SUPER BOWL XIX RUNNER UP 1984 MIAMI DOLPHINS

Man, the Dolphins of 1984 were ridiculous in winning the AFC Championship 45-28, with a record 4 TD passes over the Pittsburgh Steelers and now it’s on to Super Bowl XIX…Dan Marino, The Marks Bros. would make it to many more Super Bowls…wouldn’t they?

19.3Talk about a whirlwind ride, easily the greatest offensive ride a team has ever gone on.  When Dan Marino threw for 5,084 yards (record) and a record 48 TDs in 1984 he broke the old record of 36, last done in 1963.  That’s the equivalent of someone breaking LaDanian Tomlinson’s 31TD record and going for 42!!  Shatter isn’t the word.

After replacing the late David Woodley in mid 1983, Marino made the Pro Bowl w / 20 TDs and the future looked bright.  However in his 1st full season as a starter he blew past expectations and beneficiary of all this passing were receivers Mark Duper, Jimmy Cefalo, and Mark Clayton who set the receiving TD record at 18.  They scored 70TDs (record) as an offense and what is ironic is how anemic this offense was just 2 years before in Super Bowl XVII when they could only complete ONE pass in the second half in losing to the Redskins.

They masked a defense that was in decline…the Killer B’s were quickly losing their sting and points were pouring in on the Dolphins.  They were not a heavy defense and were wearing down from pounding and age.  A.J. Duhe, Kim Bokamper, Doug Betters, and Bob Baumhower weren’t as stout as they had been a few years before. They did lose a good linebacker when Larry Gordon passed away while jogging in the offseason.  Jay Brophy had been drafted to help shore things up but was just learning the pro game at this point.. The defense had been comprised of the same personnel primarily from 1979-1984. The Dolphins were due to rebuild however the emergence of Dan Marino allowed this team another shot at a title.

Going into the 1984 season, the Dolphins hadn’t recovered from the death of David Overstreet at running back yet. Tony Nathan was a good pass catcher out of the backfield. Marino, Mark Duper, and Mark Clayton kept the rhythm they gained from playing on the Dolphins scout team early in 1983 and unleashed it on an unsuspecting league.

sbxix45The season began in Washington where the Dolphins in a rematch of Super Bowl XVII some year and a half earlier. Where they could only complete 1 pass in the second half of that game, Dan Marino scorched the Redskins for 5 TDs and 370 yards. One of the best defenses in football was embarrassed at home. There was no way for him to keep with that pace.

Another notable game was a game in November v. the defending champion Raiders with cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Hall of Famer Mark Haynes.  You remember them right? Totally shut down the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, surely they would slow him down…uh…they didn’t. Marino threw for 470 yds and another 4 TDs which included his record breaking 37th of the season to Jimmy Cefalo.  He bookended his record setting season on a Monday night, where he threw for 3TDs in eliminating Dallas from the playoffs for the first time since 1976. The last second 70 yd touchdown to Mark Clayton gave him his 18th TD reception on the season breaking the record of Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch from 1951.

They were able to easily outscore their competition in marching to an 11-0 start, finishing 14-2.  When you include the playoffs, Dan Marino threw for 57TDs! Yikes! Started with a blowout of the Seahawks in a playoff rematch where he threw for 4 more TDs then the 4TDs against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. That broke George Blanda’s AFL Championship Game record of 3 from 1963. Yet here they were, AFC Champions for the 5th time, heading to Palo Alto for the Super Bowl what could go wrong??  The 49ers were prepared to pressure the receivers and had the secondary to play with them and triumphed 38-16.

super-bowl-logo-1984Let’s look at the all time touchdown record a second…Brady had 50 touchdown passes, Peyton Manning 49, and Marino 48.  Brady set the record in his 8th season with the 3 time champion Patriots marching to a 4th Super Bowl appearance.  Peyton Manning had set it in his 7th.  Both were veterans that had been in systems for years where Marino was in his first full season as a starter. Brady and Manning had players drafted that fit what they did where Dan came up with the 3rd string receivers and they all became stars.

In Manning’s case he had Marvin Harrison who set the record for receptions in a season at 143 the year before, a Hall of Fame talent.  Brady had future Hall of Famer Randy Moss to throw to. To break Marino’s record as strongly as he blew by the old one, Brady would have had to have thrown 64TDs.  I still hold Marino’s season WAY higher than those others it was more spectacular and impactful.

However here is the ring for Don Shula and the Dolphin’s 5th AFC Championship…what a magnificent run.

