The Niners' 4-2 Nickel Defense: The 49ers will attack Marino (13)—who was sacked only 13 times all season—with this basic formation, rushing linemen Dwaine Board (76), Jeff Stover (72) or Michael Carter (95), Ron Killen (97) and Dean (74), while linebackers Jeff Fuller (49) or Todd Shell (90) and Keena Turner (58) drop into short coverage. If that isn't enough, San Francisco will blitz one or both linebackers. The 49ers may even show a 3-4 alignment and rush all seven men.
San Francisco's Stunting 4-2 Nickel: Look for this defense when Miami is in a four-wide-receiver set with no tight end or fullback. On the 49ers' left side, Board contains the inside ( Miami's right guard) while Stover or Carter loops around to the outside, trying to get a shot at Marino. On the 49ers' right side, Killen cracks down on Miami's left tackle and Dean stunts to the inside, heading straight to the pocket. Turner blitzes outside, and Fuller or Shell drops into the hook zone.
Miami's Two Tight Ends: Joe Rose (80) goes in motion to the left, bringing the strong safety with him. Bruce Hardy (84) hangs in to provide blocking. Clayton (83) and Duper (85) run slants eight yards downfield and five to eight yards inside. If the defense is in zone coverage, the wideouts turn on the gas and stretch their patterns to find a seam. In blitz situations, they'll stay short. Marino counts on Rose's freezing the safety in the flat. That leaves Clayton open on the left.
Miami's Tight End Goes Long: This is one of Marino's favorite plays when the defense goes into double zone coverage. He sends Clayton and Duper downfield on 12- to 15-yard stop patterns while Hardy goes for the bomb on a deep inside post pattern. If Marino is under a heavy rush, he'll look for Hardy and wing the ball as far as he can; if Hardy can't reach it, probably no defender can either. But with time in the pocket Marino will go to Clayton or Duper in the outside flats.