1985–86 NFL playoffs

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The NFL playoffs following the 1985 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XX.

Because the Jets and Giants both used Giants Stadium as their home field, the two wild card playoff games were held on different days.

Playoff seeds
Seed AFC NFC
1 Los Angeles Raiders (West winner) Chicago Bears (Central winner)
2 Miami Dolphins (East winner) Los Angeles Rams (West winner)
3 Cleveland Browns (Central winner) Dallas Cowboys (East winner)
4 New York Jets New York Giants
5 New England Patriots San Francisco 49ers

Bracket[edit]

                                   
Divisional Playoffs
    January 4 - Anaheim Stadium        
NFC Wild Card Game NFC Championship
 3  Dallas  0
December 29 - Giants Stadium     January 12 - Soldier Field
 2  L.A. Rams  20  
 5  San Francisco  3  2  L.A. Rams  0
January 5 - Soldier Field
 4  N.Y. Giants  17      1  Chicago  24   Super Bowl XX
 4  N.Y. Giants  0
    January 26 - Louisiana Superdome
 1  Chicago  21  
 N1  Chicago  46
January 5 - L.A. Memorial Coliseum
AFC Wild Card Game AFC Championship    A5  New England  10
 5  New England  27
December 28 - Giants Stadium     January 12 - Miami Orange Bowl
 1  L.A. Raiders  20  
 5  New England  26  5  New England  31
January 4 - Miami Orange Bowl
 4  N.Y. Jets  14      2  Miami  14  
 3  Cleveland  21
   
 2  Miami  24  

Wild Card playoffs[edit]

December 28, 1985[edit]

AFC: New England Patriots 26, New York Jets 14[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 3 10 10 3 26
Jets 0 7 7 0 14

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

In the NFL's first ever playoff game at Giants Stadium, the Patriots dominated the Jets by forcing 4 turnovers and 5 sacks. New England jumped to 3–0 lead in the first quarter after Tony Franklin made a 33-yard field goal. Then after New York scored on quarterback Ken O'Brien's 11-yard touchdown pass to running back Johnny Hector, Franklin kicked his second field goal for 41 yards. Late in the second quarter, safety Fred Marion intercepted a pass from O'Brien to set up Tony Eason's 36-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan, giving New England a 13–7 halftime lead. In the third period, Franklin made a 20-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 16–7 lead and on the ensuing kickoff, Hector was stripped of the ball by LB Johnny Rembert, who then picked up the fumble and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, which gave the Patriots a commanding 23–7 lead, but the Jets cut the lead to 23–14 late in the 3rd quarter when Pat Ryan, in at QB for the injured Ken O'Brien, threw a 12-yard TD pass to Mickey Shuler. Late in the 4th quarter, Franklin later made his fourth field goal of the game, a 26-yarder, to close out the scoring.

December 29, 1985[edit]

NFC: New York Giants 17, San Francisco 49ers 3[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
49ers 0 3 0 0 3
Giants 3 7 7 0 17

at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

In the Giants first home playoff game since 1962, despite the fact that the 49ers recorded 362 yards of total offense, with receiver Dwight Clark catching 8 passes for 120 yards, the Giants defense limited San Francisco to only one field goal the entire game, a 21-yard field goal by Ray Wersching in the 2nd quarter. Meanwhile, New York running back Joe Morris rushed for 141 yards. The Giants scored on their opening possession of the game with kicker Eric Schubert's 47-yard field goal. Then in the second quarter, New York defensive back Terry Kinard intercepted a pass from 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to set up Phil Simms' 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Bavaro. A 77-yard drive in the third quarter was capped by Simms' 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Don Hasselbeck which capped off the scoring for the day.

Divisional playoffs[edit]

January 4, 1986[edit]

AFC: Miami Dolphins 24, Cleveland Browns 21[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Browns 7 7 7 0 21
Dolphins 3 0 14 7 24

at Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

Barely making the playoffs with an 8–8 record, Cleveland hardly seemed a match for the 12–4 defending AFC champion Dolphins. However, the Browns jumped to a 21–3 lead midway through the third period, but the Dolphins then scored 21 unanswered points—the final touchdown with 1:57 left to play.

