The NFL season that almost wasn't ended fittingly when a team that many thought couldn't, the Washington Redskins, overran the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in the Super Bowl. The Skins and the Fins earned a shot at each other by surviving the special 16-team, four-week playoff tournament that was a by-product of the 57-day NFL Players Association strike. Miami's Killer Bee defense—with some extra D courtesy of Linebacker A.J. Duhe, who picked off three passes—beat the Jets 14-0 for the AFC Championship. And in a game that many thought would make the Super Bowl an anticlimax, Washington whipped Dallas 31-17 for the NFC title as Defensive End Dexter Manley knocked Cowboy Quarterback Danny White cold and tipped a pass by White's successor, Gary Hogeboom, that was returned for the clinching score. But Coach of the Year Joe Gibbs's team couldn't have been keener in Pasadena. Washington trailed 17-10 at the half after the Dolphins' Fulton walker returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and a Super Bowl record. But in the second half Miami Quarterback David woodley wobbled, and the Hogs, Washington's meaty offensive line, cleared the way for its chief porker, Fullback John Riggins (right). He scored the winning TD on a 43-yard romp from scrimmage, set a single-game Super Bowl rushing record with 166 yards, 10 fewer than Miami as a team got.
Theismann's finger thwarted Kim Bokamper's Super Bowl interception.
Jimmy Cefalo ran 45 yards with a 31-yard pass for the first touchdown of the Super Bowl.
Theismann passed for 143 yards, including a Super touchdown apiece to the Smurfs, Alvin Garrett and Charlie Brown.
February 16, 1983
A posse couldn't catch Walker (left) on this kickoff return of 98 yards, almost twice the total of Redskin returners like Mike Nelms (above).
Footloose and fancy Freeman McNeil of the Jets led the NFL in rushing.
Buffalo wouldn't renegotiate, but Joe Cribbs negotiated for 633 yards.
Eddie Lee Ivery, Green Bay's top runner, finished third in the league in touchdowns.
The Cowboys' Tony Dorsett led the NFC in rushing with 745 yards.
By banging for four yards a crack, the Dolphins' Andra Franklin drew comparisons with former Miami Fullback Larry Csonka.
Though the Raiders couldn't draw crowds in their new home, Rookie of the Year Marcus Allen did while grinding down the Browns in the playoffs.
The 49ers and Joe Montana, snagged by Denver's Brison Manor, couldn't shoulder the burden of being defending champs.
He's not Flipper, but Dolphin Earnest Rhone's butterfly worked swimmingly on Theismann.
Kenny Neil of the Jets helped Bengal Ken Anderson find a seat.
Though Jim Plunkett had to Pack it in briefly, the Raiders won their preseason debut in LA.
Sanders Shiver made woodley feel blue, but the Colts' record paled beside Miami's.
At this point, Raider Rob Martin's sack of the Browns' Paul McDonald was in the bag.
The San Diego line, which gave Dan Fouts prime protection all season, also took a chunk out of the Steel Curtain for Kicker Rolf Benirschke.
In their first poststrike game, the Giants failed to stop the Skins' Mark Moseley, who was on his way to a record 23 straight successful field goals.
A few weeks later, Moseley, the NFL's MVP, kicked his record breaker to beat the Giants with :04 remaining and then gave holder Theismann a lift.
NO TIME FOR OSTRICHES
Time was when all the NFL had to worry about was an occasional cheap shot on the field, a gambler and a coach eating in the same restaurant, or an owner scalping a few Super Bowl tickets. Minor stuff. And when Commissioner Pete Rozelle wrapped up a landmark $2 billion television contract with the major networks in March, the league's future looked as rosy as ever.
Then a pox struck. Former New Orleans Saint and Miami Dolphin Defensive Tackle Don Reese revealed that he'd been a heavy cocaine user (SI, June 14, 1982) and said the league faced a drug problem of epidemic proportions. (For admitting his continued use of drugs and thus violating probation on a 1977 drug-selling conviction, Reese was ordered to serve time in the Dade County [Fla.] stockade.) By the end of the season others, including stars like Chuck Muncie and George Rogers, had owned up to debilitating habits. Oiler Coach Ed Biles suggested his team's 1-8 record could be laid to drug and alcohol abuse among his players; soon afterward, two members of Houston's defensive secondary were arrested, one on a drunk-driving rap and another on a cocaine charge.
Meanwhile, Raider Managing Partner Al Davis, Rozelle's personal nemesis, successfully fought the league's legal efforts to keep Davis' club in Oakland. The Raiders played instead in the L.A. Coliseum, defiantly going 8-1. The new U.S. Football League promised to be more serious than the NFL had thought, getting a network deal and such college stars as Craig James, Reggie Collier, Tim Spencer and Trumaine Johnson.
But the 57-day walkout exacted the dearest price. The teams lost some $210 million, the players $63 million. Though the union did come away with a $1.6 billion bonus pool spread over five years, Players Association Executive Director Ed Garvey was forced to concede many points during the negotiations, and a movement was afoot to replace him. Meanwhile, Rozelle's hold on the game remained strong. But his was a much more enviable position at the year's beginning than at its end.
Better that the Dolphins' Walker, and not Rozelle, had his head stuck in the grass.