With a playoff berth at stake against Roger Staubach and the Cowboys, the Redskins defensive end literally had victory in his grasp—but it slipped away

Coy Bacon: with a playoff berth at stake against Roger Staubach and the Cowboys, the Redskins defensive end literally had victory in his grasp—but it slipped away

Chuck O’Donnell

I PLAYED IN THE NFL FOR 14 YEARS (1968-81), with four different teams: the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Washington Redskins. I played until I was 39 years old and saw a lot of players and teams and coaching styles come and go. I saw the NFL-AFL merger and the start of “Monday Night Football” and the outlawing of the headslap and all kinds of other things. Yes, I was around for a long time.

But do you know how many times I made it to the playoffs? Once. One time, that’s it–in 1969 with the Rams.

I would say that 1979 was my last and best hope to get there again. I was playing for the Redskins after being traded to Washington from the Bengals in 1978. I really enjoyed my time with the Redskins; I liked coach Jack Pardee. The team did everything first class, and I loved the city and its people.

The team was just coming together at that point. It had gone through a lot of hard times, but we had brought in some real good players, and we had a tough, tough defense: Lemar Parrish, Ken Houston, Joe Lavender, Diron Talbert, Dave Butz, to name some.

Pardee joined the team in 1978. A lot of people were hopeful that he could turn the team around within a few years, but he had us playing great right from the start. In his first season, we surprised a lot of people by going 8-8. The 1979 season was even more promising. Here we were, starting off the year with victory after victory after victory; we won six of our first eight games. We were playing so well, in fact, that some people thought we may even reach the Super Bowl.

Then people got a little discouraged because we lost a few games. I was saying, “Whoa! Hold on a minute.” We were still in the playoff mix right up fill the final week of the season.

That final week, we were in Dallas for a big game against our big rival, the Cowboys. The winner would go to the playoffs. Such a scenario lifts a player to a higher level.

We got off to a quick start, taking a 17-0 lead in the first half. That game was kind of like a mirror image of our season: We did really well early on, then we slipped back down and let Dallas take the lead. But we came on strong again and were leading, 34-21, with 0nly about four minutes left in the game.

The Cowboys, however, received a big break: Running back Clarence Harmon fumbled, and the Cowboys recovered near midfield. That’s all Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach needed. He was always leading that team to last-second wins and Hail Mary touchdowns and that sort of thing. That’s all Staubach ever did–he was some sort of miracle worker. Sure enough, the Cowboys moved the ball and scored a touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Staubach to Ron Springs. Bang–just like that, the score was 34-28.

And Staubach wasn’t done. The Cowboys got the ball back, and Staubach drove downfield, throwing to this guy and to that guy. He had all kinds of big-play guys to throw to: Drew Pearson, Preston Pearson, Tony Dorsett, Tony Hill.

Now, this is why it is the game I’ll never forget: With less than a minute to go, Staubach dropped back. We finally got some pressure on him; I had him lined up for a sack. I came charging in, and I had him all to myself. “This is going to be a sack,” I thought. We really needed one to stop their momentum.

But then he ducked, and I went flying by and down to the ground. I flipped onto my feet and went back at him; I had him right in front of me again. This was going to be it–right there.

But he ducked again. And once more, I went right over the top of him and ran by him. I fell, flipped back up, and went at him again. To my surprise, he still had the ball; I had another clear shot at him. I figured, “There’s no way I’m going to let him get away this time. Not this time.” So I came charging in, and guess what he did? Yep, that’s right–he ducked again. I missed Staubach a third time–I couldn’t believe it.

He turned around and threw an eight-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Tony Hill. I was sitting there on the field in disbelief while the Cowboys all celebrated. I didn’t have the words to express how I felt. I was mad at myself and stunned that the Cowboys had taken the lead.

I played two more seasons in Washington, but we never did reach the playoffs. I played on a lot of good teams during my time. I played on teams that went 11-5 and didn’t make the playoffs. I wish the NFL had the wild card back then; I would have been in the playoffs a lot more often. But as it was, I made just that one appearance with the Rams. For me to get as close as I did in 1979

and come up short–and to have Staubach fight there in front of me, only to miss him–was a huge disappointment. I still have nightmares about that play.

