Riggo and Riggonomics powered the Redskins to the Super Bowl XVII title with a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. For winning the AFC Championship of 1982, this is the ring the Dolphins received.
In an era where the Dolphins were known as “Wood-Strock”, for the penchant of playing veteran backup Don Strock for starter David Woodley, I found it ironic that Coach Shula didn’t pull the trigger and put Strock in during the second half of Super Bowl XVII. The Dolphins offense could only complete one pass along with an interception over the final 30 minutes of that ball game.
Starting with the Colts famous loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III, Coach Shula didn’t replace a struggling Earl Morrall with Johnny Unitas. It was voiced by some (including Unitas) had he started the second half they could have won the ball game. Apparently that stuck with Shula because if you remember the ’72 Dolphins, in the AFC Championship, undefeated and playing with backup Earl Morrall (yup that same guy) were having problems on offense. Then at halftime, he made the switch back to Bob Griese at quarterback. ‘
He had the same penchant as he was developing David Woodley in the early 80s. Remember the “Epic In Miami” the year before? Shula pulled Woodley in the second quarter when the Chargers built a 24-0 lead. Why did he not pull the trigger in Super Bowl XVII?
In fact the Dolphins defense was in its prime and wanted to make amends for that 41-38 playoff loss to the Chargers. They came through the 1982 strike shortened season as a top flight defense earning the nickname “the Killer B’s” ranking #1 in the league.
As fate would have it the Dolphins hosted San Diego again in the playoffs. The Chargers had just ended Terry Bradshaw’s career with a playoff win in Pittsburgh. Miami won easily 34-13. This game was the catalyst in turning the tide in moving Miami into the conference’s elite while the “Air Coryell” run ended that day. The Chargers wouldn’t return to the playoffs the rest of the decade where Miami was on the rise. Appearing in 3 AFC title games over the next 4 years, the first being the ’82 AFC Championship.
That game was played in a torrential downpour in the Orange Bowl. In the mud “the Killer B’s” shut out Richard Todd, Freeman McNeil and the high powered Jets offense 14-0. A.J. Duhe had a career game with an AFC Championship record 3 interceptions, returning the last for the decisive touchdown.
Although the Dolphins offense started off well in the Super Bowl, they were wasting a good performance by the “Killer B’s”. It took the famous Riggins 43 yd touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the game to relinquish the lead 20-17. They also came within inches of a deflected Kim Bokamper interception for a touchdown that would have strategically put the Dolphins in position to win the game minutes before.
The Redskins possessed the football for nearly 20 minutes in the second half. Woodley only completed 1 pass in the second half. Maybe Shula felt they didn’t have enough time with the football to turn it over to Don Strock. Hindsight is 20/20 but wasn’t the reason Coach Shula replaced Woodley back in the San Diego game based on his ability to throw the ball and get hot in a hurry? I’m still puzzled by Shula not making the switch.
Well maybe Don Shula saved his best quarterback replacement job for last. After this anemic offensive performance in the Super Bowl he drafted Dan Marino a few months later. Maybe Don Shula knew what he was doing.
The two indelible images for the 1982 Dolphins will forever be AJ Duhe’s pick six to seal the AFC Championship, and Kim Bokamper’s near miss of a pick six just two weeks later.
Man what might have been.
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