The Miami unit they face—and remember, the matchups between the units vary from play to play as blocking and defensive assignments change, so that the efficacy of a unit depends on its ability as a whole, not on the ability of its individuals—reads like this: Jim Riley, left end (five years), Fernandez, left tackle (four years), Bob Heinz, right tackle (three years), and Bill Stanfill, right end (three years). When you match Manders with Middle Linebacker Nick Buoniconti, you get a plus for the Dolphins, since Nick has been playing pro ball 10 years, if only three on the defensive unit of the the Dolphins.
However, the key to the superiority of the interior of the Cowboy offensive line over the Dolphin defense lies in the fact that, for the most part, the Cowboys have played together under the same system for a minimum of four years, whereas the Dolphin defenders have been playing under Coach Don Shula's system only two years and for about the same time as a coherent unit.
Heinz is a starter for the first time, the other three have played together only three years. For Dallas, Nye is the newest addition to the offensive line, the others having belonged to the same unit for a minimum of five years. Typical of how a veteran offensive line can coordinate with quick, strong running backs was the 13-yard touchdown run Duane Thomas made in the divisional playoffs off Niland's block on Minnesota's All-Pro defensive tackle, Alan Page.
The same disparity in unit experience exists elsewhere, but most glaringly in the two secondaries. The four Cowboy starters have a total of 31 years experience, the four Dolphins only 10.
Linebackers? The Cowboy trio of Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley and Dave Edwards has a total of 31 years experience, at least six as a unit; the Dolphins have a total of 14, most of that provided by Buoniconti, and they have played together as a unit only two years.
There are wide-eyed, emotional Miami fans who believe the Dolphins will wreak yet another miracle in the Super Bowl, powered by the magic of Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul War-field. Well, let's see how the Dolphin stars match their counterparts on the Cowboys.
First, Griese against Roger Staubach, the mobile, hard-running Cowboy quarterback. The Miami fanatics will tell you that here is one place where the Dolphins enjoy a big edge, but consider. Griese, during 1971, threw 263 passes, completed 145 (55.1%) for 2,089 yards and 19 touchdowns and had nine interceptions. The Miami record under Griese was 10-3-1. The losses were to the crippled 6-8 Jets, the 6-8 Patriots by a whopping 34-13 and to Baltimore. The Dolphins were tied by 4-9-1 Denver. Staubach became the Cowboys' regular quarterback in the eighth game. Since then he has won nine in a row; actually, the Cowboys have won all 12 games Staubach started. Statistically, he also has the edge on Griese. He threw 211 passes, completed 126 (59.7%) for 1,882 yards and 15 touchdowns and had only four interceptions. Staubach has been accused of losing too much yardage when he is trapped on a scramble, but while he was sacked 23 times and lost 175 yards, Griese lost 248 yards on the same number of dumps. And Staubach gained 343 yards running to Griese's 82 on only 15 more carries.
So much for the quarterbacks. Csonka and Kiick are certainly fine running backs but only about the same size as Calvin Hill and Thomas, and the Cowboy duo is considerably faster. Csonka and Kiick will probably grind out a few yards but not many against the best rushing defense in the NFC. Hill and Thomas, backed up by Walt Garrison, who is as good a short-yardage runner as either Csonka or Kiick, should find the going much easier.
That leaves the great Warfield, and certainly he ranks among the top five wide receivers in football. No one would claim that honor for the other Miami wide receiver, although Howard Twilley is dedicated and competent. The Cowboys have two wide receivers who rate on a par with Warfield in Bob Hayes and Lance Alworth. Hayes caught 35 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns during 1971; Warfield caught 43 for 996 and 11 touchdowns. Hayes averaged 24 yards per catch, Warfield 23.2. Alworth had 34 catches for 487, Twilley 23 for 349. The third of the top three receivers for both teams was a back—Kiick for Miami with 40 for 338, Garrison for Dallas with 40 for 396. But again, you must remember that the Cowboy receivers will be probing a relatively young Miami defense unit, the Dolphin receivers a veteran group.
Well, enough of dry statistics. The game, the Miami faithful feel, will be won on the spirit and mystique of their club. The Cowboys, they say, have been to the well so often only to spill the water that they will, again, lose The Big Game. They lost twice in the NFL finals to Green Bay, both games being decided in the final seconds of play. Both could as easily have been Dallas wins. They lost again to Baltimore in the Super Bowl last year, again in the closing seconds. They did not get into those games by losing the big ones, and they certainly will not lose to Miami this time.