- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"How about what Fran Tarkenton said?" Griese was asked. In midweek Tarkenton had mentioned that there comes a time in every quarterback's life when he has to say sayonara. "Francis isn't right all the time," Griese said. He thought for a moment. A smile? Tough to tell. Could have been. Yes, there it was again. "We came out in the third quarter, and it felt like old times. Give Zonk the ball. It was very reminiscent."
Twenty feet away, Csonka was limping heavily on the damaged big toe of his right foot. This was nothing new. He had limped his way through two Super Bowl championship seasons in Miami. Same big toe, twisted and discolored, looking like something out of a butcher shop. Turf toe. The Dolphins got their artificial turf at a cut-rate price, and Zonk didn't mind telling you about it. There's grass in the Orange Bowl now, but Kim Bokamper, the young linebacker, stepped on Zonk's toe in the warmup.
"He smiled about it," Csonka said. "That's linebacker mentality. He'd make a good fullback."
At 32, Csonka was back at Shula U. after a four-year odyssey through Memphis of the WFL and the New Jersey meadows, where he occasionally played for the Giants. He dropped 30 pounds to make Shula's squad, and on Thursday night he was knocking Patriots over as he ran for 88 yards on 22 carries against the NFL's top rushing defense.
"Hey, the line opened the holes," he said. "These guys know how to block."
It's a strange, patched-up mixture, that offensive line—oldtimers, youngsters, everybody carrying some injury. Once upon a time Little, the right guard, had been the main man. This year he'd been written off. Bad ankle, new faces—hell, the guy was 34 years old. But Shula gave him a start against the Patriots.
"You control the ball, you win the game," Little said afterward. "We Zonked 'em. I haven't felt like this since—how long?—since 1974."
A couple of hours later, in the parking lot. Bob Kuechenberg, the 32-year-old left tackle, leaned on a car, sipped a glass of champagne and talked about the Dolphins. "A real sense of d�j� vu tonight," he said, "a throwback. A team comes in here with the No. 1 defense, a must game, and you do it to them. You know, we hadn't had a really good win This year. We beat the teams we were supposed to beat; the bad teams beat us.
"But I'll tell you, I was tired of hearing everyone talking about how great the Patriots are. All that talent, Super Bowl team and all the rest of it. They're a cocky team, and really, what right do they have to be cocky? That team has never won a single playoff game."
The race in the AFC East now comes down to this: Miami is 9-5, New England is 8-6, and neither team is likely to qualify as a wild card. Miami, Denver, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Houston are front-runners for five playoff spots as division champs or wild-card teams.