The Miami Dolphins are speaking in unison as they prepare to face the Seattle Seahawks Saturday at the Orange Bowl (WRC-TV-4, 12:30). They're talking atonement; they're talking pay-back time. And, of course, they're talking Super Bowl.
Almost a year ago to the day, the Seahawks came in as heavy underdogs and eliminated a flat, listless and fumble-prone Miami team, 27-20, in what wide receiver Mark Duper describes as "something that never should have happened.
"Last year, we were big-time favorites and we took them lightly," Duper said. "This year, we won't do that. You are going to see a very enthusiastic football team."
"We got a lot of guys on this team with a score to settle with themselves," added Mark Clayton, the other half of the devastating passing combination known in south Florida as the Marks Brothers. "It's gonna be a little different story, I do believe."
This is what Coach Don Shula believes: "All you have to do is look at their games against the Raiders and that'll wipe out any placid outlooks."
The odds makers once again are making the AFC East champion Dolphins (14-2) the favorite, this time by 6 1/2 points, over the Seahawks of the AFC West, who went 12-4, losing their last two regular-season games to Kansas City and Denver before eliminating the Raiders, 13-7, last week in the wild card game.
The Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champions mostly by returning to basics, throwing only 10 passes and running the ball on 51 of 61 offensive plays. Seattle Coach Chuck Knox implied that it will be more of the same Saturday.
"I think it will come down to several things," he said. "We have to contain and slow down the Miami offense and we have to be able to move the ball and control it, and also put some points on the board. We can't get in a situation where you just chug, chug, chug along and not score, because of Miami's big-play ability.
"And when we have a chance to make the plays, we must make them. When you have the chance for the interception, you can't let it slip out of your hands. You can't let the quarterback slip out of your grasp. Otherwise, they'll make you pay."
The Seahawks will be facing the strongest passing attack in the history of the NFL. Dan Marino, Miami's second-year quarterback, set league records for touchdown passes (48) and passing yards (5,084) and is far healthier going into Saturday's game than he was a year ago, when he was playing on a sore knee that forced him to miss the Dolphins' last two regular-season games.
This season, Marino has two game-breaking receivers with the addition of Clayton to the starting lineup. Clayton caught 73 passes and averaged 19 yards a catch, setting a league record with 18 touchdown catches; Duper caught 71 for an 18.4 average and eight touchdowns. Marino also gets wonderful protection from an offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked 14 times, best in the league.
"Marino has been just unreal," Knox said. "I don't think you can stop him. Nobody else has done it, and I don't know how we could. We just hope to slow him down a little."
The Seahawks are much improved defensively this season, using a 3-4 alignment that had 63 takeaways, the second-highest total in league history behind the Chargers' 66 in 1961, and 55 quarterback sacks. Seattle also led the NFL in interceptions, with 38, including 10 by strong safety Ken Easley, the AFC's defensive player of the year.
"They have a pretty tough secondary and I give them a lot of credit," Clayton said. "But how can you say they are that good if nobody really challenges them? They've never seen what we've got, and they are definitely going to be challenged on Saturday."
The Seahawks will do a bit of challenging themselves on offense. They also have improved from a year ago, even after they lost their best running back, Curt Warner, with a season-ending knee injury early in the first game. A year ago, Warner gained 1,449 yards and Seattle has replaced him with several nobodies and never-will-bes.
Last week, the Raiders made Dan Doornink look like an all-pro, allowing him to run for 126 yards as the Seahawks played ball control. Doornink, a medical student in the offseason who does not take himself too seriously, admitted, "I'm slow, but I make up for it by having no moves."
Quarterback Dave Krieg, a former free agent from now nonexistent Milton College in Wisconsin, had an excellent season, finishing fourth in the AFC's quarterback ratings. He completed 57 percent of his passes, 32 of them for touchdowns, and was his team's fifth-leading rusher, with 186 yards on 46 scramble-carries. He aimed primarily for ninth-year receiver Steve Largent, who had 74 receptions, although he had a streak of 110 straight games with at least one reception ended last week against the Raiders.
The Seahawks must move the ball against a defense that started the season splendidly, allowing just 13.4 points a game in the first nine games before a late-season slump in which it yielded an average of 25 points over six games.
"There's no question we've struggled defensively this year," Shula said. "But in our last game against the Cowboys, we played the most aggressive defense we've played in a long time. I'm just hoping we can keep it going."