They spent a few final hours yesterday rehashing the joys of beating Dallas, and then the Washington Redskins left for Costa Mesa, Calif., to begin preparing for what is, in many philosophical ways, their look-alike opponent in Super Bowl XVII.
The Miami Dolphins use offensive and defensive schemes that vary considerably from those employed by the Redskins. But the philosophies that govern the Dolphins' schemes reflect much the same thinking utilized by the Washington coaching staff and practiced by the Redskin players.
"I think there are a lot of similarities," said Larry Peccatiello, the Redskins' linebacker coach, before the team's chartered plane left Dulles Airport. The plane was to arrive at Long Beach Airport early Tuesday morning, then the Redskins were to be bused to their hotel in Costa Mesa.
They will have their first meet-the-media session Tuesday morning.
"The most obvious similarity is they protect the football, they try not to give it up, and their turnover ratio is low, just like ours," Peccatiello said. "Like we do, they go into a game with the desire to do a few things very well without making any turnovers."
That is going to be the key word throughout this week: turnovers.
Under normal conditions (no rain or mud), neither team gives up the ball easily. Each uses a ball-control offense that emphasizes careful play selection and dependable ball carriers and receivers who do not fumble. Each defense is built on trying to confuse and befuddle opponents enough to force them into mistakes.
This will not be a Super Bowl between teams fully utilizing the wide-open offenses that characterize pro football in the 1980s. Each has found a different winning formula.
"You have to take all three parts of your team, offense, defense and special teams, in consideration," Peccatiello said. "We both have three strong units. We both rely on the special teams to be solid and to make some big plays. We have offenses that use up the clock, that don't make mistakes and that, if they don't score, give the ball up by punting deep into the other guy's territory.
"That usually means the other team has to go a long way to score. They get no easy touchdowns. And both defenses are geared to make it tough to score. You make offenses work to put together a long drive and sooner or later they probably will crack and make a mistake."
Quarterback Joe Theismann: "You can't be impatient against Miami. They won't let big plays beat them. You need to execute and not get flustered. Mistakes will kill you. What you do is worry about yourself, and do what you do best and make them stop you."
The Redskins have fullback John Riggins; Miami likes to crank up fullback Andra Franklin. Theismann is given more passing freedom, but young David Woodley is allowed to break out of his short passing style enough to keep opponents from forgetting about the long pass.
Miami employs a two-back offense, the Redskins a one-back. But they both rely on drawing special skills from a number of backs. That personnel trait, and the high-percentage play-calling approach adapted by the Redskins midway through last season (both Don Shula specialties), reflect the influence of Dan Henning, who is Washington's assistant head coach and former offensive aide for the Dolphins.
Peccatiello: "The key for us on defense is going to be handling their running game, shutting off Franklin and (Tony) Nathan. We want to force them into long-yardage passing situations, so we can use our various coverages and tactics to try to force mistakes. We can't let them control us with their running game."
Woodley, although playing better late in the season, still is a young quarterback. And the Redskins' multischeme defense, with its combination coverages and blitzes, has given young quarterbacks problems all season.
Miami uses a 3-4 defense, but will rush four men on passing situations. Washington, of course, is one of the NFL's few four-man front defenses, but both teams rarely stay in the same set from down to down and series to series. Miami allowed the fewest yards in the league; Washington the fewest points.
"We're facing a team that has allowed only two touchdowns in the playoffs (and none the last six quarters), a team that is holding teams to 123 yards a game passing and maybe 250 a game overall," Henning said. "You have to accept the fact that plays that once got you 10 or 12 yards might get you only five or six now. They are strong and very aggressive and extremely well coached. All that is a problem, too. We just have to worry about doing our job and not beating ourselves. That's a big key for us."
Redskins' injury update: the most seriously injured player is safety Greg Williams, a special teams star who has a severely pulled hamstring. Mark May (bruised ribs), Monte Coleman (mildly pulled hamstring) and Tony Peters (pulled groin muscle) are not injured badly. Running back Joe Washington aggravated his sore knees, but his status remains unchanged from week to week: he decides on game day how much he can play.