Well, all right, who are those guys? Not the ones who have been chasing Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka all season. Not Bob Griese. Everybody knows Bob, the quarterback who chills you to death with brains and an occasional mile-long pass to Paul Warfield. Not Warfield, either. Everybody knows Paul, the third star in Brother Griese's Sensational Miami Dolphin Traveling Offensive Show: Butch (Kiick) Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (Csonka), and Bojangles. Warfield is the one who never touches the ground, who dances around out there and, eventually, looks to heaven and pulls down a Griese touchdown pass behind those poor fools on the other team who think they can cover him forever.
No, what we want to know here is, who is Bob Heinz and what is he doing sitting on Johnny Unitas' chest? And who is Jim Riley and what is he doing clawing at Johnny Unitas' jersey? And who is Jake Scott, and what is he doing breaking into Johnny Unitas' pattern and making off with a pass? With a broken hand, yet. And who is Dick Anderson, and what gave him the idea he could run an interception of a Unitas pass back 62 yards through a field littered with Baltimore Colts to a touchdown?
And who are Mike Kolen and Tim Foley and Manny Fernandez and Curtis Johnson, and...ah, but you've guessed by now, haven't you? Why, of course. They are the names under "Miami defense" in the game program. "The No-Names," says Bill Arnsparger, who coaches them for Don Shula, the Head Dolphin. The elastic-band defense. The one that bends but never—well, seldom—snaps. The one that always gives you enough rope to hang yourself, and then doesn't get any credit for the execution. Arnsparger has a mot for that. "You can accomplish a lot if you don't worry about who gets the credit," he says.
Shula, of course, knows the names, and knows all about credit. Somebody asked him in the days preceding this last fateful showdown—American Conference championship, Super Bowl trip to New Orleans, toughest team on the block—if he would not be willing to concede the 14 points Baltimore got on the Miami defense each of the first two times the teams met during the regular season. Shula's expression hardened briefly into what he calls his "dull sideline look." "I don't think," he said quietly, "that this defense would concede two touchdowns to anybody."
January 10, 1972
Two touchdowns? The Colts got none. Oh, they threatened a couple of times, but Miami just dangled it before them and yanked it away. The tools Baltimore had used to beat the Dolphins at home last month had been taken from them, as surely as if by surgery, and when the realization finally hit it was devastating. With two minutes to play and Miami ahead by the final score of 21-0 and 78,629 Orange Bowl fans gone barmy, Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of the Colts and a man still unable to forgive Shula for leaving his employ two years ago, got up from his seat high in the press box, sucked on a cigarette, shook his good gray head from side to side and slowly turned away.
The Miami defense had done to the proud Colts, the champions of all of football, what no defense had done in 96 games. It had shut them out. It had, in fact, humiliated them, not by bruting them around but by teasing them. Bill Curry, center on four Super Bowl teams, cried when it was over. "I can't believe it," he said. Don Nottingham, the running back, tried vainly to recollect all that he had seen. "They just kept coming at us and coming at us," he said.
How did it happen? Shula had counted the ways in the long hours before the game, even as he was being egged on to resume the old conflict with Rosenbloom. He had, as always, maintained the dignity of silence that often escapes Rosenbloom on that issue. "I have not replied, and I won't," Shula had said. Then he talked about how Baltimore—how Unitas, really, because old John is still the Baltimore offense, and never mind the lines at his eyes and the veins in his legs—had cut the Dolphins into shish kebab in the game at Baltimore with two dawdling touchdown drives, dumping to a halfback here, screening there, never throwing long.
Then, with Arnsparger, Shula had "discarded a few things and added a few things." Nothing dramatic, nothing drastic. But instead of Miami's linebackers flying in all directions to prevent Unitas from throwing over them, they were instructed to stay put more. To be around the Baltimore backs as they came out of the backfield. To anticipate the screens. To play a kind of loose man-to-man, if you will, that would supplement the cloying, deep Miami zone. "For the rest of us," said Cornerback Tim Foley, "it was get back upheld as quickly as you can when you see where the ball is. React. Support."
Meanwhile, the Colts were thinking this way: they had the defense, Miami had the offense. Advantage, Baltimore. The only guy they really seemed concerned about was Nick Buoniconti, the Dolphins' defensive captain and middle linebacker. How well he maneuvers to the sidelines, how often he arrives to plug a hole. There was unanimity among the Colts that they had what it takes to do it all over again; control the ball, control the game. There was an insouciance about them, and their preparation was businesslike.