Aided by a 17-yard run from Woody Bennett on the first play of the game, Miami scored on their opening drive with a 51-yard field goal by Fuad Reveiz. Cleveland later marched 82 yards in 10 plays, mainly on the strength of their ground game, with Kevin Mack rushing for 12, Curtis Dickey picking up 9, and Ernest Byner's 15-yard carry taking them into the red zone. Bernie Kosar eventually finished the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ozzie Newsome to give the Browns a 7–3 lead.

In the second quarter, Miami got two big chances to score, but came up empty both times. First, they threatened to score with a drive to a first down on the Cleveland 36-yard line. But the Browns defense stepped up, forcing two incompletions and a run for no gain, and the Dolphins decided to punt rather than risk another long field goal. On the Browns next drive, Dolphins defensive back Paul Lankford intercepted Kosar and returned the ball to the Cleveland 25-yard line. Miami then drove to the 6-yard line, only to lose the ball when Marino was picked off in the end zone by Browns safety Don Rogers, who returned it 45 yards to set up a 21-yard rushing touchdown from Byner, increasing the lead to 14–3. Miami responded with a drive to the Browns 29-yard line, but Reveiz missed a 47-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the half.

Byner ran for a 66-yard touchdown with 11:03 left in the third quarter, the longest play in Cleveland's post season history, to give Cleveland a 21–3 lead. However, Miami then controlled the rest of the game. A 13-play 74-yard drive, aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty against Cleveland and a 15-yard reception by Mark Clayton, was capped by Marino's 6-yard touchdown pass to Nat Moore. Miami's defense quickly forced a punt, and Jeff Gossett's kick went just 26 yards to the Browns 49-yard line. From there it took just five plays to score on a 31-yard burst by Ron Davenport, who trucked right through Rodgers and linebacker Clarence Weathers on the way to the end zone. Browns receiver Glen Young gave his team a chance to get their momentum back with a 35-yard kickoff return to the 42-yard line. But after a holding penalty wiped out a first down run, Cleveland could not recover and had to punt.

In the fourth quarter, Marino got the team rolling on a 74-yard, 10-play drive for the game winning score, connecting with halfback Tony Nathan for a 39-yard gain (the longest reception of the day from either team) to the Browns 35-yard line, and later finding tight end Bruce Hardy for 18 yards inside the Cleveland red zone. On the first play after the two minute warning, Davenport went into the end zone on a 1-yard score with 1:57 left to give the Dolphins the lead, 24–21. Cleveland then took the ball and tried to drive for the tying field goal, but on the game's last play, Byner was tackled on the Miami 45-yard line as time expired.

Byner finished the game with 161 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on just 16 carries, while also catching 4 passes for 25 yards. Nathan rushed for 21 yards and caught 10 passes for 101 yards. Marino was 25/45 for 238 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cleveland racked up a whopping 251 rushing yards against the Dolphins defense, which turned out to be an omen of what lay in store for them in the AFC championship game.

NFC: Los Angeles Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 0[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Cowboys 0 0 0 0 0
Rams 3 0 10 7 20

at Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, California

Running back Eric Dickerson led the Rams to a victory by scoring two touchdowns and recording a playoff record 248 rushing yards. After the first half ended with a 3–0 Los Angeles lead, Dickerson scored on a 55-yard touchdown run early in the third period. On the ensuing kickoff, Kenny Duckett fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Vince Newsome to set up kicker Mike Lansford's second field goal. In the fourth period, Tony Hunter recovered a fumbled punt to set up Dickerson's 40-yard rushing touchdown. This was Tom Landry's final postseason game as the Cowboys head coach.

January 5, 1986[edit]

NFC: Chicago Bears 21, New York Giants 0[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Giants 0 0 0 0 0
Bears 7 0 14 0 21

at Soldier Field, Chicago

The Bears defense dominated the game by allowing only 32 rushing yards and sacked Giants quarterbacks for 60 yards. Giants quarterback Phil Simms was sacked 7 times during the game, 3½ of them coming from Chicago defensive end Richard Dent.

