The 1981 AFC Divisional playoff contest between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers remains one of the most memorable games in NFL postseason history.
In that one, San Diego let a big lead slip away before topping the Dolphins in overtime, 41-38. What many may forget is that the Dolphins got revenge the following season in the same round and at the same stadium. On this day 40 years, Miami provided a little Orange Bowl payback, 34-13.
In January 1982, San Diego scored the game’s first 24 points. On Jan. 16, 1983, it was Miami that raced to a 24-0 lead.
David Woodley touchdown passes to Nat Moore and Ronnie Lee bookended a touchdown run by Andra Franklin as the Dolphins built the big early advantage. As Miami did the year prior, the Chargers sought to mount a comeback.
By halftime, San Diego had drawn to within 27-13 behind a Dan Fouts touchdown pass to Charlie Joiner and a Chuck Muncie touchdown run. In the second half, however, it was the vaunted “Killer B’s” defense that shined brightest. That began by forcing a pair of 3-and-outs to start the third quarter.
After allowing Fouts to pass for 433 yards and three touchdowns the year prior, Miami intercepted the San Diego record-setting quarterback five times, including three in the second half. Glenn Blackwood came up with two of those second-half interceptions while brother Lyle Blackwood had the other. Gerald Small and Don McNeal each recorded picks of Fouts in the first half.
While Fouts struggled, Woodley was surgical. An early second-half interception was his lone blemish as the Miami quarterback finished 17-for-22 with 195 yards and the two touchdown tosses. His 7-yard touchdown run early in the fourth ultimately put the game out of reach.
Running back Tony Nathan rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries, caught eight passes for 55 yards and completed a pass for 20 yards. Franklin’s 96 yards on the ground led a Miami rushing attack that eclipsed 200 yards for the second straight playoff game. Jimmy Cefalo’s 69 yards led all receivers.
A.J. Duhe recorded two sacks for a Miami defense that held the Chargers to 247 yards and forced seven turnovers.
Miami Dolphins Communication Portal
Duhe would go on to be a hero for the defense the following week with three interceptions in a 14-0 shutout of the New York Jets to reach the Super Bowl. The 21-point victory over San Diego in the Divisional round, however, served as Miami’s largest margin of victory in a playoff win since a 21-0 shutout of the Baltimore Colts in the 1971 AFC Championship. It came on this day four decades ago.