What do we have in the Dolphins? An old-style, grind-it-out team? They seem to be at their best when playing that way under Griese, though they can switch gears and go long-ball if Strock is on target. But how far can the old-style game take you in playoff competition, with gunners like Dan Fouts and Terry Bradshaw ready to put points on the board like an adding machine?
Tactically, Griese was an interesting study Thursday night. He threw 10 passes and completed eight in his two quarters of work, the kind of stats he used to approach in the glory days. He limbered up by throwing over the middle, which doesn't strain the arm. In the third quarter, down 17-13 and facing a third-and-12, he made what Patriot Coach Ron Ehrhardt called the crucial play of the game. He hit his halfback, Tony Nathan, cutting inside. Nathan slid by a couple of tackles and made 18 yards and a first down, and the march was on.
Griese's one long pass of the night was a dandy, 38 yards to Nat Moore for a touchdown, but Mike Haynes, the Patriots' cornerback, fell down on the play. Then the strange New England self-destruct mechanism took over. The Patriots' next series ended with a holding penalty, a sack and a snap that sailed over the punter's head and out of the end zone for a safety. The regular snapper, Pete Brock, had a broken hand, and his backup, Whimpy Wheeler, was belted around by the Dolphins.
"We made him a target," Kuechenberg said. "He was shaky on his snaps all night. We pounded on his head."
Steve Grogan, the much-maligned New England quarterback, had brought the Patriots back in the first half and given them that 17-13 lead. Grogan's arm did miraculous things in the first half—219 yards, long and short, it made no difference. It was a heroic show. His offense was badly outmanned. The offensive line was crippled and the muscle of the attack, Fullback Sam Cunningham, was out with a sprained ankle. What's more, the defense was minus its best lineman, Richard Bishop.
Grogan hit Stanley Morgan on a 38-yard touchdown pass 23 seconds before the half ended, but then the Patriots did a funny thing. They forgot to play the last 23 seconds. They covered the kick-off in waltz time, and Nathan ran it back 41 yards, and while the Patriots were regrouping, Strock hit Jimmy Cefalo down to the 26. As the whistle sounded, Uwe von Schamann kicked a 43-yard field goal and the Dolphins had an upper to carry them into the dressing room.
"Don't ask me why that happened," Ehrhardt said. "All I know is it made me sick."
It wasn't the only thing that has made him sick in this strange season. Take the Leon Gray trade. To recap: Gray, New England's All-Pro offensive left tackle, went to Houston in mid-August for first-and sixth-round draft choices. All-Pro Left Guard John Hannah echoed most of the sentiment in New England when he said, "We just traded away our Super Bowl." On national TV, Ehrhardt admitted he was against the move.
"I knew that would come up again," Patriot General Manager Bucko Kilroy said the night before the Dolphin game. "Look, before I made the deal, I asked the coaches, 'What do you lose by playing Whimpy Wheeler [No. 4 draft in '78, out with a broken leg last year, still recuperating when the deal was announced] in that spot?' They said, 'Not a thing.' Then later, they turned around."
"That's not true," Ehrhardt said last week. "I wasn't asked, and if I had been, I wouldn't have said that."