Like Alan Ameche and Larry Csonka on NFL championship teams past, John Riggins showed the football world 16 years ago what a difference a big, fast running back can make.
Riggins blasted his way to a Super Bowl-record 166 yards in 38 carries and led the Washington Redskins to a 27-17 victory over Miami at the Rose Bowl.
The difference-making play was Riggins' fourth-down 43-yard touchdown burst with 10:09 to play. It gave Washington its first lead, 20-17.
Although the score was close and Washington hadn't led until Riggins' long run, the Redskins dominated. They had the ball for 36:15 of the 60 minutes and outgained the Dolphins, 400 yards to 176. Miami netted 34 yards in the second half.
The Redskins were helped considerably by Miami quarterbacks David Woodley and Don Strock, who completed none of their 11 second-half passes.
As Jim Murray wrote that day: "Anybody seen the Miami Dolphins? The football team?"
This was not a title forged from years of careful draft picks. The Redskin roster had 26 castoffs, 14 of whom had not been drafted.
After losing their first five games of the 1981 season, Washington won 20 of its next 24, capping that run with a 12-1, strike-shortened 1982 season.
And the 235-pound Riggins was the man.
In the playoffs, the Redskins ran the ball 172 times in 261 plays. Riggins carried 136 times for 601 yards.
Summed up Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann: "John is our consistency factor, our common denominator."
Also on this date: In 1958, a little-known Australian, 19-year-old Herb Eliott, ran the mile in 3:58.7 in Melbourne.