Jan. 30, 1983 Pasadena
Riggins, Redskins Run to Super Bowl Title, 27-17
By Paul Attner
PASADENA, Calif., Jan. 30 The Washington Redskins rode John Riggins' record-breaking 166 yards rushing today to their first National Football League championship in 40 years, finishing off this magical season by overpowering the Miami Dolphins, 27-17, in Super Bowl XVII.
Moving behind the Hogs, his surging offensive linemen, Riggins was magnificent, scoring the winning touchdown on a 43-yard run in the fourth quarter. Carrying a Super Bowl record 38 times, he disrupted Miami's No. 1-rated defense with his relentless runs, rallying the Redskins from a 17-10 halftime deficit to only their third NFL title in history.
No other back has ever run for 100 yards or more in four straight playoff games. No other back has gained more than 158 yards in a Super Bowl. And rarely has any back dominated a Super Bowl as Riggins did today.
"I'm very happy," Riggins said. "At least for tonight, Ron's the president, but I'm the king."
Joe Gibbs, who rebounded from an 0-5 start as a rookie head coach last year to become coach of the year this season, said he told his players at halftime that "this was the way it was supposed to be. If we were going to be world champions, we had to earn it by coming back."
The Redskins came back because their defense shut down the Dolphins' running game, holding Miami to 34 total yards in the second half. The Redskins were so dominant in the last two periods that the Dolphins didn't complete any of 11 passes.
The Redskins came back because of a two-touchdown performance by quarterback Joe Theismann and what Gibbs proudly called "a 49-man effort that people downplayed all season. No one expected us to win today. But maybe now we'll get all the respect we deserve."
Ten years ago, Washington had its last chance at the NFL title, losing to these Dolphins, 14-7, in Super Bowl VII. But not since 1942 have Redskins fans had a chance to celebrate a league championship. After years of losing records and coaching changes and a few close calls, Gibbs and General Manager Bobby Beathard built a championship team in just two years.
This is a team of 26 free agents, of 14 players who were never drafted, of role players and rejects. It is a team that was not even considered a playoff contender at the start of this strike-marred season. It is a team that entered this game as a three-point underdog. It is a team that emerged having won its final seven games and 15 of its last 16, figures unmatched.
And this is a team that won here doing what the Dolphins, the crowd of 103,667 second-largest in Super Bowl history and 100 million-plus television viewers knew they would do: run Riggins again and again.
But the Dolphins, whose defense relies more on quickness than strength, couldn’t cope with the Hogs. The Hogs’ surge was so steady and strong that often Riggins already had gained three or four yards before being touched by a Miami player.
Riggins ran like a man who may have played his last game, something he wouldn’t refute afterward.
"I can still walk away," said Riggins, the NFL’s seventh all-time rusher. "It’s still possible. I don’t have a time schedule. You guys know me, I’m like the wind. I change my mind every five minutes."
Riggins ran like the wind in the game. His 166 yards gave him 610 in four playoff games, an achievement unmatched in NFL history. Riggins, who gained 553 yards in eight regular season games, broke Franco Harris’ Super Bowl records, set in Super Bowl 1X, of 35 carries for 158 guards. Once Riggins became dominant, it made Theismann’s passing that much more effective. Theismann threw two interceptions, but he also completed 15 of 23 passes for 143 yards.and two touchdowns, a six yarder to 115 seconds left wrapping up the triumph and allowing the Redskins local fans to begin celebrating.
In addition, he prevented a Miami touchdown, knocking away a batted pass that had found its way into the hands of of the Dolphins Kim Bokamper the second half.
Riggins took the ball from Theismann and stared to his left. Cornerback Don McNeal, who had slipped trying to to follow the man in motion Clint Didier, came up fast to make the tackle at the 40. Riggins broke that and took off the sideline in from of the Dolphins bench. Glenn Blackwood couldn’t catch him.
It was longest touchdown run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, and when Moseley kicked the point-after, the Redskins had a 20-17 lead. with 10:01 left.
That was the end for Miami. Woodley, who had played so well earlier in the playoffs, was powerless to the solve the complex defensive coverages. He missed on 10 straight passes before Don Strock replaced him at the end of the fourth quarter. The Redskins defense, which did not allow any of its opponents to gain 100 yards rushing in the playoffs shut down fullback Andra Franklin, the basic goal of Washington’s game plan. Franklin gained 49 yards and his team 96.
Unable to run, the Dolphins had to pass much more than they wanted. The Redskins blitzed and threw combination defenses at Woodley, who rarely came close to a receiver in the last two quarters.
"If they didn’t change anything during the game, we felt we could really manhandle them," safety Tony Peters said. "They just weren’t that complicated on offense. If we could force Woodley o pass, it was all over."
Said Woodley, "When nothing works, it’s completely frustrating. When it would look like we would complete a pass, one of their guys would come in and knock it down. They were able to shut down our backs (Woodley’s favorite targets in most games) because they blitzed and we had to keep the the back in the block."
Miami finished with a woeful 176 total yards, only 80 passing. This was an offense that the San Diego Chargers and the New York Jets couldn’t control, that was averaging 242 yards in the yards in the playoffs.