Playoff greats: What Winslow can't forget about "Epic in Miami"
Talk of Fame Network
There is the Greatest Game Ever Played. And the Immaculate Reception. And the Catch, the Sea of Hands and the Ghost to the Post. But the Most Exciting Game? That might have been the 1981 playoff contest between San Diego and Miami, a game that lasted two overtimes before the Chargers won.
At least it was according to former Chargers' coach Don Coryell, a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist for the Class of 2017. He called it "probably the most exciting game in pro football history," and it's hard to argue. It had everything. Offense. Defense. Blocked field goals. Suspense. Drama.
And Kellen Winslow.
The Hall-of-Fame tight end caught a playoff-record 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown and blocked a game-winning field goal before he was helped off the field after playing through cramps, dehydration and a litany of injuries that might have forced others to the sideline.
So what does he remember most?
"Halftime," he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. "Coming in (ahead 24-17), and Dan (quarterback Dan Fouts) throwing his helmet through the chalkboard. That was before they had tablets. We actually used chalk to write on the board. You know with the white board you have dry erasers, etc. We actually had chalkboard with chalk. I'm sure there was some safety issue with chalk, but we got past that.
"Dan told us the Dolphins had not stopped us yet; we had stopped ourselves. We jumped up 21-0, and things were going our way, and we made a couple of mistakes just before the half and let this team get back in it. But he reminded us that we had stopped ourselves, they had not stopped us and we got to get back to doing what we do."
The Chargers did, winning 41-38 on a 29-yard Rolf Benirschke field goal. It wasn’t until afterward – after the Chargers made the return flight home to San Diego and Winslow awoke the following morning – that he understood what he had just gone through.
"I don’t think I really realized what we were involved in until the following morning when we arrived back in San Diego at some ungodly hour, and the stadium was filled with people," he said. "They were waiting for the charter to come in. and they were cheering on the Chargers. We're deep into the playoffs, and the whole city is going crazy.
"And then the next morning I wake up and there is this special on NBC that Bryant Gumbel was doing on the game. And you sit there and and get to listen to all the drama going back and forth and, of course, Bryant Gumbel doing what Bryant Gumbel does – adding a lot of class and drama to the whole thing . (And that's) when I really realized what we were involved in outside of a football game. It really hit me at that point."
(Kellen Winslow photos courtesy of the San Diego Chargers)