"All I'm asking of Jim is that he stay healthy and do the things he does best," says Ditka. "He's learning now that it's best not to try to make a play when it's not there. Sometimes you've got to go down, take the sack. He will run some, but not like he used to."
As his game has softened, so has McMahon's personality. Sure, he's still feisty, but he has a mellow side, too. Last week he was on a phone hookup to the Miami writers. By his side was Eddie White, the Dolphins' p.r. man. As each question came in, White would whisper the name of the guy asking it, and McMahon would respond, "Well, Craig, I'm not really sure," or, "Gary, I think that's something we have to consider." The Miami-beat guys knew some kind of shtick was involved; they just weren't sure what it was.
What McMahon has going for him on the field is an offensive line that ranks right up there with Washington's, plus a never-ending supply of fresh legs to run with the ball. The Bears had 11 rookies on their 45-man roster on Sunday, tying Tampa Bay for the most in the league. A team like the Bucs, who are looking to the future, figures to have a bunch of youngsters, but on a playoff-caliber club like Chicago, it's a rarity. At times the Bears brought in a whole set of runners and receivers. Chicago attacked in waves, and that was when the game was still close. Wideout Wendell Davis, a No. 1 draft pick from LSU, was in the second wave. So was the Bears' other No. 1, fullback Brad Muster from Stanford. Actually he was the third fullback in the game. Chicago is deep all right.
What this onslaught produced was an offense that controlled the ball forever. The Bears ran off 78 plays to Miami's 36. They scored on drives of 59, 72 and 78 yards in the first half and on a 48-yarder in the second. They also had 57-and 44-yard drives that ended in missed field goals. They rushed for 262 yards and five touchdowns, passed for 165 yards and ate up 45:32 of the clock to Miami's 14:28, probably the worst time-of-possession ratio in Dolphin coach Don Shula's career.
"Is this the offense we'll see all year?" someone asked Ditka afterward.
"I hope so," he said. "Run the ball and throw a little. Go back to old-fashioned Bear football."
Chicago's defensive performance was equally impressive. In addition to Marino's meager stats, the Dolphins rushed for only 45 yards. They crossed midfield just once under their own power, and they have one of the NFL's big league offenses. "Even when we were down 28-7 at the half, I felt we'd get something going," said Shula. "A big play, a break, anything. It never came."
Miami did some weird things—for them. On the Bears' first drive, which ended in a touchdown, the Dolphins twice gave Chicago first downs with penalties. That's very uncharacteristic for a team that almost always leads the league in fewest infractions. Then came the drops. Wideout James Pruitt dropped a deep pass on Miami's first offensive series and later botched another one. Mark Clayton dropped one. Mark Duper dropped one and should have caught another. Duper, who missed most of the preseason because of a contract dispute, didn't look as if he were ready for the season to begin. Marino completed only two of nine passes to his wideouts, a 12-yarder to Duper and a 28-yarder to Clayton for a touchdown.
"We knew we wouldn't blitz much and we'd have to rely on coverages," said Chicago's All-Pro safety, Dave Duerson. "Our cornerbacks played an aggressive bump-and-run. We disguised things. Dan came up to me after the game and said, 'Dave, this is the first time in a year and a half you actually disguised your coverages.' I think he got a little confused. He went with audibles a lot. Sometimes he'd yell at his teammates or the officials. A couple of times after the ball was blown dead, he flung it at the sidelines. He was frustrated."
On Saturday, Duerson had called a special meeting of the eight Chicago defensive backs. "Just like everybody else, I entered the game wondering, Where is this team headed?" he said. "I told the DBs to drop by my room at the hotel that night, just to discuss things. So we watched the Florida State- Miami game for a while, then I turned the sound off, and we talked. It was an opportunity for each guy to express himself. For me, as the oldest guy in the secondary, it was a chance to get a reading on what each guy's goals were for the season. You could say we kind of challenged each other at that meeting. Even in our Super Bowl year our secondary wasn't highly regarded. The pass rush was the thing people talked about."