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The Miami Dolphins teams of the early-1980s were defined by the defenses. With names to include Bob Baumhower, Doug Betters, Bob Brudzinski and Glenn and Lyle Blackwood, it came to be known as the “Killer Bs”.
On this day 40 years ago, it was a play by Brudzinski in overtime that led to a victory. His interception set up the winning field goal as the Dolphins topped the New England Patriots, 30-27.
Setting the Stage
On paper, most would have guessed that the contest at Schaefer Stadium wouldn’t be close. The Patriots were just 2-7 as they arrived in Foxborough on Nov. 8, 1981. New England however, had been competitive, suffering four of its six losses by six points or less.
Miami was 7-2-1 and had easily defeated the Baltimore Colts the week before. Against New England however, it would be a fight until the bitter end.
Brudzinski Saves the Day
Linebacker Bob Brudzinski would ultimately be the hero for the Dolphins, but late in the fourth quarter, it looked as though that title might belong to quarterback David Woodley. Trailing 20-17 late, Woodley had engineered a 93-yard drive to give the Dolphins the lead.
On the drive, Woodley connected on a 55-yard bomb to Duriel Harris before running it in from two yards out to give Miami a 27-24 lead with just over two minutes to play. Steve Grogan and New England however, had time.
On the Patriots’ final possession of regulation, Grogan completed six passes. Only one went for more than eight yards. Still, the methodical approach was enough to move New England into the red zone. After a pair of throws into the end zone fell incomplete, kicker John Smith knocked through a 34-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining.
The kick knotted the score and forced overtime.
Tied at 27, Miami took the ball first in the extra period. The Dolphins managed just one first down before punting. New England also managed a first down before Grogan was sacked by Baumhower to force a 3rd-and-15.
Rather than play it safe, Grogan fired toward the sticks for Don Hasselbeck, but Brudzinski stepped in the way for his second interception of the day near the New England 45-yard-line. Brudzinski returned the pick 19 yards to the 26-yard-line, but a personal foul at the end of the play moved the ball half the distance to the goal.
The Miami offense never took the field. Instead, it was kicker Uwe von Schamann who got the call.
From 30 yards out, von Schamann split the pipes. Miami had survived.
New England actually raced to a 17-3 lead. Grogan got the scoring started with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan in the first quarter before scoring on a 4-yard keeper in the second. Miami managed just two field goals from von Schamann in the first half, but found the end zone twice in the third quarter.
Tommy Vigorito’s 30-yard touchdown run cut the lead to four midway through the third quarter. Tony Nathan then scored from a yard out late in the period to give Miami its first lead. Tony Collins scored a 1-yard touchdown of his own midway through the fourth quarter to give the Patriots their final touchdown and lead of the day.
New England finished with 492 yards, including 355 passing from Grogan. Grogan however, was intercepted four times. In addition to Brudzinski’s pair, A.J. Duhe and Earnest Rhone also recorded picks for Miami.
Morgan led all receivers with 182 yards. Harris led Miami with 145 yards receiving on a game-high eight catches. Nathan and Andra Franklin combined for 150 yards rushing for the Dolphins. Collins led all rushers with 90 yards in the loss.
Raymond Clayborn twice intercepted Woodley, who threw for 239 yards. Miami finished with 419 yards of offense. The teams combined for nine turnovers.
Heartbreaking defeats would become a theme for the Patriots during the 1981 season. New England closed the year on an 8-game losing streak, which included a second loss to Miami, and a 2-14 record.
The Dolphins followed the victory with consecutive losses to the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets, but closed the year on a 4-game winning streak to finish 11-4-1 and with a sixth AFC East title in 11 years. Miami ultimately fell to the San Diego Chargers 41-38 in overtime of a memorable Divisional playoff game.
The Dolphins finished 1-1-1 in overtime games in 1981. Their lone overtime victory came on this day four decades ago.