Chicago's first touchdown resulted on a New York punt attempt from their own 12-yard line. As Sean Landeta dropped the ball to kick it, the wind altered the ball's decent and caused it to go off the side of his foot. As a result, the ball went right into the ground and bounced just a few yards before Shaun Gayle picked it up and ran 5 yards for a touchdown. Gayle's run was the shortest punt return touchdown in NFL history. Bears quarterback Jim McMahon later threw two touchdown passes in the third period, both to Dennis McKinnon. McMahon finished the game with 216 passing yards, while running back Walter Payton rushed for 94 yards.

AFC: New England Patriots 27, Los Angeles Raiders 20[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 7 10 10 0 27
Raiders 3 17 0 0 20

at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles

LA had defeated New England 35–20 during the regular season, but in this game, Patriots running back Craig James rushed for 104 yards, caught 3 passes for 48 yards, completed one pass for 8 yards, and scored a touchdown while the Patriots defense forced 6 turnovers and shut out the Raiders in the second half.

In the first quarter, Patriots safety Jim Bowman recovered a muffed punt by returner Fulton Walker to set up Tony Eason's 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lin Dawson. On LA's next drive, Ronnie Lippett intercepted a pass from Marc Wilson, but the Patriots were unable to move the ball. Then Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend blocked Rich Camarillo's punt, getting the ball back for his team at the Pats 16-yard line and leading to a 29-yard field goal by Chris Bahr.

In the second quarter, Bahr missed a 44-yard field goal, but their defense once again held the Patriots down and forced a punt, which Walker returned 16 yards to start off a 52-yard scoring drive culminating in Wilson's 16-yard touchdown throw to receiver Jessie Hester. On New England's first play from scrimmage after the turnover, Raiders lineman Howie Long recovered Mosi Tatupu's fumble on the New England 19, and LA scored another touchdown on Marcus Allen's 11-yard run, increasing their lead to 17–7. The Patriots stormed back with an 80-yard touchdown possession. Tatupu helped make up for his fumble with a 22-yard run, while James caught a 24-yard reception and rushed for 27 yards on the drive, including a 2-yard touchdown on third down out of shotgun formation that cut the score to 17–14. Then on LA's ensuing possession, Lippett recorded his second interception of the day, giving the Patriots the ball at LA's 28-yard line and setting up a Tony Franklin field goal to tie the game. There was just 1:40 left in the half at this point, but the Raiders still managed to retake the lead before halftime, with Allen rushed for a 17-yard gain and Wilson completing a 31-yard pass to tight end Todd Christensen on the way to a 32-yard field goal from Bahr.

Midway through the third quarter, Allen lost a fumble that led to Franklin's field goal, tying the game back up at 20. Then in what turned out to be the key play of the game, Raiders cornerback Sam Seale fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Bowman recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to give his team a 27–20 lead. There was still a full quarter left to play, but the Raiders would get no further in the game than the New England 41-yard line. Los Angeles' three fourth quarter drives would result in a punt, an interception by Fred Marion and a turnover on downs at their own 13.

Allen finished the game with 121 rushing yards and a touchdown, along with 3 receptions for 8 yards.

Conference championships[edit]

January 12, 1986[edit]

NFC Championship: Chicago Bears 24, Los Angeles Rams 0[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 0 0 0 0 0
Bears 10 0 7 7 24

at Soldier Field, Chicago

The Bears defense dominated the game by limiting Rams running back Eric Dickerson to 46 yards, and holding quarterback Dieter Brock to 10 out of 31 completions for 66 passing yards. Los Angeles only gained 130 yards of total offense. The Rams had a chance to get back in the game as they got inside the Bears' 15-yard line in the waning moments of the first half. But poor play calling and clock management resulted in the clock running out. Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon scored on a 16-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and later threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Willie Gault in the third quarter. Kicker Kevin Butler kicked a 34-yard field goal in the first period. In the fourth quarter, defensive lineman Richard Dent forced Brock to fumble, and linebacker Wilber Marshall picked up the loose ball and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

AFC Championship: New England Patriots 31, Miami Dolphins 14[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Patriots 3 14 7 7 31
Dolphins 0 7 0 7 14

at Miami Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida

In an upset, the Patriots racked up 255 rushing yards and converted 6 Dolphins turnovers into 24 points.

