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From 1980 to 1987, the Miami Dolphins beat the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts 14 straight times. The closest of those contests came on this day 40 years ago.
In an early-season meeting, Uwe von Schamann played the role of hero. His 27-yard field goal with just over a minute to play, coupled with a costly penalty, lifted Miami past the Baltimore Colts, 31-28.
Setting the Stage
At 3-0, the Dolphins were playing their third road game in four weeks as they arrived at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27, 1981. Miami was coming off a disappointing 8-8 season in 1980 and looking to have a bounce-back year.
Baltimore was off to a 1-2 start after three straight losing seasons. The Colts had fallen to the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos by a combined 63-13 margin the prior two weeks. For four quarters however, they gave the Dolphins all they wanted.
A Thrilling Finish
Miami never trailed in the contest, but the Colts tied the game three times. The final of those three ties came with less than five minutes to play as Curtis Dickey’s second touchdown of the game on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line drew Baltimore even at 28 apiece.
The ensuing drive began at the Dolphins’ 29-yard-line for second-year quarterback David Woodley. Woodley, who passed for a then career-high 309 yards, attempted just one pass on the drive, but it was a big one.
On the second play of the march, Woodley connected with a diving Duriel Harris for a gain of 45 yards to move the ball to the Baltimore 25-yard-line. The next five plays were runs and netted one first down. With just over a minute to play, von Schamann trotted onto the field.
With 1:02 remaining, his 27-yard attempt split the uprights. For the fourth time, Miami was back in front, 31-28.
Quarterback Bert Jones passed for 357 yards for the Colts and looked to have thrown the winning touchdown on the second play of the final drive. After a 17-yard completion to Randy Burke moved Baltimore into Miami territory, Jones connected with Ray Butler for what appeared to be the go-ahead 47-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Colts, holding was called.
The next play resulted in a sack from Miami’s Bob Baumhower. From there, the Colts never threatened. Two plays later, the contest ended on a completion near midfield.
The first 14 points of the contest belonged to Miami. Woodley’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Vigorito gave the Dolphins a 7-0 lead in the first quarter before a 10-yard touchdown run by Andra Franklin doubled the advantage.
Jones hit Dickey for a 32-yard touchdown to cut the lead in half before the break. In the third quarter, a pair of Jones touchdown passes to Butler from 19 and 67 yards out bookended a 14-yard Woodley touchdown pass to Nick Giaquinto. Butler finished with a game-high 145 yards receiving.
The contest went to the final quarter tied 21-21. Miami’s final touchdown of the day came midway through the period when Franklin scored from a yard out.
The game featured 942 yards of total offense, but in the end, it was decided by a field goal and a costly penalty. Baltimore would win just once more in 1981 — the final of two seasons under head coach Mike McCormack.
Miami would go on to finish 11-4-1 and win the AFC East. The Dolphins ultimately fell to the San Diego Charges in a memorable Divisional playoff, 41-38.
The win at Baltimore would tie for the closest victory all season for the Dolphins. It came on this day four decades ago.