On This Date in Sports January 23, 1983: Mud Bowl

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The Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets 14-0 in AFC Championship at the muddy Orange Bowl. The game, nicknamed the Mud Bowl, was a personal nightmare for Jets quarterback Richard Todd, who threw five interceptions. Three of Miami’s five interceptions were caught by Linebacker A.J. Duhe, who all but sealed the Dolphins' trip to Super Bowl XVII with a 35-yard touchdown return two minutes into the fourth quarter.

The players' strike presented a major disruption to the 1982 season, leading to the cancelation of seven games. After the nine-game season, a 16-playoff tournament was held, and division standings were thrown aside, with the top eight teams in each conference making the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins were the second seed in the AFC, posting a record of 7-2 under coach Don Shula. The Dolphins' success was guided by a defense nicknamed “The Killer Bees,” with six starters on defense having last names that started with a B; Doug Betters, Bob Baumhhower, Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudizinski, and brothers Lyle and Glenn Blackwood. The Killer Bees were the top-rated defense in the NFL in 1982. In the playoffs, the Dolphins avenged one of their two regular-season losses, beating the New England Patriots 28-13. In the AFC semifinal, they avenged a tough loss from the 1981 playoffs by beating the San Diego Chargers 34-13 to reach the AFC Championship.

The New York Jets, coached by Walt Michaels, was the dark horse in the NFL’s playoff tournament. Posting a record of 6-3, the sixth-seeded team would not have even made the playoffs under the leagues usual five-team seeding at that time. The Jets were guided by one of the league’s top pass rushes, nicknamed the “New York Sack Exchange”, as Mark Gastineau, Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko, and Abdul Salaam all ranked among the NFL’s leading sackers in the first year the stat was officially counted. In the playoff tournament, the Jets rocked the defending AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals 44-17 and upset the top-seeded Los Angeles Raiders 17-14 in the AFC Semifinal.

During the regular season, the Dolphins defeated the Jets twice, winning the season opener at Shea Stadium 45-28, while winning in Week 7 at home 20-19. The field at the Orange Bowl was a complete quagmire as the Dolphins failed to cover the field during a 72-hour torrential rainstorm. Jets coach Walt Michaels complained that Don Shula did it on purpose to slow down the Jets' running attack led by Freeman McNeil. The first half was would end in a scoreless tie, as the two teams kept turning the ball over. 

In the third quarter, A.J. Duhe helped set up Miami’s first score with an interception, as Woody Bennett had a seven-yard touchdown run. Duhe added a second interception in the third quarter, but could not move the ball past the Jets' 41-yard line. In the fourth quarter, A.J. Duhe struck again, picking off Todd for the third time and returning it 35 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 in favor of the Dolphins. Both teams were stuck in the mud the rest of the way as the Dolphins won 14-0 to reach Super Bowl XVII.