On Miami's first offensive play, Steve Nelson stripped the ball from running back Tony Nathan, and Patriots defensive end Garin Veris recovered it to set up Tony Franklin's 23-yard field goal. The Dolphins later scored on an 80-yard drive, with quarterback Dan Marino completing passes to Bruce Hardy for 12 yards and Mark Duper for 18 before finding tight end Dan Johnson in the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown pass. But New England responded on a 66-yard possession, featuring a 45-yard run from Robert Weathers, to score on quarterback Tony Eason's 4-yard touchdown to Tony Collins, giving the Pats a 10–7 lead. On Miami's next drive, Marino fumbled the ball and nose tackle Lester Williams recovered for New England on the Dolphins 36-yard line. Patriots running back Craig James then rushed for 23 yards on three carries and Eason completed a 12-yard pass to Stanley Morgan on the 1-yard line before throwing a 1-yard touchdown toss to tigh end Derrick Ramsey, giving the Patriots a 17–7 lead. Just before halftime Miami missed the chance to cut the deficit down to 3 points when tight end Dan Johnson dropped a pass from Marino in the end zone on a 1st and 10 from the Patriots' 16. As the next two plays fell short of a first down, Miami settled for a field goal from the Patriots' 14 yard-line, but Fuad Reveiz' kick sailed wide to the right after a badly taken snap.

Miami's Lorenzo Hampton then lost a fumble on the second half kickoff on a hit from Mosi Tatupu, and Greg Hawthorne recovered for New England on the Dolphins 25. Eason then converted the turnover into points at the end of a 6-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Weathers, making the score 24–7. The Dolphins had a chance to take the momentum back when safety Bud Brown recovered Fred Marion's fumbled punt return on the Patriots 45-yard line. But after a 19-yard run by Joe Carter and a 16-yard catch by Ron Davenport, Marion made up for his error by intercepting Marino's pass in the end zone to keep Miami from scoring. New England then put together a 13-play drive that took nearly 8 minutes off the clock and moved the ball to the Dolphins 24-yard line. But Franklin missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, keeping the Dolphins' slim comeback hopes alive going into the fourth quarter.

Three plays into the final period, New England fumbled another punt return, this one lost by Roland James, and Miami took over on the Patriots 10-yard line. This time, they took advantage of their scoring opportunity with Mario's 10-yard touchdown pass to Tony Nathan on the next play, cutting their deficit to 24–14. Things looked even more promising for the Dolphins when they forced a punt and drove to the New England 38-yard line. But then Carter fumbled the ball and defensive end Julius Adams pick it up for the Patriots 4th fumble recovery of the day. New England then put the game away with a 9-play drive, featuring a 14-yard run by Tony Collins and a 13-yard carry by James. Tatupu later finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, putting the score out of reach at 31–14. With 7:34 left in the game, Miami mounted one last spirited drive, moving the ball to the NE 8-yard line. But two penalties pushed them back to the 28, and then a desperate pass from Marino was picked off by Raymond Clayborn in the end zone.[1]

James was their main contributor on offense, rushing for a career postseason high 105 yards of the Patriots 255 total rushing yards in a game played in a steady rain. Weathers added 87 yards, while Collins rushed for 61 and caught 3 passes for 15. Eason threw for just 71 yards, but completed 10 of 12 passes with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The win was the first for the Patriots at the Orange Bowl since 1966, the Dolphins inaugural season, ending a string of 18 consecutive losses by the Patriots in Miami and earning the Patriots their first trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.[2]

Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10[edit]

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Bears (NFC) 13 10 21 2 46
Patriots (AFC) 3 0 0 7 10

at Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Date: January 26, 1986
  • Game attendance: 73,818
  • Referee: Red Cashion
  • TV announcers (NBC): Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen

References[edit]