Monday, August 08, 2005

A Hall of Fame game

Tonight the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game will be played. This game will feature the Miami Dolphins and the Chicago Bears. One would have thought perhaps the Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers would be playing as two inductees in yesterday's ceremony were Dan Marino (Dolphins) and Steve Young (49ers).

But perhaps it's best that the weekend Dan Marino is inducted the game should be played by the two teams that played a game that if not defined Marino's career cemented it. Let's go back, to 1985, the Bears are 12-0 and the Dolphins, fresh off a Super Bowl loss to the 49ers, are still fighting for a playoff spot (they would win the division, but lose the conference championship game to New England).

The Bears had eaten quarterbacks all year. The Bears brought a heavy blitz to the house, a blitz that prevented the opposing quarterback from getting time to get set and find an open receiver.

That scheme had worked for 12 games as the Bears swaggered in 12-0. There was talk that the Perfect Season of the 1972 Dolphins would be matched (ironically, that talk surrounded the Dolphins the previous season as they started out 12-0).

But the game on Monday night turned out to be a route. But it was the underdog Dolphins who were doing the routing. By halftime it was evident that Miami was in control and Chicago had no answer to Marino.

You see, the blitz didn't bother Marino. His line blocked just well enough, his release was quick enough, and the blitzing Bears left way too many receivers open for Marino to find, which he frequently did. Had the Bears seen film of the previous Super Bowl, they might have dropped men in coverage rather than blitz. But they died that night on the blitz, a scheme Marino exploited like no other quarterback before and still no other QB has exploited it.

In the second quarter my Bears fan friends decided they didn't want to face me--one even locked himself in his room (I think we heard him sobbing). They were so sure the Bears would not only win that game but go undefeated.

Had it not been for a rare cool day in Miami and a rare sloppy performance by the Dolphins, the 'Phins and Bears may have met for a rematch in the Super Bowl. Would Buddy Ryan have stuck with his blitzing scheme and given Marino a Super Bowl title? Or would the Bears have learned something from that night? I think the Dolphins would have won the rematch--the blitzing covered up the weak secondary of the Bears that year.

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