The Hogs Lead Riggins, the Smurfs, and the Fun Bunch
Each team had the reputation of an underrated overachiever. The Redskins had not even figured to make the playoffs this season, and the Dolphins certainly ranked below some other AFC teams in the eyes of acknowledged experts. The Redskins and Dolphins made liars of them all. The 'Skins came into the game on a six-game winning streak, victorious in 14 of their last 15 matches. They had rolled over three playoff foes behind a complex defense and the determined running of John Riggins. The Dolphins had just defused the potent San Diego and New York Jet offenses enroute to this rematch of the Super Bowl that had crowned Miami's unbeaten 1972 season.
Washington's defensive plan was to stop the Miami ground game, thus forcing David Woodley to pass more than usual. Although the plan worked, Woodley burned the 'Skins in the first quarter with a 76-yard touchdown toss to Jimmy Cefalo. The Redskin offense, meanwhile, had success moving the ball against the "Killer Bee" defense, but fell short in its first few series. The teams traded field goals in the second period, making the score 10-3 in favor of Miami. With its big offensive line leading the way, Washington drove 80 yards in 11 plays to score on a short pass from Joe Theismann to Alvin Garrett. With the score knotted at 10-10, Fulton Walker then took the kickoff and ran 98 yards to return Miami to a 7-point lead, 17-10 at the intermission.
What the score hid was Washington's dominance on offense and defense. The 'Skins came back onto the field, looking to prevent any more big plays and to keep the pressure on the Miami defense. As the second half progressed, the quick "Killer Bee" defense struggled to contain the physical charge of the "Hogs" and Riggins. The Dolphin offense could do nothing against the Washington defense, chalking up only two first downs and no completed passes in the entire half. Despite their increasing momentum, the Redskins scored only on a Mark Moseley field goal in the third quarter, cutting the Miami lead to 17-13.
Early in the final period, Washington began another drive. On fourth-and-inches at the Miami 43-yard line, coach Joe Gibbs decided to go for it. Riggins took the handoff, headed to his left, ran over cornerback Don McNeal and dashed down the sideline in front of a shocked Miami bench. Moseley's kick made the score 20-17 in favor of the 'Skins with 10 minutes left. In those final minutes, the Miami attack couldn't move the ball behind either Woodley or relief quarterback Don Strock. Riggins kept churning out the yards, and a late touchdown pass from Theismann to Charlie Brown made the final score of 27-17. the MVP award went to Riggins, who dominated the field and set a rushing record of 166 yards.