A small snowplow and John Smith's 33-yard field goal with 4:45 left in the game gave the New England Patriots a 3-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins today in a game dominated by snow and wind.
During a timeout before the kick, a snowplow cleared a spot on the artificial turf for the field goal attempt. The Dolphins objected, but the officials allowed the hasty groundskeeping.
The driver of the plow, Mark Henderson, received instructions to clear the spot on the field from New England Coach Ron Meyer.
Meyer later grudgingly admitted, "Yes, I waved to the guy on the tractor to brush off the snow. It looked like a tremendous coaching move, but I'm not sure it was."
As Henderson went to the 23-yard line where Smith would kick, the Dolphins began to yell in protest.
Henderson, a convicted burglar on work-release from nearby Norfolk Correctional Institute, told a Knight-Ridder reporter later, "I figured, 'What's the most they could do? Put me in jail.' "
Miami Coach Don Shula said the Dolphins would not protest the game.
"The official (referee Bob Frederic) said the Patriots would provide the same opportunity for us," said Shula. "The game's over so what can you say?"
"I guess I would have swept the snow away for them, too," Henderson said. "I'm trying to be an ethical person."
Smith said the plowing did not help him. "He (Henderson) actually got in my way after I had cleared a path," said Smith. "I had to move a foot and a half farther away from the spot I had cleared because he pushed snow over it."
It was Smith's first game-winning field goal in nine years in the league.
The Patriots (3-3) had driven 77 yards in 11 plays to set up Smith's field goal. They ensured victory with 30 seconds left when linebacker Don Blackmon intercepted David Woodley's pass at the Patriots' 10. Teammate Roland James intercepted a desperation pass by Woodley as time ran out.
The second smallest crowd in Schaefer Stadium's 11-year history, 25,716, attended the game.
Miami (4-2) was shut out for only the second time in its last 188 games. The previous shutout occurred in Foxboro during the 1980 season when the Patriots won, 34-0.