Bobby Beathard was standing at the Redskins' Super Bowl victory party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Sunday night when two Miami Dolphin defenders came up to pay their respects.
"Yeah," said Beathard, the Redskins' general manager, "Kim Bokamper and Bob Baumhower came over. They just told me, 'Your guys just kicked us all over the field.' I saw Don (Shula), too. He was great. A lot of class. He said, 'You gotta pretty good little fullback back there.' "
Shula was saying more of the same the day after the Redskins' 27-17 victory. In a telephone interview from his team's hotel in Newport Beach this morning, Shula still was praising a Redskin team he said "deserved to win the football game.
"The disappointment of being outplayed like we were in the second half and the fact that we couldn't stop them from that ball-control offense is what I'm thinking right now," he said. "And we couldn't generate any offense ourselves.
"They just played an extremely aggressive defense against us. We had to make some plays against them, and we didn't. We couldn't handle (John) Riggins, but then, who could in the playoffs? And Joe Theismann made some great plays for them.
"We knew we had to stop Riggins going in, and we expected everything they did, for the most part. It was pretty basic football. They've got a great offensive line. They just surge. They've surged on a lot of teams as they got into the playoffs."
Shula also said he had no complaint with the game officials on a call late in the fourth quarter when it appeared that Riggins fumbled deep in Miami territory. The Dolphins recovered, but officials ruled Riggins was down before the ball popped loose. The Redskins retained possession and went on to score their final touchdown on a six-yard pass from Theismann to Charlie Brown for a 27-17 lead.
"There is nothing you can do about it," Shula said. "The official ruled he was down before the ball came out. From where I was, I couldn't tell. Anyway, the week before, we got a call like that against the Jets when Andra Franklin lost the ball and that call went for us.
"I can't complain. It's a judgment thing. I haven't seen the film, but that's not what cost us the football game."
What did cost the Dolphins was their inability to move the football in the second half. Miami gained only 34 yards total offense and was zero for 11 passing--eight incomplete passes by starting quarterback David Woodley and three by Don Strock, who came into the game with 1:48 remaining and his team down by 10 points.
After the game, Shula said he had considered replacing Woodley by late in the third quarter. "We had it ready to go, but they used up a lot of clock on us," he said. "Strock never had a chance to get untracked."
The same also could be said for a Dolphins defense that couldn't slow Riggins. Theismann said the Redskins used quick counts and lots of motion and fake motion to prevent the Dolphins from getting settled in the proper defense.
"We didn't do a good job on Theismann's movement," said Bill Arnsparger, the Dolphins' defensive coordinator. "His scrambling puts an extra burden on your defense. We just didn't have the answers to Theismann's rollouts and scrambling."
Said linebacker A.J. Duhe: "They had so much movement that sometimes we got confused. Their double motion was very good. They were just knocking us off the ball . . . They had a good mixture of snap counts and formations. It wasn't a case of too much Riggins, but he's an awfully good runner."
Despite the defeat, the Dolphins still are an awfully good football team. Their defense finished No. 1 in the NFL, and the offense came along rather nicely in the conference playoffs.
Shula says that Woodley, after three full seasons, keeps getting better every week. Since the Dolphins have a bit of age on their offensive line, they probably will be looking to improve at tight end and wide receiver in the draft. But most of the same faces will be back next year, and Shula said he was still terribly happy about his football team.
"We accomplished a lot of things this season and we're not going to let today's defeat diminish the accomplishments of this team," he said after the game. "I'm certainly proud that we made it to the Super Bowl. Hopefully, our young team will learn something from it."