On Sunday, the sun broke through an overcast sky above Giants Stadium by midmorning, but the wind was biting on the field. It was a day fit for neither man nor Marino, which was fine with the Dolphins. This season's run-pass ratio—49% to 51%—is Miami's most balanced of the Marino era. "We love balance," Shula had said before the season.
The Jets' rookie corners, Tony Stargell and Don Odegard, were exposed early by Marino, who beat them with passes to old reliable wideouts Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. In the first 30 minutes New York completed one pass against a Dolphin cornerback, and the half ended 3-3.
On the first possession of the third quarter, Miami punted from the Jet 41, and Kerry Glenn of the Dolphins knocked the Jets' James Hasty into the path of the punt. The ball hit Hasty on the foot at the Jet 17, and Greg Baty recovered for the Dolphins at the six. Two plays later Marino drilled a four-yard touchdown pass to Paige for a 10-3 Miami lead. Paige, who had 57 receptions in six seasons with the Jets and the Lions, leads the Dolphins with 30 catches, in addition to being their best blocker out of the backfield. Early in the fourth quarter, Marc Logan, who shares the fullback duties with Paige, burrowed the last yard for the touchdown that completed the scoring.
Although Marino's stats aren't as impressive as they have been in seasons past—on Sunday he completed 21 of 36 passes for 192 yards—the Dolphins' new diversity on offense might be making him more of a threat. "He's not having to carry the load by himself by trying to throw the ball up-field," said Jet linebacker Kyle Clifton after the game. "It makes him tougher, because he can pick and choose and put them in the best situation to win."
So, could this be the Year of the Fish? The Dolphins have a slight schedule advantage over Buffalo in the battle for the AFC East title and a possible home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Miami's toughest remaining games are against the Raiders this Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins, while Buffalo still has the Houston Oilers, the Eagles, the Giants and the Redskins. The Bills-Dolphins rematch isn't until Dec. 23—in Buffalo. "We haven't won a bad-weather game since I've been here," says Olivadotti.
Relax, Coach. This year, that might not matter.