|Wednesday, December 4, 2002|
MNF's Greatest Games: Chicago-Miami 1985
By Mike Diegnan
ABC Sports Online
On Nov. 11, the Raiders and Broncos played in the 500th regular season telecast of Monday Night Football. To celebrate, we asked fans to vote for their favorite MNF game. They selected the Jets' comeback over the Dolphins in 2000. The Dolphins were inolved in another classic on Dec. 2, 1985 when they hosted the Chicago Bears in Monday Night Football's highest-rated telecast.
Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, but his mark in league history is undeniable. His complete arsenal was at work when he cracked holes in Buddy Ryan's infamous "46" defense.
Ryan's "46" defense had allowed 10 points or fewer in nine of Chicago's first 12 games and had not allowed a touchdown in 13 quarters when it headed to Miami on Dec. 2, 1985, just four games away from becoming the second team in NFL history to go through a season perfect. The league's most feared team was seemingly getting better each week, outscoring its past three opponents 104-3.
But with the 1972 Dolphins on the sidelines looking for the present team to save their legacy as the league's only perfect team, the media frenzy was wild. A local Miami television station even went to a zoo during the week to interview a dolphin and a bear.
Whether that's how Don Shula and Marino were able to solve the Bears' famed defense or not, the Dolphins were able to put together a game plan that ripped apart the Bears as Miami cruised to a 38-24 victory.
"The beauty of the Chicago game was that it was the big, bad Bears coming to town," recalls former Dolphin wide receiver Nat Moore. "Everybody gave them a chance of going undefeated and winning it all. It was great offense against great defense, and that particular night, great offense won."
While much of the focus during the week leading up to the game was on the Dolphins maintaining the '72 team's place in history, Miami was in a bigger fight. The 8-4 Dolphins were battling with the New York Jets and New England Patriots for the AFC East crown.
"That's the old Dolphins," Moore says. "We were more concerned about the business at hand of trying to continue winning and have the best record in the AFC."
Miami had a plan to do that. Namely, the Dolphins had Marino, the third-year quarterback who could do things that no one else in the league could do. And protected by one of the league's best offensive lines, Miami was in position to attack the Bears.
"Their whole defense was predicated on the quarterback trying to make a throw with a free blitzer in his face 30 yards down the field," Moore says. "They would come up, they would play press corner with (Mike) Richardson and (Leslie) Frazier, and because they would bring eight people, they would always have a free blitzer. To try and make that kind of throw over outstretched arms, I don't care who the quarterback is, and make a perfect throw against a press corner 30 yards down the field, is a very difficult throw. And you aren't going to have great success, especially when you are throwing off your back foot."
But Marino could hold the ball longer than most quarterbacks. And Miami's plan was to exploit the "46" defense by getting the ball to the tight end position with short passes, which would force safety Gary Fencik to cross the field to make the tackle.
"The worst-case scenario if he makes the tackle is that it's a five-yard gain instead of a negative play where you get sacked or throw it incomplete," says the 5-foot-9, 184-pound Moore, who lined up at different positions all night, notably at tight end.
And if Fencik missed the tackle?
That's exactly what happened on the Dolphins' first possession when Marino hit Moore on a crossing pattern, eluded Fencik and raced untouched 33 yards to give the Dolphins an early 7-0 lead.
The Bears struck back with a 69-yard pass from Steve Fuller (starting in place of the injured Jim McMahon) to Willie Gault down to the Miami 11. After a delay of a couple of minutes because of crowd noise, fullback Matt Suhey carried the ball down to the 1 before Fuller snuck in to tie the game (William "The Refrigerator" Perry was in the backfield but had no impact on the play).
Up 10-7 after a Fuad Reveiz field goal, Marino and Moore connected again for a 22-yard play down to the Chicago 18 that set up a Ron Davenport touchdown run to give Miami a 17-7 advantage.
Chicago cut the lead to 17-10 before Marino went to work again. On third-and-12, he hit a wide-open Mark Duper on a crossing pattern for 52 yards. Then on third-and-7, he connected with Mark Clayton for 26 yards down to the Bears 1. Davenport rumbled in for his second score, and the Dolphins led 24-10 with 1:57 left in the half.
|Nat Moore runs into the end zone for one of his two touchdowns.|
The Dolphins weren't done. William Judson blocked the Bears' subsequent punt, giving Miami possession at the Chicago 6. Two plays later, Marino hit Moore for his second touchdown to give the Dolphins a stunning 31-10 halftime lead. The Bears had not allowed 31 points in one half since the 1972 season opener.
The Bears pulled to within 31-17 with 9:25 left in the third quarter. But any momentum they might have gained was lost wicker Kevin Butler muffed the ensuing kickoff, which Dolphins rookie Alex Moyer recovered at the Bears 46.
The Bears' chances of a perfect season then hibernated three plays later when on third-and-6, defensive end Dan Hampton tipped a Marino pass into the air. The ball sailed 30 yards downfield before landing in the hands of a wide-open Clayton, who pranced into the end zone to make it 38-17.
Fuller hit Ken Margerum for a 19-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14, but the Bears couldn't rally further.
The loss proved to be the only blemish in an otherwise dream season for Chicago. The Bears went on to finish the regular season 15-1 and cruise through the postseason in one of the most dominating runs in NFL history. The Bears pummeled the Giants 21-0 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs and then routed the Rams 24-0 in the NFC championship game.
A much-anticipated rematch against the Dolphins in Super Bowl XX was thwarted when the New England Patriots upset Miami 31-14 in the AFC championship game at the Orange Bowl. The Bears then crushed the Patriots 46-10 in the Superdome to earn their first and only Lombardi Trophy.
But on that December night, the Dolphins tasted the champagne as another team's run at perfection ended, and Marino's magic was on display.
Mike Diegnan is the Editor of ABC Sports Online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Buddy Ryan's defense set a new level of dominance in Super Bowl XX, but it couldn't solve Dan Marino and the Dolphins.|
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