The Miami Dolphins aren't perfect any more. Buford McGee's 25-yard run 3:17 into overtime today gave the San Diego Chargers a 34-28 victory after Miami had led by 28-14 in the fourth period.
The Dolphins (11-1) had won 16 straight regular-season games, one fewer than the Chicago Bears' NFL record of 1933-34. These Dolphins had been compared to the 1972 team, which won 14 regular-season games, two playoffs and the Super Bowl.
"There won't be any more comparisons now," Coach Don Shula said. "I guess we won't have to worry about that any more."
The loss kept the Dolphins from clinching the AFC Eastern Division championship. It was the third time the Chargers had beaten the Dolphins in overtime in the last four games between the teams.
"We let this one get away and all of us are upset about it," Shula said. "I thought we were ready to play a good game. We haven't played a good one in three weeks.
"You've got to hand it to Dan Fouts. He is one hell of a quarterback and he knows what he has to do to win."
Fouts set San Diego records for passes (56) and completions (37) as he threw for 380 yards in the game and four touchdowns.
"We had our chances," said Shula's quarterback, Dan Marino, who passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns but could direct only one scoring drive in the second half. "We didn't score when we had to. Fouts is a winner. He keeps coming back and he did it again today."
"It was just a great game," said Fouts, who passed to Charlie Joiner and Eric Sievers for two touchdowns apiece. "It seemed that the team that had the ball last was destined to win."
"The key was our offensive line shutting off their defensive line. They did a great job and it gave me the time to find our receivers."
Said Miami defensive back Lyle Blackwood: "There was a lot of confusion on defense. In the second half, it was like a Chinese fire drill. Not to take it away from the Chargers, but we just gave it away in the second half."
Fouts got the Chargers within 28-21 on a 19-yard pass to Joiner 1:31 into the final period. Then he led a 91-yard, 19-play drive that consumed 10 minutes. It ended with his fourth touchdown pass of the day, a three-yarder to Sievers with 51 seconds to play.
Every second counted, it turned out, because Shula was forced to call on kicker Uwe von Schamann on third and one with five seconds left in regulation. The 44-yard attempt wobbled wide.
The Chargers won the coin toss before the overtime and started at their 31 after Lionel James' 25-yard kickoff return. Fouts moved the team with 15-yard pass completions to Sievers (the tight end out of Maryland caught 12 for 119 yards) and Pete Holohan before McGee ended the game with his scoring run to the right side of the field.
Miami took a 21-14 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to a snappy two-minute drill. Marino chipped away at San Diego's zone with passes of 10 yards each until he passed four yards to fullback Woody Bennett in the end zone with 47 seconds to play in the half.
Pete Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game from three yards out with 2:50 left in the third period. That ended a 48-yard drive that gave Miami its 28-14 lead.
The Dolphins started the six-play drive when Fouts overthrew Joiner at midfield and handed Blackwood his third interception of the year. Marino threw a 19-yard completion to Mark Duper at the San Diego 12.
The Chargers cut Miami's lead to 28-21 in the final quarter on Joiner's second touchdown reception. It was the first time he has caught two scoring passes since 1981.
Joiner led the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 13-yard reception to bring the ball across midfield.