The Miami Dolphins would have a nine-year gap between their 1973 Super Bowl championship and their next appearance in the championship game. When they completed the 1982 season, ultimately earning their way into Super Bowl XVII, they came face-to-face with the Washington Redskins, the team Miami beat to complete the perfect season in Super Bowl VII ten-years prior.
The Dolphins were also facing their former quarterback, well, at least a quarterback for whom they originally held the contract rights. Miami drafted Joe Theismann out of Notre Dame in the fourth round of the 1971 Draft. Contract negotiations between the Dolphins and Theismann never were able to reach a deal, however, and the quarterback chose to play in the Canadian Football League. After the 1973 season, the Dolphins traded his rights to the Redskins, who were able to work out a deal and bring Theismann to the NFL.
Now, Theismann was set to face the Dolphins with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.
Super Bowl XVII was played on January 30, 1983 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Miami entered the contest as the favorite, earning their playoff berth with a 7-2 record in the strike shortened 1982 season.
The game appeared to be setting up for another Miami victory over the Redskins when Dolphins quarterback David Woodley connected with Jimmy Cefalo on a 21-yard pass to the sideline that turned into a 76-yard touchdown. Just over six-minutes into the game, and Miami had a 7-0 lead.
The teams traded field goals in the second quarter before Thesimann found receiver Alvin Garrett on a four-yard touchdown throw that capped an 80-yard drive on 11 plays. The Redskins had leveled the score line at 10-10 with just under two-minutes remaining in the half.
Thirteen seconds later, Miami was back out to a seven point lead when Fulton Walker returned the kickoff 98 yards for the score.
The third quarter was, relatively, calm as only three points would come out of the period. The Redskins would climb to within four points on their second possession of the half, moving 61 yards down the field before Mark Moseley connected on a 20-yard field goal.
The rest of the third quarter would see punts back and forth, along with a Theismann interception that was mirrored four plays later by Woodley.
The final period opened with the Redskins moving the ball. Working their way down to the Miami 43-yard line, Theismann dropped back to pass, only to be picked off again. Nothing came out of the turnover, however, as Miami would go three-and-out.
Washington decided to go for it on fourth down on their next possession, making the attempt from the Miami 43-yard line. Needing one yard for the conversion, Theirmann handed the ball to John Riggins in a goal line package, only to have Riggins end up in the endzone on a 43-yard scoring run. Washington took the lead at 20-17, and would never give it back.
After a Miami punt, the Redskins put the nail in the coffin on a 41-yard drive on 12 plays, taking nearly seven minutes off the clock before Theismann connected with Charlie Brown on a six-yard score. Washington kicked the ball off with a 27-17 lead and under two minutes remaining before clinching their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Miami would attempt a 4th-and-6 conversion on the drive, failing when Don Strock, who replaced Woodley on the final drive, overthrew his intended receiver. Washington would run out the clock and begin celebrating.
Theisman finished the game 15-for-23 for 143 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Riggins was named the game's MVP with a 166 yard performance on 38 carries, with one score. For the Dolphins, Woodley only connected on four of his 14 passes for 97 yards with a score and a pick. The Washington defense held Miami to just 176 yards during the game, 76 of which came on the Cefalo touchdown.
The Dolphins fell to 2-2 all time in the Super Bowl with the loss. It would not take long before they were back in the title contest again, unfortunately coming up short again as well.