San Diego, the city, however, had no idea. Right around then a storm there caused a huge power outage. It was as if half a million people were simultaneously stabbed in the knee. All over town, in the wind and rain, fans huddled in their cars listening to the game on the radio. One caller to a TV station threatened to shoot the president of San Diego Gas and Electric if the game didn't come back on. This was the playoffs.
Back came the Chargers. Fouts connected with Joiner for 14 yards, Chandler for 6, Joiner for 5 and then 15 more, Winslow for 7 and Chandler for 19. "It seemed so easy," says Fouts. "There was just no pass rush from Miami. They were gassed."
Winslow was really cramping now—his thigh, his calves and now his lower back. If you ever get your choice of cramps, do not pick the lower back. A cramp there means you can't stand and you can't bend over either. "Kind of like paralysis," Winslow remembers. Each time Winslow was helped to the bench by teammates, the San Diego trainers surrounded him like a NASCAR pit crew: one working on his calves, another stretching his shoulder, a third massaging his back, a fourth trying to pour fluids into his mouth through his face mask. Somehow, Winslow got up each time and got back into the game.
First-and-goal from the nine. Fouts dropped back, scrambled and lobbed one toward the corner of the end zone to Winslow, who jumped for it but couldn't get high enough. Fouts had cursed his overthrow the instant he released it, but then something strange happened. James Brooks, the Chargers' sensational rookie running back, had the ball and the grin and the tying touchdown. On his own initiative Brooks had run the back line of the end zone—behind Winslow—just in case.
"That was one of the alltime brilliant heads-up plays I've ever seen," Fouts says. "In all the hundreds of times we'd run that play, I'd never thrown to anybody back there."
When Benirschke added the pressurized extra point, the game was tied at 38. Fifty-eight seconds left. For the first time in more than two hours, the Orange Bowl crowd was silent.
Just when Benirschke figured he had his problems licked, his insides attacked him again. During the 1981 season, the small section of colon the doctors hadn't removed in the previous two surgeries began sloughing blood. More tests. More hospitals. More surgery. More impressions of a rake. And yet he built himself back up—again. He didn't miss a single game that year. "You discover within yourself a greater courage," he says, "a greater perseverance than you ever knew you had."
It would turn out to be a handy trait.
Fouts is still ticked off that Coryell had Benirschke squib the ensuing kickoff. The Dolphins took over at their 40, 52 seconds on the clock. Strock's first pass was nearly intercepted by Edwards. His second pass was intercepted, by Buchanon, who fumbled it right back. First-and-10, 34 seconds left, Strock hit Nathan for 17, then running back Tommy Vigorito picked up six yards, to the San Diego 26. Miami let the clock run down; Shula called timeout with four seconds to go, and von Schamann ran out to kick a 43-yard field goal that would bring this game to an unforgettable end. It was as good as over—von Schamann had already won three games this season with last-second kicks. Winslow, who was slumped on the bench trying to hold down some liquids, ran back onto the field to try to block the kick. He was on the "desperation" team. Never in his career had he blocked one, and now he could hardly stand, much less leap, but he went in anyway. Why not? It was the last play of the season. "Get me some penetration, guys," Winslow yelled to Kelcher and Johnson, "so I can have a chance at the block."
They did. The snap was a little high, but Strock's hold was good. Winslow summoned everything that was left in him, heaved his 6'6" body as high as it would go and blocked von Schamann's kick with the pinkie finger on his right hand. "To get as high as he did after all he'd been through?" Fouts says. "Amazing."