The Miami Dolphins defenders call themselves The Killer Bees, and today, as nose tackle Bob Baumhower put it, "we haven't caught on yet like the Steel Curtain, but I'm sure Dan Fouts is a little stung right now."
All those Bees--the Blackwood Brothers (Lyle and Glenn), Baumhower, Kim Bokamper, Doug Betters and Bob Brudzinski, among others--victimized the most potent offense in the National Football League for seven turnovers today. Miami's offense capitalized almost every time in a 34-13 victory that advanced the Dolphins to the AFC championship game.
Miami will take on the New York Jets, a team it beat twice this season, here at the Orange Bowl at 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner will move on to the Super Bowl in two weeks at Pasadena, Calif., against the NFC champions, either the Redskins or Dallas Cowboys.
The Dolphins dominated today from the early going, reversing the roles of last year's memorable Chargers-Dolphins game by taking a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the exact opposite of a year ago when they trailed by the same score in the first quarter.
Miami came back and got that game into overtime, only to lose on a field goal. "There's no question that was on everybody's mind when we saw the same score," said safety Glenn Blackwood, who had two of his team's five interceptions. "The difference is, we were determined not to let them come back."
There were other differences. Last year, San Diego tight end Kellen Winslow caught 13 passes for 166 yards. Today, he twisted his ankle early in the first quarter and was mostly ineffective thereafter, getting only one catch for 18 yards. "I was running at quarter speed, if that," he said later on. "I couldn't jump off my right foot, I couldn't stride right. I was just out there trying to get around."
Miami quarterback David Woodley also had a remarkable turnaround from a year ago. He was lifted in favor of veteran Don Strock after only 11 snaps in 1982. Today, he continued his brilliant performances of the last three weeks, completing 17 of 22 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns and scoring the Dolphins' final breathe-easy touchdown 42 seconds into the final quarter on a seven-yard run on a quarterback draw.
"It was the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense," winning Coach Don Shula said. "And as everyone can see, the defense won. There was also an offense that hadn't been talked about much. They came to life and put the points up early."
"Last year we got behind and had a great comeback," Woodley said. "This year, we knew they were capable of doing it to us. We just didn't want to give them that opportunity."
The Dolphins achieved that goal by putting heavy pressure on Fouts, an immobile quarterback who was sacked three times and harassed constantly. Dolphins' linebackers and cornerbacks also made it a point to jam Chargers' receivers at the line and throw them offstride and out of their normal routes.
As a result, Fouts passed for only 191 yards, his lowest total since the Ice Bowl AFC title game against the Bengals last year in Cincinnati. And San Diego's total offense of 247 yards was its poorest total since the middle of the 1979 season. Miami, meanwhile, had 413 total yards.
Woodley was directing a wonderfully conceived game plan that included frequent short passes in the flat to running back Tony Nathan, who caught eight passes for 55 yards, gained 83 yards on 19 carries. He was nicely complemented by fullback Andra Franklin, who got 96 yards the tough way--up the middle--and scored a touchdown.
That was redemption of sorts for Franklin, who had a costly fumble a year ago against the Chargers. And there was redemption as well for Uwe von Schamann, who had two potential game-winning field goals blocked last year.
Today, in one of this game's more bizarre plays, he recovered the first fumble of his career following a muffed kickoff, a turnover that led to the Dolphins' third touchdown. He also kicked two field goals, but he paid a heavy price for his recovery.
He was speared in the back in the ensuing pileup, and though he stayed in the game, he was forced to squib kick his remaining kickoffs. "I felt I could have kicked in the 45- to 50-yard range if I had to," he said. "Right now it's very sore and I have a lot of pain in my lower back. I probably won't kick for a few days. But I'll be all right by next week. I'm not worried about it."
The Dolphins had few worries early on, not after Gerald Small's interception of a tipped pass led to Woodley's three-yard touchdown pass to Nat Moore; not after the Dolphins drove 89 yards in 11 plays before Franklin went off tackle from three yards out for a 14-0 lead, and not after von Schamann's recovery.
The Dolphins got the ball back after the high kickoff bounced between Chargers Hank Bauer and James Brooks and took a weird bounce. Bauer reached down to pick it up, was whacked immediately by Woody Bennett and the ball ricocheted upfield back to von Schamann. "Easy play," he said. "I just jumped on it. Then I felt a lot of pain."
But no more than the Chargers felt when Miami had the ball back again at the San Diego 23. Seven plays later, Woodley passed over the middle to little-used tight end Ronnie Lee for a six-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead. And within seconds the Dolphins had it again.
Brooks, who had problems on two kickoffs last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, fumbled the next one and former Yale player Rich Diana recovered at the Chargers 37. The Dolphins got down to the nine before von Schamann came on for a 24-yard kick that gave Miami a 24-0 lead.
In that stretch, the Dolphins had control of the football for 11 minutes and 43 seconds while Fouts and Co. watched from the sidelines.
Still, the Chargers came back, and quickly. Their first touchdown drive--aided by a face mask call on Lee--took only 21 seconds before Fouts passed over the middle to Charlie Joiner for a 28-yard touchdown with 3:46 left in the first half.
Von Schamann's 23-yard field goal, set up by a 53-yard pass to Jimmy Cefalo, gave Miami a 27-6 lead. But Fouts needed only 43 seconds to drive 76 yards in five plays to get his team back in the game. Chuck Muncie dove over from the one for a touchdown that cut Miami's lead to 27-13 with 22 seconds left in the half.
"At halftime, we talked about not letting them come back on us," said Lyle Blackwood. "Nobody got upset. The defense knew what we had to do, and we did it. Our coach (Bill Arnsparger) just said, 'Let's go out there and have some fun, and kick their tails.' "
And so they did. San Diego was unable to move on its opening possession of the third quarter--"a real key to the game," Lyle Blackwood said. And when his brother Glenn stepped in front of Joiner and intercepted a pass late in the third quarter, the Dolphins seemed in total control.
They put the game away by marching 62 yards in eight plays, with Woodley keeping on a quarterback draw straight up the middle 42 seconds in the final quarter for a 34-13 lead.
And when Glenn Blackwood got his second interception on an overthrown pass to former Maryland tight end Eric Sievers with 11 minutes to play, the Dolphins and the fans began celebrating.
At the end, they were chanting, "We want the Jets, we want the Jets." And now, the Dolphins will get them, with a Super Bowl appearance--Miami's first since beating the Vikings in 1974--hanging in the balance.