Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
Dolphins Survive Meltdown at End of First Half
1973 AFC Division Round: Cincinnati Bengals @ Miami Dolphins
Don Shula's two-time defending AFC champion Miami Dolphins were coasting against the Cincinnati Bengals 21-3 with just 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
The third Miami touchdown demonstrated the uncanny ability of QB Bob Griese to find flaws in defenses.
Facing third-and-one at his 44, Griese noticed that the Bengals brought in their backs to stop the running game. So he audibled to a pass to WR Paul Warfield deep over the middle for a 48y gain. Two plays later, RB Mercury Morris scored from the four.
Warfield praised his quarterback. "He threw in good situations. He kept them off balance."
Then lightning struck the Dolphins not once, not twice, but three times before halftime.
Bengals Close the Gap
The onslaught started when DB Neal Craig intercepted Griese's pass intended for TE Jim Mandich in the right flat. With no one between him and the goal line, Craig raced 45y to the end zone to cut the deficit to 21-10.
"They had run the same play three times," Craig explained. "We changed up a little, and when I saw (CB) Lemar Parrish had Marlin Briscoe, I went after it (the ball). I thank Griese for that."
The Bengals forced a punt and got the ball back at their 32 and quickly drove into Miami territory. QB Ken Anderson got a first down on third-and-four with a 6y pass to FB Boobie Clark. Then Anderson ran 22y on a scramble before the Dolphins drew the line. So Horst Muhlmann kicked a 45y field goal with just eight seconds left in the half. Dolphins 21 Ben­gals 13
Amazingly, that was enough time for Cincy to score again. RB Mercury Morris fumbled the kickoff, and Jim LeClair recovered for the Bengals at the five. The field goal unit hurried onto the field, and Muhlmann booted a 12-yarder. Dolphins 21 Bengals 16
Morris: "I tried to field the ball with some sense. It looked like it was going out of bounds, and it took a crazy bounce. There wasn't anything I could do."

L: Ken Anderson passes. M: Mercury Morris carries the ball. R: Larry Czonka carries.
Dolphins Regroup at Halftime
Griese: "Those 3 1/2 minutes nullified everything we'd done in the first half. At halftime, we had to re-win the football game all over again."
Shula on what he said at halftime: "It wasn't any Knute Rockne speech or anything. They knew what was happening. I just told them we had to play the second half as though the score was 0-0. There wasn't any chewing out or anything like that. We had to go out and do it all over again."
Miami Extends Lead Right Away
On Cincinnati's first offensive series of the second half, S Dick Anderson intercepted QB Ken Anderson's overthrow and returned it to the Bengals 28. Seven plays later, Griese hit Mandich with a 7y touchdown pass. Dolphins 28 Bengals 16
"We knew we had to stop their momentum," said C Jim Langer. "We gave 'em some life at the end of the first half. If we hadn't asserted ourselves, they would have thought they were back in it."
With the defense shutting out the Bengals in the second half, Miami added two Garo Ye­premian field goals to win 34-16.
Post Game
Shula: "I'm proud of the way we came back the second half. The game could have gone either way at that point. We let them off the hook just before the half with the interception and the two field goals. Instead of having a comfortable lead, we were only five points ahead. They must have felt pretty good leaving the field at the half."
The coach added: "In the playoffs, you have to go out and win, not wait for the other team to lose. We had to win this one. When you look at Cincinnati, what they've done in the last half of the season, you've got to stand back and applaud. They're a fine football team, and people in Cincinnati should really be proud of them and be behind them."
TE Mandich summed up the feelings of the calm and collected Dolphins.
"Those guys across from us were trying to take $25,000 bucks away from us today. We played two or three meaningless games in a row. We were having a good time out there be­cause it was a pressurized situation, and that's when we're at our best."
Bengals coach Paul Brown praised Dolphins coach Don Shula, who played for defensive back for him with the Cleveland Browns.
"We were soundly defeated, and I told Don Shula how I felt. I told him I hoped he went all the way. He gave us a good lesson." He added that the Dolphins did "as thorough a throttling job of our offense as I've seen."
Brown was not downcast. "Our guys did everything to try and win, but we were no match. They defeated us in every aspect of the game."
Brown did not agree that the loss of his top RB Essex Johnson (997y rushing for the sea­son) on the first play of the game had anything to do with the defeat.
"It made us change things a little bit, but I don't want to get down to that. I'll just say this. We had a go at it. We've won some games that have been flimsy. But I didn't think this would happen to this degree. I've really not regrets. Miami has a fine, fine team."