O.K., right, we know the Dolphins can pass, but that only accounted for 316 yards Sunday. Where did the rest of those 552 come from? This is the most shocking statistic of all. The Dolphins rushed for 236 yards against New England, the most they've gained on the ground since a game against the Rams four years ago, when Delvin Williams ran wild for them.
It wasn't fluke stuff, either. Carter (14 carries for 92 yards) and Woody Bennett (14 for 80) slashed at the off-tackle holes. Johnson got the short-yardage calls; his six-for-16 afternoon included two TDs. When it was all over the Dolphin runners had averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Their running game is back, or at least it was against the Patriots.
Rust was afraid something like this might happen. He knew Marino was particularly dangerous throwing on rhythm, off a short drop, but he also knew how to defense that. He'd been Kansas City's defensive coach for five years, and when you play in the Air Coryell-Dan Fouts division, you'd better learn how to defend against the short-drop passes. Last year Rust's Patriots held the Dolphins to two field goals in Foxboro and handed Marino one of only two losses in regular-season games as a starter. The key was getting the Patriot linebackers into the passing lanes, fouling up Marino's sight lines, disrupting his tempo and making him hang on to the ball until the rush got to him.
Two days before the game. Rust looked at his charts and sighed. "The weakness is that when you use your linebackers in coverage too much you get soft against the run," he said. "Either that or you get careless. It can be a psychological thing.
"One thing Shula's offense does is make you defend the entire field, both the length and width of it. The Dolphins won't let you shrink the field on them. They'll run a screen, and when you try to rush to it, they'll run a double-screen off it and fake it and go downfield. They have a big collection of special plays and gimmicks, and they use 'em well. They're a big-play team, but you've got to play the run honest, because they'll use it as a platform for the big play. For God's sake, don't let them run on you. You've got to stuff the run.
"There are no shortcuts when you play Miami. You don't beat them with mirrors."
The Dolphins let the Patriots know what it was going to be like with their first running play of the afternoon. On second-and-10 Carter ran a cutback over left tackle for 11 yards. They followed that with Bennett going for eight, and Carter for five more. There would be no shortcuts, no mirrors.
Perhaps the Patriot linebackers were a little too pass-conscious—or psychologically unready for an infantry battle. They had a long afternoon. "One of our specialties is the short trap," said Miami's Ed Newman, the veteran Pro Bowl right guard. "They knew it and we knew they knew it, and we suckered 'em inside and went outside. We batted 'em—that's our term for an outside trap—with me trapping on the other side."
Tippett had a rough day, particularly on the blitzes, his specialty. When he rushed as an end in the four-man set there would be Cleveland Green, the Dolphins' 262-pound right tackle, sticking a big mitt in his face. When he came from the three-man line Newman picked him up. And when the rush did get near Marino, he ducked it.
"I'm lucky," Newman said. "In my 12-year career I've gotten to play with the epitome of two distinct styles of quarterbacking—Griese, who was careful and precise, and Marino, a flamboyant guy. He's the definitive wonder boy. Nothing awes him out there.