Another look back…

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SUPER BOWL XVII RUNNER UP 1982 MIAMI DOLPHINS

Riggo and Riggonomics powered the Redskins to the Super Bowl XVII title with a 27-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl.  For winning the AFC Championship of 1982, this is the ring the Dolphins received.

xvii4In an era where the Dolphins were known as “Wood-Strock”, for the penchant of playing veteran backup Don Strock for starter David Woodley, I found it ironic that Coach Shula didn’t pull the trigger and put Strock in during the second half of Super Bowl XVII.  The Dolphins offense could only complete one pass along with an interception over the final 30 minutes of that ball game.

Starting with the Colts famous loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III, Coach Shula didn’t replace a struggling Earl Morrall with Johnny Unitas.  It was voiced by some (including Unitas) had he started the second half they could have won the ball game.  Apparently that stuck with Shula because if you remember the ’72 Dolphins, in the AFC Championship, undefeated and playing with backup Earl Morrall (yup that same guy) were having problems on offense. Then at halftime, he made the switch back to Bob Griese at quarterback.  ‘

82afcringHe had the same penchant as he was developing David Woodley in the early 80s. Remember the “Epic In Miami” the year before? Shula pulled Woodley in the second quarter when the Chargers built a 24-0 lead. Why did he not pull the trigger in Super Bowl XVII?

In fact the Dolphins defense was in its prime and wanted to make amends for that 41-38 playoff loss to the Chargers. They came through the 1982 strike shortened season as a top flight defense earning the nickname “the Killer B’s” ranking #1 in the league.

As fate would have it the Dolphins hosted San Diego again in the playoffs. The Chargers had just ended Terry Bradshaw’s career with a playoff win in Pittsburgh.  Miami won easily 34-13. This game was the catalyst in turning the tide in moving Miami into the conference’s elite while the “Air Coryell” run ended that day. The Chargers wouldn’t return to the playoffs the rest of the decade where Miami was on the rise. Appearing in 3 AFC title games over the next 4 years, the first being the ’82 AFC Championship.

That game was played in a torrential downpour in the Orange Bowl.  In the mud “the Killer B’s” shut out Richard Todd, Freeman McNeil and the high powered Jets offense 14-0.  A.J. Duhe had a career game with an AFC Championship record 3 interceptions, returning the last for the decisive touchdown.

Although the Dolphins offense started off well in the Super Bowl, they were wasting a good performance by the “Killer B’s”.  It took the famous Riggins 43 yd touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the game to take a 20-17 lead.  They also came within inches of a deflected Kim Bokamper interception for a touchdown that would have strategically put the Dolphins in position to win the game minutes before.

superbowlxviiThe Redskins possessed the football for nearly 20 minutes in the second half.  Woodley only completed 1 pass in the second half.  Maybe Shula felt they didn’t have enough time with the football to turn it over to Don Strock.  Hindsight is 20/20 but wasn’t the reason Coach Shula replaced Woodley back in the San Diego game based on his ability to throw the ball and get hot in a hurry? I’m still puzzled by Shula not making the switch.

Well maybe Don Shula saved his best quarterback replacement job for last.  After this anemic offensive performance in the Super Bowl he drafted Dan Marino a few months later.  Maybe Don Shula knew what he was doing.

SUPER BOWL IX CHAMPION 1974 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The first NFL championship in 42 years where the game ball was given to Steeler patriarch, the late Art Rooney. It had been a long time coming for all the decades of despair this team had been through. From the war time merging with the Philadelphia Eagles to form the “Steagles”. To the failed ability to recognize quarterback talent by cutting future Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas. Nothing good had happened for this organization for decades.

Enter Chuck Noll.

superbowlixNoll was hired to be the Head Coach after serving under Don Shula’s Baltimore Colts regime in 1969. His last game with the organization was the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. By then Noll was defensive coordinator after serving for years as a defensive line coach, most notably with the early 60’s San Diego Chargers in the AFL.

They say the player is the father to the coach a man becomes and Noll had been a lineman in his playing days. So instead of building his team first with a quarterback or featured runner, he drafted defensive tackle Joe Greene. He would build his defensive masterpiece from the ground up. A point often forgotten is the selection of LC Greenwood in the 10th round that same year.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

A closer look at the front of the ring.

In 1970, quarterback Terry Bradshaw was selected as the #1 overall pick. They finally had their quarterback of the future but the chief building block was Noll’s defense and in particular his defensive line. Five years later they were the best in pro football and came to be known as “The Steel Curtain”

Of course the Steelers had the great class of 1974 to put the finishing touch on what would become a football dynasty. However a look back and you can truly see how Pittsburgh’s first NFL championship had AFL roots.

