Super Bowl XVII concluded a tumultuous year between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), beginning with a player strike that cut the season from 16 games to 9 and realigned the playoffs essentially into the "Super Bowl tournament." The big game set up to be a rematch of Super Bowl VII combatants offering the Washington Redskins the opportunity of redemption as they faced the Miami Dolphins who beat them 14-7 in a close contest in 1973. The cast and characters had all changed, but the passion remained. Washington carried an 8-1 record into the postseason having only lost to the Dallas Cowboys. The offense featured Pro Bowl quarterback and Bert Bell Player of the Year Award winner Joe Theismann, future Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, wide receivers Art Monk and Charlie Brown, but the fierce Redskins defense allowed only 128 total points in nine games, fewest in the NFL. All-Pro defensive end Dexter Manley, defensive tackle Dave Butz, DE-DT Tony McGee and the rest of the Washington defensive corps accounted for 32.0 sacks during the regular season. The ‘Skins pounded the Detroit Lions 31-7 in the NFC Wild Card Game, and then roughed up the Minnesota Vikings 21-7 in the divisional playoff before beating up on the Dallas Cowboys 31-17 in the NFC Conference Championship Game. John Riggins rushed for 472 yards and four touchdowns during those three playoff games. Miami, on the other hand, took a 7-2 record into the playoffs with a host of players who didn't quite enjoy the notoriety or recognition that Washington had on both sides of the ball. They convincingly dispatched the New England Patriots 28-13 in the Wild Card playoff and then the San Diego Chargers 34-13 in the divisional playoff game. Only their division rival, the New York Jets, stood in their way from reaching Super Bowl XVII, but they easily eliminated them 14-0 to set up the rematch.
For the second time, the Rose Bowl and Pasadena, California played host to the NFL championship game and Super Bowl XIV got underway on January 30, 1983. Miami jumped out to an early lead when David Woodley and Jimmy Cefalo connected for a 76-yard touchdown play giving them a 7-0 lead after the Uwe von Schamann kick. On the Dolphins next possession, Washington's defense turned up the heat as Dexter Manley forced a fumble from Woodley that Dave Butz recovered leading to a Mark Moseley field goal at the start of the second quarter. Von Schamann added a field goal to give the Fins a 10-7 lead. Late in the first half, Riggins and Theismann led an 80-yard drive into Miami territory before Theismann hit Alvin Garret with a 4-yard TD pass to tie the game at 10-10. The Dolphins immediately answered when defensive back and kick returner Fulton Walker returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score to give the Dolphins a 17-10 lead heading into the half. It was the first touchdown scored on a kickoff return in Super Bowl history. The second half was all Washington as the scoring began with a 20-yard field goal from Mark Moseley in the third quarter. Then John Riggins put the Redskins ahead for good as Washington faced a 4 and a foot on the Miami 43 with 10:00 left in the game. Riggins took a handoff from Theismann and burst through a hole on the left side of the line, and then broke a Don McNeal tackle to rush into the end zone on a 43-yard run. It was the longest rushing touchdown to date in Super Bowl history. Theismann then threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Charlie Brown with under two minutes left in the game to close out the scoring at Washington 27 – Miami 17. John Riggins enjoyed a career game as he rushed for 185 yards - setting a Super Bowl record - and scored the game-winning touchdown to earn the Super Bowl XVII Most Valuable Player award. Washington avenged the Super Bowl VII loss, holding the Dolphins to 176 total yards and a mere four completions for David Woodley while recording an impressive 400 total yards on their own.