"It's obvious," Shula said, "why we've missed Duper so much. It was evident from the beginning that he had the jet today. No, I didn't talk to him in the warmups. I was afraid he'd say he didn't feel good."
So at least for now Miami is celebrating its return to the ranks of the living. The Dolphins have their twin Marks back in the lineup; Clayton scored one TD against the Jets on a 27-yard pass play. And they get another crack at the Patriots on Dec. 16—in the Orange Bowl, where New England is 1-17. But when Shula sits down and looks at the films, he's going to do a lot of frowning, despite the pretty fireworks show. He hates penalties. The Dolphins committed 10 of them, the most in 13 years. He hates turnovers. The Dolphins had five, the most since 1983. The Miami defense gave up 491 yards, 371 of them passing, to a team that came in ranked 21st in the NFL at throwing the ball.
The key to the Dolphins' defensive operation was stopping halfback Freeman McNeil, who has eaten them up in the past, and they sacrificed some pass defense to accomplish that purpose. They slanted their line toward McNeil and brought their linebackers up to plug the gaps, forcing him to bounce the play outside, where they were waiting for him. McNeil, who plays with a flak jacket protecting a cracked rib, took some ferocious hits, but he still got 107 yards. It took him 26 carries to do it, though, and his 4.1 average was well below his lifetime 5.6 against the Dolphins going in.
The Jets had plenty of problems of their own: 13 penalties, two lost fumbles, three missed field goals, five sacks given up and, of course, those six dropped passes. Three of them got away from Wesley Walker, their deep threat, their answer to the Duper-Clayton combo. Two drops short, one long. Finally the Jets pulled Walker out of their base offense, going with JoJo Townsell and No. 1 draft pick Al Toon, who responded to his first NFL start with 10 catches for 156 yards. Three of his receptions produced first downs on the long TD march in the fourth quarter, and he showed an impressive ability to break tackles after the catch. Mark him down as a future.
Defensively, the Jets didn't worry much about getting outside containment on Marino. They funneled their rush to the inside, lining up ends Mark Gastineau and Barry Bennett in the tackle-guard gap, pinching them inside and running their blitzes behind them. This created a great traffic jam to the inside and gave Marino time to go deep.
And so the Dolphins are back in the hunt—and their horses are back, too. Boy, what horses!