If the AFL hadn’t been around to offer Chuck Noll his first coaching job at the professional level in 1960, would he have been in place to take the Steelers job in 1969?? Also look at the make up of the Steeler team from a draft and racial standpoint. Mining talent from historically black colleges and smaller schools was an AFL trait, not an NFL one. What Noll did in Pittsburgh was recreate the San Diego defensive line of the early 1960s he wasn’t allowed to in Baltimore.Steel_Curtain_Time_Magazine

  • Joe Greene – North Texas St.
  • LC Greenwood – Arkansas AM & N
  • Ernie Holmes – Texas Southern
  • Dwight White – East Texas State

So think of Joe Greene as a latter day Earl Faison or Ernie Ladd who had come from Grambling. By the time we include the late quarterback “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam from Tennessee State, Mel Blount from Southern, and John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, this team resembles the 1965 San Diego Chargers or 1969 Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL more than it did the 1968 Baltimore Colts.

super-bowl-logo-1974Many former players have talked about the racial quota that existed in the NFL back when. Well along with Vince Lombardi and Hank Stram, Chuck Noll broke that system for good and let talent flourish. First the Steelers took $1 million to move in with the AFL teams to form the AFC in 1970 with the league merger. Than Chuck Noll built the best AFL team he could through the draft

In doing so he brought Pittsburgh a championship it so desperately sought. It would not be the last.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

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This bauble was what each player and coach received after their 16-6 win vs the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

SUPER BOWL VIII CHAMPION 1973 MIAMI DOLPHINS

The NFL’s first dynasty after Vince Lombardi’s Packers was Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. The only dynasty we never got to see reach its conclusion on the field. After compiling a 32-2 record including two Super Bowls, RBs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and WR Paul Warfield signed contracts with the rogue WFL. It brought the end to an era where Shula’s ground game and “No Name Defense” ruled the NFL.

super bowl viiiThe most dominant team of 1972 & 1973 would be broken up losing two Hall of Famers in Csonka and Warfield. However their WFL contracts wouldn’t take effect until 1975 meaning the team would be intact for one final season.

The heartbeat of the Dolphin dynasty was its ground game. In the perfect season of ’72, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first backfield tandem to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. They nearly repeated that feat in ’73 when Morris rushed for 954 to Csonka’s 1,003.

With the team being broken up an inevitability thanks to the WFL signings, Miami had a threepeat in their sight in ’74. After an 11-3 record there was a feeling the Dolphins were vulnerable. Six of their wins were by 7 points or less. Where in ’73, all 12 wins they won by more than a touchdown. The wear and tear of upholding that championship mantle had brought them back to the pack.

super-bowl-logo-1973Their first playoff game would be in Oakland against the revenge minded Raiders. Although Miami defeated them in the AFC Championship Game at home in ’73, the Raiders beat them in the regular season in Berkeley. That win halted the Dolphins 18 game winning streak which was an NFL record at the time. So into the Oakland Coliseum they went…

The game became known as “The Sea of Hands” one of the most famous games in NFL history. The Dolphin dynasty came to an end with Kiick, Warfield, and Csonka jumping to the new league the following season. No one knew Don Shula would go on to be the winningest coach in NFL history. Even more surprising, he would coach through the 1995 season and would not win another Super Bowl.

For the coach on the losing end of Super Bowl III, to the coach who drove his team to the NFL’s only undefeated season, to the man that led his team to 3 of the next 5 title games, culminating with this ring. The second NFL championship ring that crowned a dynasty. Don Shula had taken his place among the greatest coaches in NFL history.

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Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History: Honorable Mention

When Malcolm Smith crossed the goal line to put Seattle up 22-0 in last February’s Super Bowl, pundits were already arguing where they ranked among the NFL’s greatest defenses. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we wanted to let some time pass before we waxed too philosophical about their exploits. As the keeper of the flame, it’s up to The Chancellor of Football to accurately place each great defense. We will do this in 3 parts.

Smith's 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game.

Smith’s 69 yard interception in Super Bowl XLVIII ended the competitive phase of the game and trumpeted the question: Where would you rank Seattle’s defense with  the all-time greats??

One of the criteria for greatest ever defenses you have to ask is: How dominant were they at their peak? They had to bring the lumber over an entire season. These defenses had to be stout with a performance that stands the test of time in remembrance. Without further adieu we have to get on with the Honorable Mention. Those right outside the top ten.

1977 Denver Broncos – The original Orange Crush defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII and Denver’s first ever winning season. This was the first great full time 3-4 defense that yielded only 148 points (10.6 pts / game) and just 18 touchdowns for the season. Holding 7 of their opponents to 10 points or less.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Even with an offense that turned it over 8 times, the still held Dallas to 27 points in Super Bowl XII.

