January 30, 1983
Washington Redskins 27
Miami Dolphins 17
This Super Bowl followed a strike-shortened season. Instead of 16 regular season games, 9 were played.
The game was a rematch of Super Bowl VII, also played in the Los Angeles area at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ten years before, where the Dolphins completed their 17–0 perfect season at the Redskins’ expense by a score of 14–7.
This Super Bowl was the John Riggins game. Washington’s running back, John Riggins, was named Super Bowl MVP. He finished the game with 2 Super Bowl records: the most rushing yards in a Super Bowl game (166), and the most rushing attempts (38). His performance was also his fourth 100 yard rushing game in a row in a postseason game, a postseason record. Riggins also recorded a reception for 15 yards, giving him more total yards than the entire Miami team. Much of Washington’s success on offense was also attributed to their offensive line, affectionately known as “The Hogs”.
The Dolphins’ main strength was their defense, nicknamed the “Killer Bees” because 6 of their 11 starters had last names that began with the letter “B”. The “Killer Bees”, anchored by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bob Baumhower, led the league in fewest total yards allowed (2,312) and fewest passing yards allowed (1,027). Linebacker A.J. Duhe was extremely effective at blitzing and in pass coverage. And the Dolphins secondary, consisting of defensive backs Don McNeal, Gerald Small and brothers Lyle and Glenn Blackwood, combined for 11 interceptions.
However, this was the pre-Dan Marino era for the Dolphins, and quarterback David Woodley, ranked last in the league in passing with 1,401 total yards, 8 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.The Dolphins advanced through the special 16-team playoffs by defeating the New England Patriots, 28-13, the San Diego Chargers, 34-13, and the New York Jets, 14-0, to earn a trip to their fourth Super Bowl in team history.
Meanwhile, the Redskins beat the Detroit Lions, 31-7, the Minnesota Vikings, 21-7, and the Dallas Cowboys, 31–17.
Miami scored first on their second possession with a 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Woodley to wide receiver Jimmy Cefalo. Then after forcing the Redskins to punt, Woodley attempted a deep pass again, but was hit by Washington defensive end Dexter Manley causing him to fumble, and defensive tackle Dave Butz recovered the ball. The turnover led to Redskins kicker Mark Moseley’s 31-yard field goal to cut the lead 7–3 two plays into the second quarter.
Miami then followed with a field goal, increasing their lead 10-3. Then the Redskins went on an 80 yard scoring drive, capped by a 4 yard Joe Theismann touchdown pass to Alvin Garrett, tying the score 10-10. But, he tie did not last long: Fulton Walker returned the ensuing kickoff a Super Bowl record 98 yards for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 17–10 lead. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.
In the 3rd quarter, Washington drove on their second posession, and settled for a field goal cutting their deficit to 17–13.
In the fourth quarter, Washington had another drive, and reached Miami’s 43 yard line, and face fourth down and one to go. Instead of punting, the Redskins decided to gamble and attempt to get the first down with a run from Riggins. But Riggins did a lot more than pick up the first down. Coach Joe Gibbs called his trademark play I-Right 70 Chip, starting TE Clint Didier in motion towards the right, then reversing motion back to the left. Theismann handed to Riggins who broke a tackle from Miami cornerback Don McNeal and took off for a 43-yard touchdown run, giving Washington their first lead of the game, 20–17, with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Washington quickly forced Miami to punt on their next possession, and punt returner Mike Nelms’s 12-yard return gave the Redskins great field position at the Dolphins 41-yard line. The Redskins then executed 5 consecutive running plays by Riggins, consuming a lot of time off the clock and moving the ball to the 23-yard line. Then on third down, Theismann made a key pass completion to Brown to the 9-yard line. Riggins then advanced the ball to the 6-yard line with two more runs. Then after the 2-minute warning, Brown caught a touchdown pass on the next play, increasing the Redskins lead to 27—17 and putting the game away.
Washington had completely dominated Miami in the second half, allowing only two first downs and no pass completions. Overall, the Dolphins gained just 9 first downs and 4 completions in the entire game.
Following the game, NBC aired the premiere episode of The A-Team, beginning the tradition of the game’s
host network airing programming after the game.