The Redskins suffered a major setback in the last game of the 1982 season.
Art Monk, one of the team’s top receivers, broke his foot in a 28-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The injury ended Monk’s season, so someone needed to step up in the opening-round game against the Lions.
How about a Smurf?
Diminutive Alvin Garrett, who had one reception for six yards in the regular season while playing mostly on special teams, delivered a remarkable performance against Detroit.
He posted six catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns, propelling the Redskins to a 31-7 victory.
The 5-7, 178-pound receiver was once obscure. Suddenly, everyone knew who he was.
“Alvin was a tough guy, a special teams guy,” said Charley Taylor, the Redskins’ receivers coach at the time. “You get guys with great hearts and good skills, and they’ll play. They’ll catch the ball. That’s what he did.”
Garrett was known as a Smurf, a nickname derived from “The Smurfs,” a popular TV show where tiny blue fictional characters live in mushroom-shaped houses in Smurf Village.
Two other Redskins receivers, 5-8 Virgil Seay and 5-10 Charlie Brown, were Smurfs, too. The 1982 season also gave rise to two other Redskin sub-groups, the Hogs and the Fun Bunch.
Garrett took center stage on Jan. 8, 1983, when the 8-1 Redskins hosted the 4-5 Lions at sold-out RFK Stadium.
That season, each team played nine regular-season games because of a player strike that canceled competition for two months.
The playoff system, known as the Super Bowl Tournament, consisted of a maximum of four games.
The Redskins took a 10-0 first-quarter lead over Detroit on cornerback Jeris White’s 77-yard interception return and Mark Moseley’s 26-yard field goal.
Garrett began tormenting the Lions in the second period.
On a 3rd-and-19 from the Detroit 21, Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann spotted him racing past first-year cornerback Bruce McNorton on the left side. Garrett caught a perfect pass around the two and scored. He again victimized Norton before halftime with another 21-yard scoring catch in the same spot.
“It looked like an instant replay,” Lions coach Monte Clark said after the game. Moseley’s conversion put the Redskins up, 24-0.
The Redskins iced the victory early in the third quarter. They drove 73 yards in five plays, the finale a 27-yard scoring catch by you know who.
Garrett beat rookie cornerback Bobby Watkins on the play.
John Riggins rushed for 25 yards on the drive as part of his 25-carry, 119-yard day against one of the league’s best run-stopping defenses.
Theismann was sharp in the game, completing 14-of-19 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
The Lions averted a shutout on David Hill’s 15-yard scoring catch in the third quarter, marking only the second touchdown yielded by the Redskins’ defense over the past 11 quarters.
Detroit rolled up 365 yards of offense, but only 95 came on the ground, where Washington held dangerous running back Billy Sims to 19 yards.
Garrett, meanwhile, continued his outstanding play. He caught an 18-yard scoring pass in a 21-7 second-round playoff win over the Vikings and a four-yarder in a 27-17 victory over the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. Overall, he had 15 catches for 244 yards and five touchdowns in the Super Bowl Tournament.
For any receiver, no less a Smurf, that’s what you call coming up clutch.
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is redskinshistorian.com. Check out his Facebook Friend and Fan pages and follow him on Twitter.