Led by Randy Gradishar, ESPN’s Tom Jackson, and the late Lyle Alzado this defense had an unheard of 4 All Pros concentrated on this defense and 5 Pro Bowlers. This not ready for primetime group came out of nowhere and swallowed the Steelers and Raiders in the playoffs before falling to Dallas in New Orleans in Super Bowl XII. This group swarmed like bees and ushered in the era where 3-4 defenses took over the NFL.

1978 Pittsburgh Steelers – In the first year in which the NFL moved to a 16 game schedule, this group set the new record with fewest points allowed in a season with 195. Powered by the Steel Curtain, they held 8 of 16 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This group did more blitzing than in years past to get to the quarterback. They did have 5 Pro Bowl defenders and 1 All Pro in Jack Ham, but there were stronger incarnations of the Steeler defense.

A fact that gets lost is going into Super Bowl XIII, the consensus was Pittsburgh force vs the finesse Cowboys. Yet it was Dallas whose defense was ranked #2 and Pittsburgh’s #3, For the season they yielded 260.5 yards per game, unofficially had 52 sacks and 27 interceptions which ranked 7th. They peaked in the playoffs holding both Denver and Houston to 10 points and 5 points respectively. Yet gave up some serious candy to the Dallas offense (320 yards & 31 points)

1968 Baltimore Colts – The team that is best known for coming up short in Super Bowl III against the AFL’s New York Jets. In The Chancellor of Football’s estimation, this was the best team that Don Shula ever coached and one of his defensive assistants was the late Chuck Noll. This defense held 10 of 14 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. At one point late in the season, they gave up 1 touchdown over 25 quarters including a string of 16 straight quarters w/out a touchdown allowed.

md-darkroom-hutchins-curtisThe Colts of ’68 shut out 3 regular season opponents and the fourth was against the Browns who gave the 13-1 team their only loss. That drubbing was avenged 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. They even set the record with only 144 points allowed. Between 1967 & 1968 their record was 24-4-2. If only this team had won on January 12th 1969…..but….

2000 Tennessee Titans – Lost in the delirium over the great 2000 Ravens defense, is the fact they finished #2 to the Titans that year in rankings. Jeff Fisher’s bunch only allowed 238.9 yards per game and held 6 opponents to 10 points or less over the campaign.

Second year DE Jevon Kearse led the team with 11.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Samri Rolle had 7 interceptions he returned for 140 yards and a touchdown. SS Blaine Bishop had 84 tackles to go with 2.5 sacks but 0 interceptions. All three were Pro Bowlers but only Samari was an All Pro Player. One issue is they didn’t force enough turnovers (29) and they finished just +1 in turnover ratio. These are poor marks considering they only saw 1 Pro Bowl quarterback the entire season. Yet they were #1 against the pass (151 yds /gm) and #3 against the run (86 yds /gm).

1987 San Francisco 49ers – One of the last teams to finish with the NFL’s #1 offense and defense happened with this group in 1987. They were gaining momentum allowing only 1 touchdown in the final 16 quarters of the season and none in the final 12 as the playoffs beckoned. They held 5 opponents to 10 or fewer points including two shutouts in their final three games. One of which was a 41-0 hammering of the NFC Central Champion Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. 

Led by All Pro and Pro Bowler Ronnie Lott (5 ints) this group was #1 against the pass (165 yds /gm) while only yielding 273 yards for the game. What makes this more remarkable are 3 games were played with replacement players due to the strike. Had the season been 16 games instead of 15 and no strike, these numbers could have been even better. They were also #5 against the run (107.4 yds / gm) thanks to All Pro and Pro Bowl Nose Tackle Michael Carter.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the '86 playoffs.

Jim Burt knocking Joe Montana out with a concussion in their 49-3 rout in the ’86 playoffs.

1986 New York Giants – A romanticized defense that knocked 5 quarterbacks out on their way to the Super Bowl XXI championship. Yet they were #2 in 1986 and allowed 39 more yards per game than the #1 Chicago Bears with 297.3 yards per game. Second biggest discrepancy between #1 and #2 since 1970.

Led by League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor’s 20 sacks, New York held 5 teams to 10 points or fewer during the regular season. They held their 2 NFC playoff opponents to 3 & 0 points respectively. There were 4 Pro Bowl defenders on this defense in LB Harry Carson, NT Jim Burt, DE Leonard Marshall, and the aforementioned LT.

