Of all the stunning ends, of all the least likely scenarios anyone could have dreamed up for the dream matchup on Saturday, this might have been it: Joe Montana is intercepted, Marcus Allen has the ball stripped from his grasp.
With that improbable one-two punch to the solar plexus, the Miami Dolphins turned back two fourth-quarter Kansas City drives and knocked out the Chiefs, 27-17, in Saturday’s AFC first-round playoff game at Joe Robbie Stadium.
The Dolphins advance to next week’s round, traveling to San Diego to play the Chargers.
In a game billed as the ultimate showdown between legendary quarterbacks, Montana of the Chiefs and Dan Marino of the Dolphins, the game turned on two spectacular defensive plays - or spectacular offensive errors - that came as the Chiefs were struggling to get back into a game even in the first half.
The Chiefs - who had scored 17 first-half points on Montana touchdown passes of 1 yard to Derrick Walker and 57 yards to Kimble Anders and a 40-yard field goal by Lin Elliot - were driving in the fourth quarter, moving inexorably, it seemed, toward the end zone. Montana had moved the Chiefs from their 44 to the Dolphins 5 on seven plays.
Then it happened. Montana looked for a quick slant to Eric Martin, and Miami’s J.B. Brown materialized in front of Martin. He picked off the pass and ran it back 24 yards.
The Chiefs were driving again on their next possession, reaching the Miami 35 when it happened again. Allen, sweeping left, was stripped of the ball by Dolphins safety Michael Stewart.
“Our defense came up big when it counted,” said Marino, who was 22 of 29 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. “We answered their offense, and then our defense did it in the second half. It’s a great feeling to be able to beat a good football team.
Although Marino was outstanding, so was the Miami running game and special teams. Bernie Parmalee scored the Dolphins’ first TD on a 1-yard run, Pete Stoyanovich kicked a pair of 40-yard field goals and Irving Fryar and Ronnie Williams caught TD passes.
“Dan was outstanding,” said Dolphins coach Don Shula, “and the thing we’re really proud of is the way our defense took over in the second half. We shut them out in the second half, and that’s a big accomplishment against a team like Kansas City.”
For purists, the first half had everything - except defense. Each team had the ball three times, each team scored three times. There were no punts, but there were nearly enough completed passes (Marino was 14 of 16 for 162 yards and Montana was 12 of 15 for 178) for an entire game.
It began with a seamless, flawless Montana drive, 80 yards in 11 plays with Montana completing 6 of 6 passes and baffling the Dolphins with play action that bordered on the sleight of hand.
The Dolphins struck back immediately, with Marino moving the team 72 yards in 10 plays. The big play came on a completion to Fryar at the Chiefs 10 and the pitch by Fryar to James Saxon for 9 more to the Chiefs 1. Parmalee was in the end zone two plays later, and the game was tied with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first period.
It took the Chiefs just four plays to answer, Montana dumping off to Anders, who broke two tackles on his way to a 57-yard TD.
The Dolphins settled for a field goal on their next drive, a 40-yarder by Stoyanovich that narrowed the Chiefs lead to 14-10 with 12:15 left in the half. The Chiefs would counter with a field goal, a 21-yarder by Elliot.
Dolphins 27, Chiefs 17
Kansas City 14 3 0 0 - 17 Miami 7 10 10 0 - 27
KC-Walker 1 pass from Montana (Elliott kick), 6:28.
Mia-Parmalee 1 run (Stoyanovich kick), 12:40.
KC-Anders 57 pass from Montana (Elliott kick), 14:20.
Mia-FG Stoyanovich 40, 2:45.
KC-FG Elliott 21, 8:48.
Mia-R.Williams 1 pass from Marino (Stoyanovich kick), 14:38.
Mia-Fryar 7 pass from Marino (Stoyanovich kick), 3:02.
Mia-FG Stoyanovich 40, 13:14.
KC Mia First downs 24 22 Rushes-yards 23-100 31-132 Passing 314 249 Punt Returns 1-7 0-0 Kickoff Returns 5-81 3-95 Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-24 Comp-Att-Int 26-37-1 22-29-0 Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 1-8 Punts 2-40 3-43 Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0 Penalties-Yards 4-15 6-50 Time of Possession 27:30 32:30
RUSHINGKansas City, Allen 14-64, Anders 5-17, Hill 2-14, Montana 2-5. Miami, Parmalee 18-57, Spikes 9-49, McDuffie 1-19, Marino 2-4, Craver 1-3.
PASSINGKansas City, Montana 26-37-1-314. Miami, Marino 22-29-0-257.
RECEIVINGKansas City, Anders 6-103, Allen 5-49, Birden 4-56, Cash 3-38, Walker 3-27, Dawson 3-21, Hill 1-11, Davis 1-9. Miami, Fryar 6-71, Craver 4-35, Parmalee 2-34, K.Jackson 2-29, M.Williams 2-28, McDuffie 2-25, Saxon 2-24, Miller 1-10, R.Williams 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALSNone.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.