- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The previous day's games were painfully one-sided. After the Dolphins thumped New England, there was no suppressing the comparisons—of David Woodley to Bob Griese, of Andra Franklin to Larry Csonka, of a defense with only one Pro Bowl member to the No-Name Defense, and of Don Shula the Elder to Shula the Younger. "We have more no-names than the No-Names," said Dolphin Linebacker Earnest Rhone, whose six tackles helped the NFL's top defense keep the Patriots out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. Franklin, the 5'10", 225-pound fullback Shula calls "a throwback to Csonka," rumbled for 112 yards on 26 carries. And Woodley, the rollout artist—who studied last season under Griese, a quarterback as fond of the pocket as a kangaroo joey—was nearly perfect: 19 attempts, 16 completions, 246 yards, two TD passes, no interceptions.
Woodley mixed a little Griese with his own kid stuff. Early in the second quarter, pocket-bound, he threw 35 yards to Tight End Joe Rose, who made a diving catch at the New England 40. Seven plays later, from the two, he rolled right to find another tight end, Bruce Hardy, in the end zone for Miami's first score. On the Dolphins' next possession Woodley kept a drive alive on third-and-six with a 16-yard bootleg, then threw a drop-back pass 36 yards to Duriel Harris, who made a spinning catch. Two plays later Franklin csonked over from the one.
New England tends to cover backs and tight ends man-to-man with linebackers, so 11 of Woodley's completions were to Rose, Hardy (who caught another two-yard rollout pass for Miami's final TD) and running backs Rich Diana and Tony Nathan. Nathan began the game with a hangover from a mild concussion suffered the week before; he left it with the offensive game ball after catching five passes for 68 yards and running 12 times for another 71. "I realized it was a hunger headache," he said. Nathan's five catches were exactly five more than Stanley Morgan, New England's top receiver, made against the Dolphin secondary.
To Shula's chagrin, Miami owner Joe Robbie added an unexpected wrinkle to the Dolphin game plan. To commemorate the Pats' 3-0 defeat of the Dolphins in blizzardy Foxboro on Dec. 12, he had a truck dump five tons of man-made snow in a corner of the end zone. Shortly before the kickoff a man in jailhouse stripes astride a snowplow arrived to remind Dolphin fans how a convict on work-release had cleared a spot at Coach Ron Meyer's behest so the Pats' John Smith could kick the game-winner. A second man, on a lawn mower, was on hand for Miami's Uwe von Schamann, in case he wanted the turf trimmed for a late field-goal attempt. "I don't want anything to do with what happened," said Shula afterward. "I don't want to be associated with it."
The Packers also had a small family squabble, and it was St. Louis' misfortune to visit Green Bay on the day it got ironed out. John Jefferson, the touchdown man, hadn't scored all season, and after Green Bay lost 27-24 to Detroit in its final game on Jan. 2, J.J. ripped into Coach Bart Starr and Offensive Coordinator Bob Schnelker. The Packer offense was too conservative, he said, and didn't involve enough people—like John Jefferson, for instance.
At least two teammates found Mr. Jefferson's declarations too independent. "J.J. still makes mistakes on his routes," said one. "He doesn't know the plays." Added Quarterback Lynn Dickey, "Our offense isn't geared to San Diego's type of attack. We're not geared to the pass." But in the Packers' romp past St. Louis, Dickey did some placating with his play calling. He threw six of his 17 completions and two of his four touchdown passes to Jefferson. J.J. juked past Cornerback Carl Allen to grab a 60-yarder for the Packers' first TD, caught 17-and 39-yard passes on Green Bay's next two scoring drives and a seven-yard toss late in the third that put the Pack up 38-9.
"We run the same plays against every team," said Packer Wide Receiver James Lofton, who caught a 20-yard touchdown pass. "The difference today was that St. Louis' defense stunk." Green Bay's wasn't much better, allowing 453 yards. But the Pack defense was in an ornery mood. The Cards had second-and-goal at the one on their first possession, yet had to settle for Neil O'Donoghue's 18-yard field goal. St. Louis Quarterback Neil Lomax had his best passing stats as a pro—32 of 51 for 385 yards and two TDs—but suffered five sacks and two interceptions. And a Packer reserve tight end named Gary Lewis was a big-play boy, blocking a point after and a 44-yard field-goal try. At least one of the Packers thought panty hose, which several Green Bay defenders wore under their uniform pants in the 20° weather, kept them from playing pantywaist defense. "I had a run in mine that was three or four inches, and that really made me mad," said Packer Defensive End Casey Merrill.
Cleveland Brown Coach Sam Rutigliano's three-point plan to make a run at the top-seeded Los Angeles Raiders came down to stopping (1) the special teams, (2) Cliff Branch and (3) Marcus Allen. L.A.'s Cle Montgomery ran the opening kickoff only back to his own 21. (So far, so good.) On the first play from scrimmage, Raider Quarterback Jim Plunkett found Branch, his split end, for 64 yards over the middle, setting up Chris Bahr's 27-yard field goal. (Scratch point 2.) And before the afternoon was over, Allen had run for 72 yards, caught six passes for 75 more and scored two touchdowns. (Scratch point 3; game to the Raiders.)
On Allen's first touchdown, a two-yard sweep in the second quarter, he put a boogie move on Brown Safety Mark Kafentzis, who never touched him and was left behind on his knees with his hands raised to the sky in frustration. "Marcus has what I call controlled momentum," moaned Brown Linebacker Chip Banks, a former teammate of Allen's at USC. "He sees the defense form, and then he takes it apart."
Even with their defensive strategy torn to shreds, the Browns trailed just 13-10 at the half. Quarterback Paul McDonald had passed to Split End Ricky Feacher on a 43-yard scoring bomb, and Matt Bahr had swapped field goals with his brother. When Cleveland drove to the Los Angeles 14 on its first possession of the third quarter, McDonald sent Charles White up the middle on first-and-10. But Defensive End Lyle Alzado, whom the Browns traded to the Raiders during the off-season, hit White with a bark-stripping tackle. Jeff Barnes recovered White's fumble, and Allen handled the ball on seven of the dozen plays it took for L.A. to go 89 yards, for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead. Allen ran that one in, too, from three yards out. Raider Fullback Frank Hawkins' fourth-quarter, one-yard plunge ended the homecoming for five Southern Cal-bred Browns. Said Raider Coach Tom Flores, who is now 5-0 in postseason play, "Well, we had the Horse today."