You’d be hard-pressed to find a franchise in the National Football League with a more storied history than the Washington Commanders. With a saga that dates back to 1937, there’s been no shortage of heart-stopping finishes, colorful players, and iconic rivalries.
With so many games to choose from, it’s almost impossible to narrow it down to the five best, but we’ll give it a shot. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable contests in Washington’s history.
5. First Game In D.C.
When: Sept. 16, 1937
Final score: Redskins 13, Giants 3
George Preston Marshall, the team’s first owner, and founder relocated the Boston Redskins to D.C. in 1937 after being frustrated with poor fan turnout in Beantown.
He chose the nation’s capital because of the steady stream of tourists that flocked to the area and felt football would be a great source of entertainment.
Washington’s first home games were played at Griffith Stadium — a venue it shared with the Washington Senators (the modern-day Minnesota Twins). In the team’s first game at Griffith, the Redskins defeated the New York Giants by a score of 13-3.
It was a sign of things to come, as the newly relocated team shocked the nation and went on to capture the division and eventually the NFL Championship in its inaugural season.
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4. 1983 NFC Championship Game
When: Jan. 22, 1983
Final score: Redskins 31, Cowboys 17
We’d be remiss not to include a game with the team’s most iconic rival, and this one was a doozie. Not only were the two top dogs in the NFC playing for a championship, but these teams hated each other.
This game turned out to be a back-and-forth affair, with neither team giving up an inch. The Redskins’ Dexter Manley sacked starting Dallas QB Danny White just before halftime, forcing him to exit the game.
It proved to be costly for the Cowboys. In the fourth quarter, backup QB Gary Hogeboom threw a pick-six to Washington’s Daryl Grant, which was the game-winning touchdown.
However, the champagne stayed on ice a little longer than expected in this one. With 12 seconds left in the game and the Redskins up 31-17, fans at RFK stormed the field and tried to rip down one of the goal posts.
The Cowboys left the field, and after a lengthy delay, were finally summoned back by the referees to finish the game with a kneel down.
3. Super Bowl XXII
When: Jan. 31, 1988
Final score: Redskins 42, Broncos 10
Not many people expected Washington to be in Super Bowl XXII, but apparently, the team didn’t get the memo.
After surprising the Chicago Bears earlier in the playoffs, the Redskins drew the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship. The Vikes were coming off an incredible upset against the San Francisco 49ers, who were the cream of the NFC at the time.
Washington didn’t squander its chance and fended off the Vikings 17-10 to make it to the big dance without having to face the 49ers.
The Redskins squared off against John Elway and the Denver Broncos, and after trailing 10-0, exploded for 42 unanswered points on the backs of quarterback Doug Williams and running back Timmy Smith.
Williams, a backup for much of the year, threw for four TDs and was named the Super Bowl MVP. He also became the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, Smith set the all-time Super Bowl rushing record with 204 yards.
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2. Super Bowl XXVI
When: Jan. 26, 1992
Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24
It would be crazy not to include all three of Washington’s Super Bowl victories in this list, so we did.
The third and final Super Bowl Championship for the Redskins came on the heels of one of their greatest seasons. Heading into the big game, they had a record of 16-2 and were matched up against an almost equally successful 15-3 Buffalo Bills team.
Led by sixth-round draft pick QB Mark Rypien, the Redskins came out guns blazing. They quickly built a 24-0 lead and never looked back.
Buffalo ostensibly made it a game by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but this one was never in question.
Washington went on to win 37-24, and Rypien was named MVP. It was the last chapter (and third Super Bowl victory with three different quarterbacks) in the illustrious career of head coach Joe Gibbs.
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1. Super Bowl XVII
When: Jan. 30, 1983
Final score: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17
They say the first one is the sweetest, so we’ve ranked this one number one.
Super Bowl XVII was not only Washington’s inaugural Super Bowl Championship, but it was also the first for legendary coach Joe Gibbs and quarterback Joe Theismann.
The Redskins had lost to the Dolphins 10 years prior in the Super Bowl and were out for revenge in this one.
After falling behind 17-10 at halftime, Washington stormed back in the final two quarters behind one of the greatest rushing performances in Super Bowl history by RB John Riggins.
The Redskins scored 17 unanswered points in the second half and capped the game with a 43-yard touchdown scamper from Riggins on 4th-and-1. Riggins rushed for 166 yards and won the game’s MVP award.