Chargers’ Playbook From 1981 Postseason

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At the end of the 1981 season, during a divisional round game in which the Chargers and Dolphins combined for the most passing yards in a postseason contest (809), easily the most impressive play was a blocked field goal. They only happen about a dozen times a season, but San Diego had a plan—and the perfect weapon—to block Miami’s 43-yard attempt at the end of regulation.

Tackles Louie Kelcher and Gary Johnson got interior penetration, allowing 6-6 tight end Kellen Winslow to reach skyward and barely tip the ball, forcing it to fall short. The game went into overtime, and Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke eventually nailed the game-winner from 29 yards out for a 41-38 victory.

Winslow played with a shoulder injury and battled cramps throughout his body during the second half, but the oppressive Florida heat couldn’t stop the future Hall of Famer: He finished with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown; the picture of him being carried off the field due to exhaustion at the Orange Bowl has become iconic. (The following weekend in Cincinnati, the Chargers lost the AFC Championship Game by three touchdowns in a game played in -32 windchill conditions that has become known as the Freezer Bowl.)

— Robert Klemko

Photograph courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

From l. to r., Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated; Ronald C. Modra/SI; Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

From l. to r., Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated; Ronald C. Modra/Sports Illustrated; Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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