The thing that worried them most was the Miami heat. They hinted broadly that the heat was what had beaten them there before. They arrived in Tampa five days prior to the game "to get acclimated." They talked, as Miami News Columnist John Crittenden wrote, as if they would need malaria shots and a machete to cut through the jungles of the Orange Bowl on game day. Crittenden suggested they bring umbrellas.
He was right. The game began in a cooling drizzle, with dusk coming on, and ended long after nightfall. And by then some wondrous things had happened. To begin, on Miami's second possession, second and five on the Miami 25, Griese faked a handoff, then quickly set himself to throw. His play action froze Rick Volk, the safetyman on that side. Warfield took off, was bumped in a delaying tactic by Cornerback Rex Kern and then fled past him. Kern tried to recover. Too late. Volk tried to recover. Too late. Griese's spiral arched over the head of the leaping Kern at midfield, and Volk on a motorcycle couldn't have caught Warfield—7-0, Miami.
Now a familiar pattern began to manifest itself. The short passes Unitas had used to beat Miami before were not available to him. Since his backs were covered by linebackers, he had to look elsewhere. There was a crucial hesitation. Instead of releasing in a second and a half, it was sometimes two seconds and three seconds plus, and by then he was being harassed and pressured by Riley, Fernandez, Heinz and Bill Stanfill. Three times they got him outright. There was no need for Miami to blitz. In fact, the Dolphins did not blitz the entire game, which is just as well because Unitas has been known to feed off blitzes.
Worst of all, when Unitas had to throw beyond the short-to-medium range, his passes had no sting. Occasionally he would snap one through—a curl-in to Eddie Hinton, a sideliner to Tom Mitchell. But more than a few times he was off target and his balls fluttered. And Miami defended tenaciously. "Maybe we're nondescript," said Buoniconti, "maybe we don't have any Doomsday guys out there, but we work our butts off."
Their hardest job came midway in the second quarter after Unitas had marched his team 72 yards to the Dolphin nine. The score was still 7-0, and it was fourth and two. Instead of trying a field goal, Unitas sent the doughty Nottingham into the line. For the only time in the game, the Miami tackles slanted down outside instead of pinching, while Buoniconti filled the gap. Nottingham had nowhere to go and came up short. The Colts never got as far again.
It could be said that half of Baltimore's rushing attack was in street clothes—Norm Bulaich, limping on the sidelines, watching Nottingham fill his shoes. Tom Matte, too, was hurt and played only briefly. But Nottingham and another rookie, Don McCauley, performed creditably enough and, in fact, were not embarrassed by the celebrated pair, Kiick and Csonka. Neither running attack was consistent, anyway, so cancel them out. They were not factors.
So it was that the two giants sparred into the third quarter, and by now it was obviously a struggle of will between two strong quarterbacks: Griese, playing it coy, passing hardly at all (he threw only eight times all game), and Unitas, trying to regain control but being tempted more and more into cutting loose. Which he finally did. Disastrously.
For Hinton he aimed, long and too high, and Curtis Johnson got under it, too, and tipped the ball to Anderson. Running first to his right, then to the left across the grain, Anderson picked up block after block from guys who are not paid for that kind of work—Heinz, Scott, Doug Swift and Mike Kolen, the linebackers, and Foley. "I knew who it was I blocked, all right," said Foley. "John Williams. I know because I was excited about getting the chance, since he'd been laying into me pretty good all day." Anderson picked his way through the falling bodies all the way across the Baltimore goal line. And somehow that one deciding play best explained the Miami effort: a cohesion of will and fury, an intensity of purpose, a total involvement.
Now it was 14-0, and ere long Unitas was intercepted again, by Scott this time. After that Griese reached another one out to Warfield, a 50-yarder on a third-and-two call from the Miami 45. After catching the ball, Warfield stopped to let Volk and Charlie Stukes fly by. Then he turned his back on them "to assess the situation." Still facing the wrong way, Warfield planted his right foot, did a three-step juke, circled around the converging Volk and Stukes and took off for 15 more yards to the Colt five, from whence Csonka jammed it across to make the score 21-0.
There is a scene in their favorite movie where Butch Kiick and the Sundance Csonka, making good another breathtaking escape, leap off a high cliff into a puddle of water (well, a small river). "Sheeeeeee," yells the Kid as he hurtles down, having been assured by Butch's argument that his being a nonswimmer is irrelevant because the fall will probably kill him anyway. Butch and the Kid survive a) the fall and b) the swim, and go on to further adventures. Jim Kiick considers it a terrific scene, and very significant.
All good chases must come to an end, but where? For the Dolphins it has already been a magnificent quest, a great chase. "But you see," says Csonka, "there is one more job, in New Orleans. After that? After that a breather."