Dan Marino had no excuses, and he also had no real answers why the most proficient passing game in the history of the National Football League was so ineffective today in the Super Bowl.

"They just played great defense all around," Marino said 40 minutes after the 49ers left the field with a 38-16 victory over his Miami Dolphins. "They put pressure on us and when our guys came open, I just didn't hit them.

"They dictated to us all day with their four-man line. We didn't get the job done. I didn't make the plays. They played better than any team played against us defensively all year. In a big game, they did what they had to do.

"We wanted to run the ball, and we couldn't do that. They just took us out of our scheme the whole day."

That scheme had been relatively simple in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XIX. All year, the Dolphins would simply play bombs-away offense, throw it deep and throw it often.

Marino threw it often -- 50 passes with 29 completions for 318 yards -- but many of those throws were badly off target, underthrown, or thrown into heavy coverage.

Marino was under heavy pressure most of the day from a four-man line that sacked him four times and put his body in jeopardy countless other times. He also had two interceptions against a defense that held one of his favorite big-play receivers, Mark Duper, to only one catch.

The Dolphins went to a hurry-up offense early in the game, going without a huddle in an effort to keep the 49ers from making their usual massive situation substitutions. But that strategy led San Francisco simply to stay with four rushers, and their pressure was relentless.

When the 49ers finally took the lead in the second period, they began using six and seven defensive backs. Marino was constantly throwing into areas of double coverage, even as he ducked for his life and took numerous whacks after getting rid of the ball.

"Their defense was just outstanding," said Miami Coach Don Shula. "And give Joe Montana all the credit you can give anyone. He scrambled, he made things happen. He kept us off balance the whole game.

"I'm disappointed in the way we played. I don't think we rose to the occasion. But I'm also not going to let it take away the accomplishments of this team."

The Dolphins were not able to accomplish one of their primary defensive goals -- containing Montana, keeping him in the pocket and making certain he did not hustle downfield. Montana merely rushed for 59 yards, a record for a quarterback in this game, and kept the Dolphins shaking their heads all day.

"A lot of time we were in man-to-man coverages downfield," said Dolphins safety Glenn Blackwood. "And when you do that, you just don't see him coming. You're watching your guy, not the quarterback, and I guarantee if you leave your man, he'll make you pay with a pass.

"We just had a lot of problems out there mentally. A lot of missed assignments, missed tackles. Today was just a horrible day."

Cornerback William Judson had the same problem. "It's not the corner's job to contain," he said. "Sometimes it's the defensive end, sometimes it's the linebackers' responsibility. The man just did what he does best, in a very big game.

"We knew what he was going to do, we drilled on it and drilled on it all week and he still did it to us. What does that tell you? It tells me it's a great tribute to that guy and I really tip my hat to him."

There was hardly any finger-pointing in the somber and terribly crowded Miami locker room. Rookie inside linebacker Jay Brophy, who was virtually invisible as San Francisco backs came looping out of the backfield to turn short passes into huge plays, admitted, "They caused quite a bit of confusion out there, definitely.

"We knew what to do about it; we just couldn't do it. None of our 11 players rose to the occasion today. And Joe Montana is one hell of a quarterback. You let him run loose like that and he'll kill you.

"No, I didn't play well today, nobody did."

There was some talk in the dressing room about a might-have-been play, a dreadful officiating call that ruled a pass completion and fumble by 49ers receiver Freddie Solomon was just an incomplete pass.

Replays seemed to indicate that Solomon had caught the ball and fumbled it when he was hit by Lyle Blackwood, who picked up the loose ball and was heading upfield when the whistle blew. The 49ers were leading, 21-10, at that point late in the second period. They kept possession and padded their lead to 28-10 six plays later.

"It could have been a 14-point swing," Lyle Blackwood said. "It was clearly a catch and replays will verify it, I'm sure. Yes, of course it hurt us. It might have turned the game around, but I'm not going to dwell on it. You don't want to depend on one call to decide a football game.

"And when you look at the final score, you kinda get a feeling that whatever happened, it really wouldn't have made that much difference. Joe Montana had a great day; we couldn't stop him. Let's just leave it at that."