Miami receiver Mark Duper had predicted it all along, of course. So when the Dolphins had beaten the Chicago Bears, 38-24, Monday night, Duper said he'd play Elijah the prophet no more.
"I'm getting out of the prediction business," Duper said, "with a perfect record."
At least someone left the Orange Bowl with a perfect record. The Bears sure didn't. They fell to 12-1 -- you suppose 27 other NFL teams might like to fall to 12-1? -- and their safety, Dave Duerson, confessed, "We're human. We're not gods."
The Dolphins (9-4) doused the burning fuse of the Bears defense with some simple ingenuity, which permitted quarterback Dan Marino to throw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The Dolphins pass attack seemed, at times, as unstoppable as it had been during their 14-2 regular-season blast-off last year.
Coach Don Shula said early today, "With Marino, you just stand back and applaud."
Miami's offensive game plan called for Marino to counter Bears blitzes from their "46 defense" with quick releases and short throws underneath the pass coverage. It called for a floating pocket, with the offensive line drifting mostly to the right, to give Marino the chance to escape the Bears' indomitable pass-rushers.
"We wanted to get Marino outside of the pocket occasionally," Shula said of a quarterback known as a classic drop-back passer with limited mobility. "We never go into a game saying, 'We'll roll out 10 times.' But we have it in our package, so defenses can't say 'Marino will always be here,' like they can say, '(San Diego quarterback Dan) Fouts will always be here.' "
The moving pocket allowed Marino time and space to convert several big plays. Miami had phenomenal success on third-and-long passing situations Monday, and the floating pocket helped plenty.
In converting four third-and-long plays during the first half, Marino threw for 130 yards. He needed 18 yards and, with time afforded by the moving pocket, hit Duper for 30. He needed 19, then hit receiver Nat Moore for 22. He needed 13, then hit Duper again, this time for 52. He needed seven, then hit receiver Mark Clayton for 26, to the 1.
"We played a perfect or near-perfect first half," Shula said.
On those plays when the Bears double-covered Miami's mighty mite wideouts -- Duper and Clayton -- Marino was told to seek out the mismatch that pitted Moore, a 34-year-old receiver who considered retirement after last season, against linebacker Wilber Marshall.
Twice, Marino hit Moore for scoring passes. With the Bears blitzing early in the first quarter, Marino hit Moore in the left flat. Moore caught the ball near the Chicago 20, where he put a sly move on safety Gary Fencik, then sprinted in for a 33-yard score.
"And Marino threw that ball right into the teeth of the blitz," Shula said. After Miami blocked a punt and recovered at the Bears 6 late in the first half, Marino again hit Moore, for a six-yard scoring play.
"We went in thinking if we could get crossing patterns and quick stuff, we could do it," Marino said. And Duper said, "Sometimes, the Bears bring everybody (on the blitz), so we figured, 'Get it over the middle -- nobody is there -- and then run 20 yards with the ball.' "
Marino completed 14 passes, all to his receivers. Duper caught five for 107 yards (all in the first half); Clayton caught five for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Moore outdueled Marshall for four catches for 75 yards and the two touchdowns.
The ultimate truth is Miami did not create any new, mind-boggling offensive tactics to face the Bears. Shula admitted the 49ers and Cowboys had tried similar tactics against the Bears earlier this season.
But Marino was able to make things work as few others have. His success was due, in large part, to his ability to bust a blitz.
The Miami success was also due to the fact that Duper is back in the lineup after missing six weeks with a knee injury. Since his return, the Dolphins have won four consecutive games with the passing attack afire.
Miami's productivity slowed in the second half. In fact, the Bears were one bizarre, tipped-pass touchdown from being right back in the game.
The Chicago pass rush sacked Marino three times and Miami offensive linemen were cited for three holding penalties in the game. With the pressure on, Marino completed only five of 12 for 76 yards in the second half.
But just when the Bears had closed to 31-17 with 9:25 left in the third quarter, Marino again wrecked the Bears on third down, this time a third and seven.
Marino's pass from the Chicago 42 was deflected at the line by defensive tackle Dan Hampton and fluttered about 20 yards forward, over the head of leaping cornerback Mike Richardson, and into the arms of Clayton, who turned and finished the 42-yard scoring pass.
It was 38-17 with 8:33 left in the third quarter. Game over. "We needed a break," said Shula, "and we got one."
The Bears defense remarkably had held the opposition scoreless in 30 of 48 quarters during the first three months of the season. Most observers were chilled by the Bears' defensive effectiveness.
Still, Clayton said, "Every time you watched their game films, it gave you chills because (other) teams had them, but just let them off the hook. Green Bay had them, Tampa Bay had them, Detroit."
Shula pointed out that emotion was on his team's side. A victory moved Miami into a three-way tie with New England and the New York Jets for first-place in the AFC East and protected the 1972 Dolphins (17-0) as the only unbeaten team of the modern era. (Chicago had already clinched the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.)
It helps, too, that Miami has a 95-18-1 regular-season record in the Orange Bowl (6-0 this season) since Shula took over in 1970.
Maybe these are the reasons the Miami defense, ranked 26th in the league before the game, played with such inspiration. Several Miami defenders admitted surprise that Chicago running back Walter Payton (121 yards for record-breaking eighth-straight 100-yard game) ran just three times during the first quarter.
Shula admitted surprise that quarterback Jim McMahon didn't start the second half after starter Steve Fuller had been ineffective in the first half. Fuller has replaced McMahon as starter over the past month, while McMahon's injured shoulder heals. McMahon entered with less than 13 minutes to play, when Fuller suffered a sprained ankle, but he was unable to produce points.
It was with the typical Bears machismo that Payton told reporters not to give up hope: "We'll go 15-1."