The NFL has dealt with work stoppages before, in 1982 and 1987, before the days of free agency. The '87 edition was pretty ugly. No football for a week, followed by three weeks of "replacement games" as rosters consisted of a curious mix of castoffs and in some instances, regulars who had crossed the picket lines. When the dust settled, the Redskins rolled the Broncos, 42-10, in Super Bowl XXII.
But the focus here is the 1982 strike, which lasted about two months and eliminated eight weeks of action. When the players finally returned in November, the league added an extra week of games and eliminated the off week before the Super Bowl, making for a nine-game schedule that stretched into the first week of January (which is somewhat the norm these days). The road to the championship was a 16-team Super Bowl tournament, eight teams to a conference and seeded 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, and so on.
It was a shortened season, but it sure wasn't short on memorable and historical moments. So here are the top six moments from the '82 season:
In Week 1, the defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers hosted the Los Angeles Raiders, who had relocated from Oakland in the off-season. The Niners had a little bit of trouble with a rookie running back that day. Heisman winner Marcus Allen totalled 180 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in the Raiders' 23-17 upset win.
Candlestick Air Raid
In Week 6, on a Saturday afternoon in December, a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks put on a show for the ages at Candlestick Park as San Diego outlasted San Francisco, 41-37. The Chargers' Dan Fouts threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns, while 49ers' QB Joe Montana threw for 356 yards and three scores, plus ran for another touchdown. Neither quarterback was sacked.
As if Don Coryell's Chargers hadn't already proven a point by beating the defending Super Bowl champions in their own backyard a week before, they managed to avenge their AFC Championship Game loss in a big way by holding off the Bengals, 50-34. San Diego rolled up an astonishing 661 yards of total offense and Fouts threw for 400-plus yards for the second straight week, although he was intercepted twice. The Bolts rallied from a 10-points second-quarter deficit for the 16-point victory. How good was the Chargers' passing game that season? Wideout Wes Chandler played in eight games and still caught 49 passes for an incredible 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns.
On a wintry day in Foxboro, the Patriots got a 33-yard field goal from John Smith in the final five minutes to beat the Dolphins, 3-0. It would always be remembered as the "snowplow game" as Ron Meyer's team got a big assist from Mark Henderson, a convicted burglar on a work-release program and the driver of a small snowplow. After calling a timeout, Meyer instructed Henderson to clear a path for Smith, and the rest is history.
In the final game of the regular season and in a contest originally scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26, the Cowboys faced the Vikings at the Metrodome. Minnesota's new home that season had already faced problems as the roof collapsed a few days before the team's Monday night tilt with the Pokes. But that was nothing compared to what happened in the fourth quarter. Backed up on their own 1-yard line, the Cowboys handed off to running back Tony Dorsett, who scampered up the near sideline for an unforgettable 99-yard touchdown. The play came with only 10 Cowboys on the field, as fullback Ron Springs was inexplicably standing on the sideline. What's lost to history is that the Vikings won the game, 31-27.
The '82 playoffs were basically about one man. (No, Jets fans, not A.J. Duhe). In one of the great postseason runs of all time, Redskins running back John Riggins rushed for 610 yards and four touchdowns in Washington's four playoff wins. Riggins had 166 of those yards in his team's Super Bowl win over the Dolphins at the Rose Bowl.