On January 20, 1985 in Super Bowl XIX, Joe Montana bested Dan Marino in Stanford Stadium 38-16, or rather the 49ers over the Dolphins.  We had been told the aerial circus came to town with Dan Marino and his 48 TDs during the regular season, and 57 when you add the playoff stats to his totals.  Remember the hype of how it should be a shootout??  A can’t miss aerial show!!  The Marks Brothers: Duper and Clayton!  Mark Clayton had set the record with 18 receiving touchdowns as the Dolphins scored a record 70 touchdowns in 1984.  A young strapping quarterback with a rocket arm at the height of his power. Who could stop them??

xixringEnter the 1984 San Francisco 49ers.  A team motivated by the ’83 NFC Championship debacle against the Washington Redskins in a 24-21 loss. A game marred by a controversial pass interference and defensive holding call that prolonged the final drive where the Redskins milked the clock and made their game winning kick.  This thwarted one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL where the highest scoring team ever (83 Redskins: 541 points), jumped to a 21-0 lead and were about to easily advance to Super Bowl XVIII.

Yet the secondary of Eric Wright, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, and Carlton Williamson shut down the explosive Redskins after that allowing Joe Montana to bring his team back.

In a frantic 4th quarter Joe Montana, who had been shut down all game long, went white hot and completed 3TDs in the quarter to tie the game at 21. The 49ers had all the momentum, their sideline was going nuts and RFK Stadium, home of the famous “We Want Dallas” chant, was so quiet you could hear vendors selling popcorn.

Then a questionable pass interference call against Eric Wright going up the sideline, where incidental contact at best would have been a more accurate call.  A few plays later Ronnie Lott was called for defensive holding…which was the first time I ever saw someone get called for holding with his arms down to his side!!  All that could be talked about in the Niner’s locker room after the ’83 Championship was the frustration that the officiating decided the game and not the players.  So they were on a mission to win it all in 1984.

The 49ers became the first team to go through the season 15-1 in the regular season.  How strong was this team?  The only loss during the campaign was a 20-17 loss to Pittsburgh who made it to the AFC Championship that season.  Fair to say Pittsburgh was strong?  Thought so… Well led by their secondary which placed ALL 4 members in the Pro Bowl.  This team was definitely prepared to take on the pass-happy Dolphins who defeated the Steelers to meet them in Super Bowl XIX.

George Seifert put the defense in a 4-1-6 defense and Fred Dean, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, and Duane Board (2 sacks) produced the pass rush that got to Marino by first smothering his receivers.  Many of these Dime defense principles Bill Belichick used with the Giants in stopping the 1990 Bills in Super Bowl XXV and for the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.  George Seifert didn’t get enough credit for coming up with a defense that produced upsets against high powered offenses in future Super Bowls.

19 joeOne of the most demoralizing things that a defense can do is intercept a team in the endzone negating a long drive which the 49ers did twice in both the 3rd and 4th quarters of Super Bowl XIX.  This was a signature game for one of the best secondaries ever.  They were built specifically to take on an explosive passing attack and nearly took out two of the greatest offenses of all time. The refs interfered with one in 1983 but they wouldn’t be denied in Palo Alto.

However with Joe Montana throwing for a then record 331 yards and most yards rushing for a QB in a Super Bowl with 59 yards the defense was overshadowed.  Roger Craig scored 3 touchdowns in the game.  The “other” offense set another record with 537 total yards in the contest.

Wow…Dan Marino was only in his second year…he’d return to the Super Bowl in the near future…right?

Don’t take any chances for granted, there are no guarantees that you’ll get back…

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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 breaking up an inevitability, Miami had a threepeat in their sight in ’74. After an 11-3 record there was a feeling the Dolphins were vulnerable. Several defensive starters were out due to injury. Six of their wins were by 7 points or less. Where in ’73, all 12 wins were by more than a touchdown. The wear and tear of upholding that championship mantle had brought them back to the pack.

super-bowl-logo-1973The divisional 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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Undefeated season…17-0 and a win in Super Bowl VII 14-7 over the Washington Redskins and still regarded by many as the best team of all time.  They have the argument in their favor…1 season everyone vanquished…no one else can make that claim.

superbowlviiYet going into Super Bowl VII the Dolphins were a 3 pt underdog. Why? George Allen was completing a rebuilding with old veterans and hadn’t won any big games as a head coach. His Rams couldn’t leapfrog the Packers in the western conference in 1967. He was the Defensive Coordinator for George Halas’ last champion in 1963, but how does that rate better than Shula’s club who had just gone to the Super Bowl a year before?

Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris (both 1,000yd rushers), Kiick ran solidly and Manny Fernandez dominated the Super Bowl from his defensive tackle spot. Back in 1989 NFL Films came up with a fictitious playoff of the greatest teams ever and the last game was the ’72 Dolphins v. the ’78 Steelers. Could the 72 Dolphins handle the ’78 Steelers? Would Terry Bradshaw outsmart Jake Scott or Dick Anderson?  After further review, The Chancellor doesn’t think so.

super-bowl-logo-1972Under the same systems in 1973 when the Steelers played Miami, S Dick Anderson picked off the Steelers 4 times returning them for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the signature game of a Defensive Player of the Year campaign for Anderson. The No Name Defense was rarely out of position and would make even a more mature Bradshaw make some mistakes. In Super Bowl VII, Jake Scott fooled veteran Billy Kilmer into 2 ints as he went on to become the MVP.

During the 1972 season, they were masterful with 3 shutouts and allowing 10 points or less in 6 games.

visideThe 78 Steelers were giving up some candy to running games and I think the Dolphins would move the ball on them. They gave up 192 yards rushing to the Rams, 181 to Kansas City, 169 to Houston and 155 to the New York Jets. So to think 2 – 1,000 yard rushers would be able to run on the Steel Curtain isn’t far fetched. Csonka was a Hall of Famer.

I think the 72 Dolphins would beat them. Bob Griese wouldn’t turn the ball over either.  By the way in 1973 Pittsburgh was a playoff team and to make it to Super Bowl VII a season prior, Miami beat Pittsburgh in Three Rivers to get to the Super Bowl.  Don’t look now but Miami doesn’t get the respect their due. Are there stronger teams…its debatable…but I think they would handle Pittsburgh in a mythical match-up.

Further evidence to this would be the ’72 AFC Championship game where the Dolphins had to win in Pittsburgh to make it to Super Bowl VII. Or in court terms – Exhibit A:

By the way, I used the 78 Steelers instead of the 79 Steelers because in 1979 the Steelers led the NFL with 52 turnovers. That team doesn’t beat the mistake proof 72 Dolphins. No way.