and 0 through their first four games."
And as Diron Talbert said, "If we can keep them opposing quarterbacks running, we got a chance to be O.K."