The Miami Dolphins, the team with the NFL's best offense and the San Francisco 49ers, the team with the best defense, are going to spend Super Bowl XIX together on Sunday, Jan. 20 in Palo Alto, Calif. Only it won't be a vacation; it will be a war! When San Francisco eliminated Chicago 23-0 last Sunday in the NFC title game, it actually out-defensed the Bears, who came in with the reputation that they could stop anybody. On the same day in Miami, where Pittsburgh got packed into mothballs 45-28 in the AFC final, the Steelers were unable to cope with the four touchdown passes of Dolphins' quarterback Dan Marino.
At this point, it is doubtful if even Dolly Levi could provide a better Super Bowl matchup than Miami vs. San Francisco, which could marry excitement with intrigue in what NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle might regard as a Cleated Cathedral. Those ushers assigned to the collection will insist on $60 donations in the form of tickets. And with 85,000 seats in Stanford Stadium the league is expecting a nice take.
Bill Walsh, the silver fox of pro football who coaches, comforts, and covers all of the 49ers' needs, put in a game plan against the Bears that he would be wise to take to the patent office. On defense, San Francisco was blitzing everybody but Mayor Dianne Feinstein..
Chicago quarterback Steve Fuller was so pressured by Walsh's tactics that he threw only twice to his wide receivers in the first half; was constantly being forced out of the pocket; and twice turned the ball over to San Francisco on interceptions.
Offensively Walsh did some things in a championship game that probably had never been tried before. For example, on Wendell Tyler's third-period touchdown run and two other plays, Bill had reserve guard Guy McIntyre line up in the backfield as a blocker.
McIntyre, who carries 270 pounds on a 6 ft. 3 in. frame and looks even bigger, wiped out his Chicago adversaries on each play. While Walsh's use of wide receiver Freddie Solomon at quarterback for one play produced no gain, it may have placed Pittsburgh in a permanent state of apprehension.
Although Miami's defense yielded 28 points to the Steelers, including three TD passes by Mark Malone, who is not considered that gifted a quarterback, the Dolphins did come up with three important interceptions.
However, nobody has to tell Miami Coach Don Shula, who has already been to the Super Bowl five times (once with the Colts and four times with the Dolphins), that a greater defensive effort will be needed to contain San Francisco.
Those who prefer Miami in the Super Bowl do so almost exclusively on the basis of the Dolphins' All-Everything quarterback Dan Marino, plus wide receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. San Francisco, of course, can counter with an oustanding marksman of its own in Joe Montana, who probably throws on the run better than any other quarterback and who guided the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XVI. Montana was 18 of 34 for 233 yards and one TD against the Bears.
Against Pittsburgh, though, Marino was absolutely sensational, completing 21 of 32 passes for 421 yards and four touchdowns. He could easily have shattered the playoff passing yardage record if Shula hadn't ordered the ground troops into action over the last 11 minutes.
Marino also showed the ability to get his team into the end zone in the twinkling of an eye when, in the second period, he threw for two touchdowns in the space of 90 seconds. But the Dolphins' running game, while usually adequate, will have to do more if Miami is to have any chance of controlling the football.
One thing to remember about Super Bowls is that the teams that get there are never weak defensively. On the other hand, the offenses are more sure-handed than most and aren't likely to give up a cheap score on a turnover.
Although much Super Bowl hype will be devoted to comparing Marino and Montana, the little things that often don't get talked about can also count heavily over 60 minutes.
While nobody likes to see a game this important decided by anything as routine as a field goal from inside the 30-yard line, this situation is very much in the realm of possibility for Super Sunday.
Chicago's Walter Payton, who rushed for 92 yards in 22 carries against San Francisco, never had a better afternoon in terms of extra effort, especially considering the blocking he didn't get from his offensive line. Time and time again, after seemingly being stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage, Payton hammered his way to three- and four-yard gains in nearly impossible situations. Washington Redskins' quarterback Joe Theismann, a participant in the last two Super Bowls, will join play-by-play announcer Frank Gifford in the ABC television booth on Super Sunday. ABC will also use Don Meredith, a regular on the network's Monday night NFL coverage, as a commentator. Squeezed out of the main box is O.J. Simpson, a member of the Monday night crew who has been assigned duty on pre-game, halftime, and post-game shows with Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Thirty-second Super Bowl television commercials are selling for $525,000 a pop, and the game's viewing audience is expected to exceed 100 million. Those in attendance will spend an estimated $2.1 million on food and beverages.
With eight members of the Los Angeles Raiders having been picked to play in this year's Pro Bowl game, you have to wonder why Al Davis's team couldn't get further than the first round of the playoffs. Part of the 1984 problems can be traced to injuries, with only 11 regulars starting all 16 league games. From Miami Coach Don Shula on second-year quarterback Dan Marino: ``I expected he would follow up his first year with steady improvement, but I never expected him to read the seams in defenses the way he has or set a record with 48 touchdown passes.''