Overall, though, I enjoyed my career. I wouldn’t trade it for anything–I wouldn’t have done anything different. But if only I had made that sack on Staubach …

–As told to Chuck O’Donnell

Coy Bacon’s Most Memorable Game

December 15, 1979; Texas Stadium; Irving Texas

Washington Redskins 10 7 0 17-34

Dallas Cowboys 0 14 7 14-35

Scoring Redskins Cowboys

First Quarter

Washington–Moseley, 24-yard field goal 3 0

Washington-Theismann, 1-yard run (Moseley kick) 10 0

Second Quarter

Washington–Malone, 55-yard pass from Theismann

(Moseley kick) 17 0

Dallas–Springs, 1-yard run (Septien kick) 17 7

Dallas–P. Pearson, 26-yard pass from Staubach

(Septien kick) 17 14

Third Quarter

Dallas–Newhouse, 2-yard run (Septien kick) 17 21

Fourth Quarter

Washington–Moseley, 24-yard field goal 20 21

Washington–Riggins, 1-yard run (Moseley kick) 27 21

Washington–Riggins 66-yard run (Moseley kick) 34 21

Dallas–Springs, 26-yard pass from Staubach

(Septien kick) 34 28

Dallas–Hill, 8-yard pass from Staubach

(Septien kick) 34 35

Attendance: 62,867.

IT BREAKS HIS HEART EVERY DAY. COY BACON, the former Pro Bowl defensive end. now works as a corrections officer for the Ohio River Valley Youth Center in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, where he sees kids whose lives have gone bad.

“These young people have been charged with aggravated assault and robbery, and there ate some sexual offenders,” says the 61-year-old Bacon. “They range in age from 12 to 21, My job is to keep them in line and make sure they’re going to school and staying out of trouble, They re used to street living. I have to keep them on their toes.

“You feel good when you get to change someone for the better. They ate graded from one to four, with tour being the best. It feels good to see a kid go from a one to a four and seeing h s life get turned around.”

The kids should listen to Bacon. He’s gotten out of trouble a couple of times himself. After retiring following the 1981 season. Bacon became involved with the wrong crowd. He blew most of the money he had made during his 14season NFL career, which included three trips to the Pro Bowl.

He was arrested on charges of cocaine possession in 1986. Later that year, he was shot in the stomach when he answered the door late one night. He says he test more than hall his blood and should have died. The bullet passed straight through him and lodged in a gas stove. The store should have exploded, but it didn’t.

As he lay in a hospital bed. Bacon says he began to wonder why he was still alive. He says God spared him to his life for a reason, He decided to follow the word of God. became a Born-Again Christian, and began to dedicate his life to helping others.

He moved from Washington D.C. to his hometown of Ironton. Ohio, looking for a fresh start. And he found one. Not only does he help change young lives every day as a corrections officer–When they find out that I played football, that gives me instant credibility with them,” he says–but he also serves as a motivational speaker at various church groups.

Bacon says life is good now. Why, even the town of Ironton has tipped its hat to Bacon, The signs at the city limits say, WELCOME TO IRONTON, HOME OF COY BACON.

Bacon played tot tour teams in the NFL, starting with the Rams, on whom he learned from such greats as Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones. He played five years in Los Angeles and three years With the San Diego Chargers, but his greatest successes came when he was dealt to the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976.

Even at 6’4″ and 270 pounds, Bacon had dancer’s feet. When he started to charge, his feet would start cha-cha-chaing. Offensive linemen then would backpedal, unsure of where Bacon was going.

Often, he ended up on top of the quarterback, In 1976 he had, by the Bengals’ accounts. 26 sacks. That would have been an NFL record, but sacks didn’t become an official statistic until 1982. Bacon played one more season in Cincinnati, then four with the Redskins before calling it quits at age 39.

“I don’t know how I played so long,” says Bacon, “God blessed me with a good body.”

COPYRIGHT 2004 Century Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning