San Diego Chargers: Looking back at ‘Epic in Miami’ from 1981 playoffs


It’s pretty easy to look back at the Chargers-Dolphins history. Lots of games with Miami, some that mattered and some that didn’t, but the best one is still on the list of best games of all-time. January 2,1982, divisional playoffs at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Bolts vs. Dolphins in hot and humid south Florida. Everything you’d want in football. What a game.

Let’s start with the coaches. A couple of Don’s. Shula versus Coryell. The hall-of-famer versus the should be hall-of-famer. The greatest coach versus the greatest offensive coach. Shula had won two Super Bowls in the early 70’s with Miami and had lost Super Bowl III to the Jets while head coach with the Baltimore Colts (Yes, they used to be in Baltimore). What’s more, he would also lose to the Chargers in the divisional round to the in 1994, when the Chargers went to the Super Bowl. Coryell had lost to the Raiders in the AFC championship game the year earlier, I was there, devastating loss.

The players. This parts interesting. The Chargers were loaded… Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, Chuck Muncie, great offensive line, “Big Hands” Johnson, Kelcher. I can’t even remember all the great Bolts on that team. Dolphins? Shula, he was the name. Looking back at the roster, there were good players, but great players and Hall-of-Famers are hard to find.  The real name on this team was Shula.

dan fouts
dan fouts /

The game. Wow, never seen anything like it until this year. It was like the Kansas City game in reverse, only better. Chargers go up 24-0. Miami roars back. Don Strock comes in for Woodley at quarterback and brings Miami back. Game is tied in regulation. Too many ups and downs to go into, but you can relive the best moments from the game in this video. In the overtime period, Leroy Jones blocks a field goal (Winslow had blocked one earlier). Rolf Benirschke misses one and makes one to win the game.

The next week, the Chargers go from heat and humidity to -50 wind chill in Cincinnati. Fouts’ first pass was a 10-yard screen pass that only went 6 yards. Worst pass I ever saw Fouts throw. It didn’t get better. The season ends. The best game ever to one of the worst, what a shame.

If the Chargers can win this Sunday, they’re still in the hunt. If not, it’s a struggle. With the bye week coming up, they’d have the tie-breaker over Miami. If ever there was a mid-season must-win, this might be it.

A win this weekend and a little healing during the bye week and it could be quite a run.

I can hardly wait. Go Bolts!