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EXCERPT | Feb. 2, 1983

Power and Glory

John Riggins made Super Bowl XVII a one-man show

Few players have dominated a postseason the way Washington's John Riggins did after the strike-shortened 1982 campaign. In the three games heading into Super Bowl XVII, he rushed 98 times for 444 yards. SI's Paul Zimmerman was on hand at Pasadena's Rose Bowl for his finale.

Super Bowl XVII—the game, the week preceding it and its aftermath—was molded in the image of John Riggins. It bore his stamp right from the opening gun, the Tuesday Picture Day, when the Redskins' fullback implacably stared out over his sea of questioners, and it carried his signature last Sunday night when he stood on a platform in the steaming press tent and acknowledged his selection as MVP after Washington had knocked off Miami 27--17.

What he had done on that long day's journey into night was grab modern NFL football by the scruff of the neck and toss it a few decades back into a simpler era—big guy running behind bigger guys blocking. His numbers: 38 carries for 166 yards, one pass reception for 15.

The game had other elements, of course. Washington tried a whole battery of fancy stuff in the first three quarters: a flea-flicker off a reverse, another one off a straight handoff and pitch-back, a tight end reverse, rollouts and half rolls and cross-field screens, even a brand new stunt called the Explode Package that had all five eligible receivers shifting before the snap. But all of it merely served as an appetizer for the meat-and-potatoes main course—Riggins and those big hogs in front of him.

Riggins and the Skins reached Super Bowl XVIII, but fell to the Raiders 38--9. He retired in '85 having rushed for 11,352 yards and 104 TDs.

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This season Brackett (58) and the Colts have been markedly more aggressive and creative on defense. In the regular season they blitzed 146 times in passing situations and varied their coverages in the secondary. Previously their cornerbacks played zone almost exclusively, with two safeties deep. The goal was to protect against big plays and force offenses to drive the length of the field. But this year they've played more one-on-one coverage and mixed their zones, splitting the field into quarters and thirds instead of halves.

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PHOTOPhotograph by RONALD C. MODRAIN HIS WAKE Riggins's 181 total yards, which included a 43-yard fourth-quarter scoring run, were five more than Miami gained all day. PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. (STABLER) PHOTOANDY HAYT (SIMMS) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (HOWARD) PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (BRACKETT) PHOTOGARY BOGDON (SCHAUB) PHOTOGREG NELSON (WALL) PHOTODAVID CALLOW (PRINCE WILLIAM) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (BUSH) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (JONES) PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER (GARNETT)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)