I was named a captain for the game, and although I've never been a regular captain on any of my teams, every time I've participated in the coin toss, my team has won. Bob Kuechenberg, one of the Dolphin captains, called heads and it came up heads, but Jerry Markbreit, the referee, signaled that we'd won the toss. Kooch said, "No, no. We won the toss." Jerry said, "O.K., what do you want to do?" Kooch said, "We'll receive." So Jerry lines us up and pats us on the shoulders and signals that we'll receive and Kuechenberg says, "No, no. We'll receive." We're out there in front of 100,000 people and 111 million more watching on TV, and the referees are nervous.
When we get the ball we run Riggins right at them. During our first several plays I evaluate their coverage. Joe calls the plays from the sidelines, and Don Breaux, our backfield coach, signals them in to me. My job is to execute them; I never change the plays. Still, I have to know what the defense is doing out there. I can see that Miami's in a two-deep—and they stayed in it all afternoon—which means that the two safeties stay in the middle of the field in the deep zone and the two corners press our wide receivers; that is, they bump them and go face to face with them right from the line of scrimmage. That makes it difficult for our receivers to go down the middle and difficult to go outside, too, but we know that they can't stop our running with half their defenders back in the passing zones. That means the difference between John's gaining three yards and five yards each time he carries. And five yards is about what he's getting.
After their touchdown pass to Jimmy Cefalo in the first quarter, we're down 7-0, but it doesn't matter. We're moving the ball. If we'd gotten behind by more than a touchdown it might have been different. But we get a field goal from Mark Moseley early in the second quarter and it's 7-3. Then they get a field goal and it's 10-3, and I don't feel badly at all. We're running John at them all day, but we've also shown them our flea-flicker reverse pass, and our flanker screen, and even a screen pass to John, who hardly ever practices that play. We've let them know that they could never be sure where our offense would be coming from. And now that we've moved the ball into the Red Area, we come with our Explode Package for the first time. I'm really charged because I've been dying to try it out. All it gets us is a touchdown. After everybody shifts, Charlie Brown and Alvin Garrett are split together on the right. Charlie comes in motion and runs inside, Alvin runs outside, I put it up for Alvin in the corner of the end zone and it's a TD, and I almost jump out of my shoes. So it's 10-10 for about 15 seconds, or until Fulton Walker goes 98 yards with our kickoff for a touchdown.
Now I get stupid. We move the ball down to their 16-yard line with 14 seconds left in the half and use our last timeout for a sideline conference. I say, "Let me take one more play. I'll throw it away if it's not there." So we call a drop roll to the left. Alvin gets open, but he's too far from the sideline. I shouldn't have thrown it to him, but he catches it and time runs out. I said to myself, "Darn! It would have been 17-13 with the field goal. We would have had the momentum. Instead they had the momentum because they kept us from scoring." When we get inside the locker room nobody says anything, but I know I let a scoring opportunity get away.
We have about 10 minutes to ourselves to get a drink and towel down. Then Joe comes in from the coaches' conference with a chalkboard containing the plays we're going to use in the second half. And the only thing we do to our game plan is move a few pass plays we normally run on second down to first down, because they had changed a few things in their defensive coverages as a concession to our running game. Just before we go out for the second half, Joe tells us, "We've been down by more than seven points before. We were down 11 points to the Giants and we beat them. Champions can come back and win."
We start the third quarter atrociously, but then we really open things up. On first down, we go with a tight-end screen to Donnie Warren. Then comes the big reverse that Alvin Garrett runs for 44 yards. Again, everything stems from John. I hand the ball to John, John hands it to Alvin and there are all the Dolphins still chasing John. Pretty soon we're at the goal line with third down. We go back to the Explode Package again with a little different play. But now I just overthrow Alvin in the same place where he had caught the touchdown. We end up with another field goal, it's 17-13, and we're back in it.
Now we come to a very interesting part of the football game. We take over the ball after a punt, and on first down we run a bootleg pass that's been open against everybody we've run it on. I fake a toss to John—again, notice that everything stems from action off John—and Donnie Warren, one of our tight ends, is open over the middle. I don't throw it high enough, and A.J. Duhe intercepts. I go jogging off the field and I can see the offensive linemen are upset. I can see it on their faces.
Mark Murphy intercepts right back for us, and two runs later Joe sends in another first-down pass, from our own 18. It's another complex shift package, in which Charlie Brown actually changes positions with Rick Walker, the tight end. I wanted to throw to Ricky on the right side, but he was covered. I swing back around to my left and see Charlie open. I throw it under pressure, and Bokamper knocks the ball up in the air. I see him about to grab it right near our goal line and I'm struggling to keep my feet. Just as the ball settles in his hands, I manage to swat it away.
I see where Bob Baumhower, their nose tackle, said after the game that Joe Theismann is probably the luckiest man in the world. In all honesty. Bob, you may be right. If Bokamper takes that ball in for a touchdown it's 24-13. Needing two touchdowns to win with a quarter and change to go, we'd have had to abandon our running game. That would've taken John Riggins out of the game for us. And without John, winning would've been a lot tougher.
A few moments later we're still losing 17-13, and we need John to get us a first down on fourth-and-one at the Dolphins' 43. We call 70 Chip, which is John off left tackle behind Otis Wonsley throwing a "chip block" on any blue jersey in front of him. Clint Didier is the motion man this time, and he moves from the left wing toward the middle, then back again. Their cornerback, Don McNeal, follows Clint, and when Clint turns back, McNeal falls down right in front of me. I hurry the count when I see that and get John the ball. Otis does his job, John gets a hole, and we've got the first down. That's important. And then, all of a sudden, I see John break loose for a touchdown and I'm in ecstasy. I can't believe it, 20-17! Our defense is playing like gangbusters and we're starting to feel like we have a real chance to win.