1985–86 NFL playoffs
The National Football League playoffs for the 1985 season began on December 28, 1985. The postseason tournament concluded with the Chicago Bears defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46–10, on January 26, 1986, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- 1 Participants
- 2 Bracket
- 3 Wild Card playoffs
- 4 Divisional playoffs
- 5 Conference championships
- 6 Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10
- 7 References
Within each conference, the three division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The three division winners were seeded 1 through 3 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams were seeded 4 and 5. The NFL did not use a fixed bracket playoff system. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the fourth seed wild card hosted the fifth seed. All three division winners from each conference then received a bye in the first round. The second round, the divisional playoffs, had a restriction where two teams from the same division could not meet: the surviving wild card team visited the division champion outside its own division that had the higher seed, and the remaining two teams from that conference played each other. The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, was played at a neutral site, the designated home team was based on an annual rotation by conference.
|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|
|Jan. 4 – Anaheim Stadium|
|NFC Wild Card Game||NFC Championship|
|Dec. 29 – Giants Stadium||Jan. 12 – Soldier Field|
|5||San Francisco||3||2||L.A. Rams||0|
|Jan. 5 – Soldier Field|
|4||N.Y. Giants||17||1||Chicago||24||Super Bowl XX|
|Jan. 26 – Louisiana Superdome|
|Jan. 5 – L.A. Memorial Coliseum|
|AFC Wild Card Game||AFC Championship||A5||New England||10|
|Dec. 28 – Giants Stadium||Jan. 12 – Miami Orange Bowl|
|5||New England||26||5||New England||31|
|Jan. 4 – Miami Orange Bowl|
Wild Card playoffs
December 28, 1985
AFC: New England Patriots 26, New York Jets 14
In the NFL's first ever playoff game at Giants Stadium, the Patriots dominated the Jets by forcing 4 turnovers and 5 sacks. This was New England's first playoff win since 1963.
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 from 41 yards. Late in the second quarter, safety Fred Marion intercepted a pass from O'Brien and returned it 26 yards to the Jets 33-yard line. A few plays later, Jets defensive back Russell Carter failed to make contact with receiver Stanley Morgan while trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage, enabling Morgan to take off past Carter and haul in a 36-yard touchdown completion from Tony Eason, 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. However, Hector's returned the next kickoff 33 yards to the Pats 43-yard line. From there, Pat Ryan replaced O'Brien, who had been suffering from a concussion ever since the first half, and completed 5/7 passes on a 57-yard scoring drive, the last a 12-yard touchdown throw to tight end Mickey Shuler, making the score 23-14. But in the 4th quarter, Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett deflected a Ryan pass into the arms of defensive end Garin Veris, who returned the interception 18 yards to set up Franklin's 4th field goal and finish off the scoring.
Veris finished the game with 3 sacks and an interception. Eason completed 12 of 17 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. Hector returned six kickoffs for 115 yards and added 24 more yards rushing and receiving. Jets receiver Al Toon set a franchise playoff record for receptions (9), good for 93 yards.
December 29, 1985
NFC: New York Giants 17, San Francisco 49ers 3
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. It was a very satisfying win for New York, who had lost their last five games played against the 49ers, including playoff losses in 1981 and 1984.
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 and returned it 15 yards to set up Phil Simms' 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Bavaro. San Francisco managed to drive inside the Giants 10-yard line with a 15-play drive that included two personal fouls and a holding call against New York's defense. However, they could not get into the end zone and had to settle for Ray Wersching's 21-yard field goal, cutting the score to 10-3 going into halftime.
A 77-yard drive in the third quarter was capped by Simms' 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Don Hasselbeck, increasing New York's lead to 17-3. In the fourth quarter, the Giants made two key defensive stands to keep the game out of range. First, they forced San Francisco to turn the ball over on downs at the New York 26 with 4:46 left. Following a New York punt, the 49ers drove into the Giants red zone. With 2:16 left in the game, Montana threw a touchdown pass to tight end John Frank, but it was eliminated by a holding penalty against guard John Ayers. On the next play, he threw a pass to running back Carl Monroe, only to have him drop it in the end zone. Then on fourth and 15, Montana's final pass was incomplete and New York ran out the rest of the clock.
New York running back Joe Morris finished the game with 141 rushing yards. 49ers running back Roger Craig, who became the first player in NFL history to gain over 1,000 rushing and receiving yards during the regular season, was held to just 24 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards.
January 4, 1986
AFC: Miami Dolphins 24, Cleveland Browns 21
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
Running back Eric Dickerson led the Rams to a victory by scoring two touchdowns and recording a playoff record 248 rushing yards, while LA's defense held the Cowboys to 243 yards and forced 6 turnovers.
Rams receiver Henry Ellard's 23-yard punt return and 21-yard reception set up the first score of the game, a 33-yard field goal by Mike Lansford 5:19 into the first quarter. This ended up being the only score of the first half.
LA running back Charles White returned the second half kickoff (a squib kick by punter Mike Saxon, who had replaced injured kicker Rafael Septien) 14 yards to the Rams 45-yard line. Dickerson scored on a 55-yard touchdown run on the next play, giving the Rams a 10-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Kenny Duckett fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Vince Newsome on the Dallas 18 to set up kicker Lansford's second field goal. In the fourth period, Dallas managed to reach the Rams 20-yard line, but Kevin Green sacked Cowboys quarterback Danny White on third down and Dallas ended up turning the ball over on downs. Their defense subsequently forced a punt, but Gordon Banks muffed the kick and Rams defensive back Jerry Gray recovered the ball to set up Dickerson's 40-yard rushing touchdown. This was Tom Landry's final postseason game as the Cowboys head coach, and also the final NFL Playoff game at Anaheim Stadium. The Rams would not host another NFL postseason game until 1999, the team's fifth season following their 1995 relocation to St. Louis.
Rams defensive end Gary Jeter finished the game with 3 sacks, while Gray had a fumble recovery and an interception.
January 5, 1986
NFC: Chicago Bears 21, New York Giants 0
The Bears defense dominated the game by allowing only 32 rushing yards, 181 total yards, and sacking the Giants quarterbacks for 60 yards. Giants quarterback Phil Simms was sacked 6 times during the game, 3½ of them coming from Chicago defensive end Richard Dent. New York's offense passed for just 48 yards in the first half, and had -11 total yards in the third quarter.
Chicago's first touchdown resulted on a New York punt attempt from their own 12, forcing Sean Landeta to make the kick three yards into his goal line. As Landeta dropped the ball to kick it, the wind altered the ball's descent and caused it to go off the side of his foot. As a result, the ball went right into the ground and bounced a short distance before reserve safety Shaun Gayle picked it up and returned the -7 yard punt 5 yards for a touchdown. Gayle's run was the shortest punt return touchdown in NFL history.
New York had their best chance to score late in the second quarter when Simms completed passes to George Adams and Bobby Johnson for gains of 31 and 17 yards, giving the team a first down on the Chicago 2-yard line. But Sims' next three passes were incomplete, and with just 11 seconds left in the half, kicker Eric Schubert hit the left upright on his 19-yard field goal attempt.
In the third quarter, Bears quarterback Jim McMahon increased the Bears lead to 14-0 with a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dennis McKinnon. Later in the quarter, with Chicago facing 2nd and 12 on their own 34, the Giants made another key error. The Giants defense came out of the huddle planning for a massive blitz, but decided to switch to a zone defense after reading the Bears formation. However, half the defenders were unable to hear the new play call over the roaring crowd at Soldier field and ended up blitzing, leaving receiver Tim Wrightman completely uncovered. McMahon threw the ball to Wrightman for a 46-yard gain, and then finished the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to McKinnon on the next play, making the final score of the game 21-0. The Bears could have had a much larger lead, but the normally reliable rookie kicker Kevin Butler had an uncharacteristically bad day, missing three field goal attempts from distances of 26, 49 and 38 yards.
AFC: New England Patriots 27, Los Angeles Raiders 20
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.
January 12, 1986
NFC Championship: Chicago Bears 24, Los Angeles Rams 0
The Bears defense dominated the game by limiting Rams running back Eric Dickerson to 46 yards, forcing him to fumble twice, and holding quarterback Dieter Brock to 10 out of 31 completions for 66 passing yards. While Chicago's offensive numbers were hardly stellar (232 yards and 10 punts), Los Angeles only gained 130 yards of total offense and had to punt the ball 11 times.
After forcing the Rams to go three-and-out on the game's first possession, Bears quarterback Jim McMahon threw consecutive 20-yard completions to tight end Emery Moorehead and receiver Willie Gault before finishing the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run on 3rd down and 10. Kevin Butler added a 34-yard field goal to give the Bears a 10-0 first quarter lead. With 1:04 left in the second quarter, LA had a huge opportunity to get back in the game when Dale Hatcher's punt bounced into the leg of Bears defensive back Reggie Phillips and safety Jerry Gray recovered the ball for the Rams on Chicago's 21-yard line. Dickerson rushed twice for 9 yards and caught a pass for 7, but on his reception he was tackled on the 5 as time expired in the half. "We did call time out right before the half," John Robinson, the Rams' coach, insisted. "It depends on how long the ref takes to recognize that a player has called a timeout."
The Rams drove to their own 47-yard line on their first drive of the second half, but then linebacker Otis Wilson forced a fumble from Dickerson that was recovered by defensive back Mike Richardson on the Bears 48. Faced with 4th down and 6 on the Rams 35-yard line on the ensuing drive, Chicago picked up a first down with McMahon's 13-yard completion to running back Walter Payton. Then they took a 17-0 lead with McMahon's 22-yard touchdown pass to Gault on the next play. LA responded with a drive into Chicago territory, but Leslie Frazier ended it with an interception.
With 2:37 left in the fourth quarter, Dent forced Brock to fumble while sacking him, and linebacker Wilber Marshall picked up the loose ball and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. It marked the end of a long day for Brock, who was also sacked twice by Doug Reed, and one time each by Dan Hampton and Reggie Doss.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots 31, Miami Dolphins 14
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 Marino'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.
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.
Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
- The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995 (ISBN 0-89204-523-X)