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Ex-Jets recall Mud Bowl: One that slipped away

Jets defense including #51 Greg Buttle and #54

Jets defense including #51 Greg Buttle and #54 Stam Blinka hit Dolphins fullback Andra Franklin causing the ball to pop loose in AFC action. (January 23, 1983) Credit: UPI

Everyone knew it had been raining in Miami for days.

No matter. The football field at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 23, 1983, was still "worse than anyone could have imagined," said former Jets linebacker Greg Buttle. "The water went up on top of my shoelaces. We're up on a field of grass that's really a field of mud."

Dubbed the Mud Bowl, that AFC Championship Game was a sloppy, wild affair the Jets lost 14-0 to the Miami Dolphins.

The Jets were 6 and 3 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, placing second in the AFC East behind 7-2 Miami. They won two playoff games, something the Jets had done once before (1968) and once since (this year).

But the muddy field neutralized their speedy, quick-strike offense. Quarterback Richard Todd threw five interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. Star running back Freeman McNeil could get little traction.

Jets receiver Wesley Walker remembers waking up and seeing a "monsoon" outside his window.

"I just knew deep down that that was going to change our system," Walker said.

Miami's decision to not lay down tarp as the torrential rains fell in the days before the game became controversial.

Buttle, now a football analyst for ESPN 1050 radio, recently asked then-Dolphin head coach Don Shula about the tarp. Shula laughed. "He said, 'It's 30 years ago. Let it go,' " Buttle recalled.

Defensive tackle Marty Lyons said the conditions ultimately didn't matter because it affected both teams.

"What I remember is that empty feeling walking off the field," Lyons said. "We all said, 'Hey, don't worry. We'll get them next year.' I played until the 1990 season. That next year never came."

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