"But we ought to spread this around a little. Tony Nathan comes in off the bench and Dan throws to him once all afternoon and it's good for 24 yards, a sight adjustment between him and Tony off a blitz. Jimmy Cefalo comes off the bench and makes only one catch and it's a 19-yard circus job, lying on the ground, reaching the wrong way. Nat Moore comes in as a third wideout and has a big day, catches two touchdowns. Give the coaches credit for using our people just right, give the receivers credit for great catches and give us credit for blocking. But Marino is the magic."
The Patriots' offense, led by another member of the extraordinary quarterback class of '83, Tony Eason, did a heroic job trying to match scores with a point machine. Eason's day, 19 for 29 for 313 yards and three TDs, was every bit as spectacular as Marino's. But when he came out for the second half trailing 16-10, he was in an impossible situation. For the next 30 minutes he could have put seven points on the board every time New England touched the ball and still come up short, because on its next four possessions, Miami scored four touchdowns. The Patriots ran off a streak of three for three, counting back to the end of the first half, but they were a service break down. They had to break back to even the set, and their defense couldn't do it.
"We score three straight times, they score four without skipping a beat. How many times is that going to happen?" Eason said. "Maybe someday when Dan and I are old and fat we'll sit around teasing each other about it, but today it was a terrible feeling. I mean, they just didn't make a mistake."
"It's not all that complicated," Marino said. "You go out there with the thought in mind that you're going to score every time you get your hands on the ball. If you don't think that way, why even go out there?"
In his postgame remarks Shula said a revealing thing about this edition of the Dolphins. He said, " Marino continues to answer whatever situation he's in. He continues to put points on the board." The operative word was "he," not "we," but when you have the hottest quarterback in the NFL, that's the way you think.
As the Dolphins draw closer to the playoffs, their numbers continue to be astounding. If Marino maintains his pace, he'll tie the alltime record for touchdown passes (36) with four games to play. The Dolphins are ahead of the NFL record for touchdowns in a season (66), and they're 12 yards per game in front of San Diego's record for total yards (6,744). If Marino throws for 84 yards next week against 0-8 Buffalo he'll break Griese's club record for yards passing in a season, with seven more games to add to it.
And now it looks as if the Dolphins have a running game to fortify the pass-catch attack. One of the maxims if you're playing in the AFC East is that you've got to be able to run the ball, because when the frost and winds come you're sure not going to be able to throw it. But it seems as if the Dolphins have covered that, too. They have only one possible bad weather site remaining—Giants Stadium on Nov. 4 against the Jets. They have another roadie in San Diego, but the remainder of the schedule is home or dome, everything in the Orange Bowl except a game in the Hoosier Dome.
The rest of the league is just a mite panicky—and envious. One coach says, "Once in every four times the Dolphins put the ball up deep, they're going to get an interference call in their favor. That's what it means having the coach on the NFL Competition Committee."
"Sour grapes," Shula snarls. "Just check the statistics." We did. They show that for all the gunning Marino has done this year, the opposing defense has been called for interference only twice, the Colts once and the Steelers once. No, the Dolphins have earned what they've gotten—and the best is yet to come.