All season long, scenarios have been devised as to how the Chicago Bears might be beaten. Foremost on the list is through the use of the quick-release pass, the very thing Miami's Dan Marino specializes in, in order to take advantage of the Bears' formidable blitz.
Marino will get his chance Monday night (WJLA-TV-7, WJZ-TV-13, 9 o'clock) in the Orange Bowl, the canvas on which the Dolphins painted the National Football League's most recent unbeaten season 13 years ago.
"We've got to go with our strengths, and our strengths are Marino and the passing game, with enough running to keep them honest," Miami Coach Don Shula said after this morning's light workout.
Shula said of Marino's ability to beat the Bears' blitz: "He's got the equipment to do it . . . (Chicago's defense) is very sophisticated. Sometimes, they give you the same look and don't blitz you and you've got everybody in tight with only three receivers."
Miami is 8-4 and needs a victory to tie the New York Jets and New England for first place in the AFC East. History notes that Chicago is 0-8 on the road in Monday night games.
But history doesn't seem to mean anything to these Bears. They are 12-0 and making some history themselves. They have shut out their last two opponents -- Dallas, 44-0, and Atlanta, 36-0 -- and have outscored their last three opponents, 104-3.
The Bears are within 22 points of having scored three times as many points as they have allowed, which is a shocking statistic. They can become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins (17-0) to lead the league in both points scored and fewest points yielded.
Also, running back Walter Payton has tied a league record with seven straight 100-yard rushing games and can move past Earl Campbell and O.J. Simpson in Miami. The club has three safeties this season, one shy of the league mark.
Monday, the Bears can match their club-best 13-0 mark (1942) and, if they win, will be one victory short of the league-record 14-0 start by Miami in its perfect 1972 regular season.
The truth is, the Bears have been so impressive, a new statistic has appeared: Chicago is 2-0 in games in which William (The Refrigerator) Perry has run for at least one yard.
Life's tough at the top, isn't it?
"They've got it all," Shula said.
Not exactly. Once again, Bears quarterback Steve Fuller is expected to start in place of Jim McMahon, who hasn't played in a month because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. McMahon is expected to suit up Monday.
The Miami Herald this week asked fans to make suggestions as to how the Dolphins might beat the Bears. Hijack the Bears' bus, one wrote. Keep Perry in his hotel room and "keep the room service coming so he misses the game," wrote another. Another suggested allowing the 1972 Dolphins to stand on Miami's sideline for inspiration.
Had Marino not turned downright heroic in a 21-17 victory over the Jets three weeks ago, this game would have almost no meaning to Miami. He threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Mark Duper with 41 seconds left to keep the Dolphins' season from falling over the edge.
Marino, 24, threw 48 touchdown passes last season, with 18 interceptions. He has returned to earth this season, however, with his current figures of 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Yet, these numbers must be balanced by the fact that he has played much of the season without Duper (out six weeks with a knee injury) and without several of his offensive linemen, including all-pro guard Ed Newman (out for the season with a knee injury).
And Marino has been remarkably cool in the clutch this season. He has produced some dramatic victories, leading the Dolphins to points on their final drives three different times this year.
The biggest problem for Miami has been its defense, which ranks 26th in the 28-team league. It has forced few turnovers. It is possible the team's two starting defensive ends -- Kim Bokamper and Doug Betters -- may see limited playing time Monday because of injuries.
Not all of the Dolphins' fans are confident Marino will connect with receivers Duper or Mark Clayton (56 catches) enough to beat the Bears.
In a letter to the Herald, one fan suggested: "The first time Marino goes back to pass, he should run out of the open end of the end zone and catch the last few races at Flagler dog track."