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers – Close but no cigar. This team finished with the #1 ranking allowing just 237.2 yards per game. They held 8 opponents to 10 or fewer points yet gave up 223 for the season. One mark against them is they only faced 2 Pro Bowl QBs and lost both games. Losing 24-20 to Peyton’s Colts and 21-14 against Eli’s Giants. This was also the year they beat the Patriots 33-10 with Matt Cassel at QB not an injured Tom Brady. Big difference. This group had 51 sacks but only 20 interceptions. The last time we saw them, Kurt Warner passed for 377 yards, 2nd highest in Super Bowl history, and needed Big Ben to bail them out with a game winning pass with :32 left.

This group did have NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and Pro Bowl SS Troy Palamalu who would win the award 2 years later. Harrison had 16 sacks with 7 forced fumbles. James Farrior (122 tackles) was the 3rd and final Pro Bowler on a talented roster which included LaMarr Woodley (11 sacks).  They were a world champion but this group didn’t perform high enough against the best competition. The top ten is a Sugar Ray Leonard’s list, the honorable mention is where Thomas Hearns resides.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

Dwight Smith capped off Super Bowl XXXVII with 2 defensive touchdowns. Should have been the MVP.

2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The final team to miss the call to the top ten was the 2002 Buccaneers. The undisputed #1 defense that year. However playing in the new NFC South they feasted on patsies. On 3 occasions they took on top 10 offenses and they lost two of those games to Philadelphia (10th) and Pittsburgh (5th).

This team yielded 252.8 yards per game had 43 sacks and 31 interceptions which ranked 6th and 1st respectively. This team only gave up 196 points while holding 9 regular season opponents to 10 or fewer points. However a closer look reveals they came against offenses ranked 26th, 18th, 14th, 23rd, 31st, 31st, 12th, 14th, and 29th. Chris Redman (who??) quarterbacked the Ravens who was the first in this group. While NFL journeyman Jim Miller led the Bears in the last game.

This team fielded 5 Pro Bowl players in NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles, Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks), and S John Lynch. This group scored on defense. Brooks tied the NFL record with 4 defensive touchdowns and CB Dwight Smith set a Super Bowl record with 2 interception returns for touchdowns. Their numbers and performance should get them in until you look at the competition. Someone reading this is going to describe how they throttled the #1 Raider offense in the Super Bowl. Yet how much do you attribute to Monte Kiffin’s defense or Jon Gruden knowing the Raider offense and personnel??

Thanks for reading and now its time for the top 10.

The Immaculate Reception Encore: 1972 AFC Championship Game

One of the unique themes in NFL history is whenever a team has a famous miracle playoff win, those teams rarely win the Super Bowl. Well even the NFL championship for that matter when you think back to Detroit’s 31-27 win over San Francisco in the 1957 playoffs. In that game the 49ers were up 24-7 in the 3rd quarter only to lose to a series of backups for the Lions. It was the only instance where a miracle playoff win would culminate with a league championship. Fast forward to The Immaculate Reception and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 playoffs.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the '72 AFC Championship Game.

The No Name Defense stopping Franco Harris in the ’72 AFC Championship Game.

After winning their first ever playoff game over the Oakland Raiders, most people forget they ran smack into the undefeated Miami Dolphins. As far as the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were playing with house money. They were one game away from the Super Bowl and were able to host the championship game since it was rotated by division back then.

Pete Rozelle didn’t institute home field advantage until 1978. He did it as a means to reward not only the team with the best record. He wanted to insure teams would play all the way through their schedule and not take the final weeks off. Yet in ’72, the 14-0 Miami Dolphins traveled to the 11-3 steel city to take on Franco’s Italian Army for the right to go to Super Bowl VII.

It was the first of only three times Don Shula and Miami would meet Chuck Noll’s Steelers in the playoffs during their coaching careers. Noll had served on Shula’s staff in Baltimore and had ties dating back to the Cleveland Browns of the 1950’s where they were both players.

Ironically the case remains. Why is it when a team should be riding an emotional lift like a miracle finish in the playoffs, they don’t win it all?? It’s easy to say they let down but would it be more that they’re an incomplete team that gets exposed as competition gets better?? The ’72 Steelers (Immaculate Reception) the ’72 Cowboys (Roger’s 1st comeback) the ’75 Cowboys (Hail Mary) ’80 Cowboys (Duel In Dixie) ’86 Denver Broncos (The Drive) ’99 Tennessee Titans (Homerun Throwback) all fell short of winning it all….. The lone exception would be the 1981 San Francisco 49ers with The Catch. 

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

Chuck Noll would obviously make his mark, embarking on one of the greatest runs in history. Over the next 7 seasons, his team made the playoffs every year with their winning a Super Bowl in 4 of those seasons. We lost another legend with Noll’s passing Friday night. This article is dedicated to the Hall of Fame coach…