In any normal season, the Redskins would have two opponents in the Super Bowl: the Miami Dolphins and the two weeks of hype and overkill that usually precede The Game. Because of the 1982 players strike, however, the time for excess pomp has been halved.
"It might make for a better game because you don't have the hype of the two-week layoff, guys lying around," said New York Giants General Manager George Young. "It's good for continuity, like the regular season."
"The two weeks have always been a 'building up' period," said Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams, whose team lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI. "There is such an external force at the Super Bowl. It's unlike any other game. It was too big for us last year, and we got swept away. The players have to rely on an internal hype."
The teams are remarkably similar. The Dolphins led the NFL in defense and the Redskins finished fourth, and both teams have strong secondaries. Miami has 12 interceptions in the playoffs, including three in the conference final by linebacker A.J. Duhe, and have shut down the powerful San Diego and New York Jet offenses the last two weeks. Washington has held its three playoff opponents to a combined total of 31 points.
"Washington just lines up and comes at you. Miami uses Duhe to surprise you," said Tampa Bay center Steve Wilson. "Sometimes he's in back, sometimes he's in a three-point stance. He forces quick adjustments. He's the key to their defense."
"The Dolphins' strength is in their defense," said Dallas Coach Tom Landry. "Washington may not be able to deal with that."
Los Angeles Raiders Coach Tom Flores compares Washington's defense to that of last year's Super Bowl champion, San Francisco. "Everyone marveled at the 49ers' offense last season, but the defense was super and they went through the season without many injuries. Washington has had similar success playing good defense, avoiding injuries to key players and creating turnovers."
Offensively the similarities continue. Both teams rely on big fullbacks and passing offenses that utilize a number of receivers. Ultimately, as in most Super Bowls, this game may come down to the quarterbacks. In the playoffs, Washington's Joe Theismann has completed 43 of 62 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns. Miami's David Woodley, the youngest quarterback (24) ever to start a Super Bowl, has similar numbers: 42 of 62 for 528 yards and four touchdowns, but has thrown four interceptions.
"I think Woodley could get rattled," said Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski. "He will really be under the gun. But (Miami Coach Don) Shula doesn't ask Woodley to do things that aren't within him, and he always has (backup Don) Strock to go to. On the other hand, if Joe plays within himself, he'll be okay."
"Woodley is a lot like Theismann was a few years ago," said Williams. "He has had to look over his shoulder at Strock like Theismann did with (Billy) Kilmer, but he's weathered it well. This game is always a quarterback's battle."
"Theismann is a veteran. He's wise. Woodley is an energetic, do-it-all type," said Minnesota defensive end Doug Martin.
Washington's running game--i.e. John Riggins--may have to continue its playoff success if Washington is to beat Miami. Riggins has gained more than 100 yards in each of the Redskins' three playoffs games and scored three touchdowns.
"John Riggins is the key player for Miami's defense to stop," said NBC commentator Mike Haefner. "They've shut down (New York wide receiver) Wesley Walker and the Chargers' offense, but neither of those teams had a guy who could run off the clock. The NFL (motto) used to be 'use the run to set up the pass.' That has changed today, but Washington does it the old way."
"If you have success on the ground early aginst the Dolphins, you can score some points," said NBC commentator Mike Adamle.
Bob Trumpy of NBC said, "Both teams have very good rushing attacks and very strong defenses. Washington must handle Duhe. They must stay out of crucial second-and-long and third-and-long situations when he's especially effective. Riggins can get good yardage on first down to avoid those situations, and keep Duhe in one spot." But, "I cannot bet against Don Shula."
Many feel the game may be decided by one key play.
"The strangest thing about Super Bowls is that only one (Super Bowl V) has been decided by a field goal," said Young. "In a money game the advantage is with (Washington kicker Mark) Moseley. He's the veteran."
"It looks like a game where a break, a turnover or a big play on special teams could be the determining factor," said Seattle Coach Chuck Knox.
But Landry feels the team that reacts best to the pressure, or the lack of it, will win. "The Redskins are the latest in a long line of young teams that stayed on top for a whole year. We did it in 1966. There was no pressure. Miami has some veterans, and the pressure will be on Shula to win again. But Washington has everything to gain and nothing to lose."