Some of the New England Patriots fancy it as "Raymond's Special." It is a very simple fumble-recovery drill that the team began practicing six months ago at training camp in Rhode Island and now will continue for at least 13 more days, until Super Bowl XX.
The drill was begun by Coach Raymond Berry. He is the Hall of Fame receiver who, as a player, used to instruct quarterbacks to rocket passes over his head or at his feet in practice, just so he would be ready for everything when it counted.
"We do the drill right before the water break," said Greg Hawthorne, a Patriots special teamer. "Everybody on the team -- even the quarterbacks -- takes two. The first one you have to pick it up and run with it and the other one you're supposed to just fall on."
And you thought it was just dumb luck that the Patriots forced six turnovers, including four fumble recoveries, in that 31-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins for the AFC title Sunday at the Orange Bowl?
You thought it was dumb luck that the Patriots have recovered nine of their opponents' 13 fumbles in three postseason games, or that in 15 consecutive games they have forced more turnovers than they have committed, or that they have forced at least two turnovers in each of their last 16 games?
Recovering fumbles is more than a trend for the Patriots; it is an expectation. How about this: They have recovered 33 this season and returned five for touchdowns.
An irate fan called The Miami Herald's Fan Hotline after the game and said: "I suggest the (Miami) running backs watch some old Dolphin films and see how Larry Csonka used to carry and hold on to the ball."
That's only partially fair, seeing as how the only fumble by Miami (13-5) that wasn't caused by some Patriotic whack was quarterback Dan Marino's fumbled snap. The one thing folks don't seem to be comprehending is that this stuff has been happening all year with the Patriots.
It might behoove Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka to put these figures on his overhead projector for all his Bears to see the next two weeks: In their three playoff games, the Patriots have forced 16 turnovers, which have led to 61 points. They have committed four turnovers, costing them 14 points.
Most impressively, the Patriots' special teamers have become a fumble-causing corps of rogues and bandits. Usually the way it works is running back Mosi Tatupu, the 6-foot, 230-pound shellacker, makes the hit and teammates such as receiver Cedric Jones or safety Jim Bowman or linebacker Johnny Rembert or Hawthorne drive the getaway car.
The fumble recoveries by the Patriots' special teams have been of a stunning magnitude in the postseason. Consider the wild-card game: Tony Franklin's field goal gave the Patriots a 16-14 lead over the New York Jets midway through the third quarter. New York's Johnny Hector returned the ensuing kickoff to his 16, where Rembert popped him. A penalty flag flew and most players stopped action.
But Rembert, at his teammates' urging, picked up the ball and ran 15 yards for a touchdown. The penalty was against the Jets for an illegal block, so the touchdown counted. Make it 23-14, Patriots, due to a 10-point outburst in fewer than 20 seconds. The final was 26-14.
Now look at the AFC semifinal: Franklin's field goal tied the Los Angeles Raiders, 20-20, late in the third quarter. Again, the Big Sting occurred on the ensuing kickoff. The Raiders' Sam Seale mishandled the ball at his five, picked it up, then dropped it when Tatupu hit him at the 12.
Jones and Bowman gave chase as the ball rolled backward. Jones said he scooped the ball toward the end zone, confident that either he or Bowman would get it. Bowman fell on it for a touchdown. Make it 10 points in 14 seconds and it was 27-20, Patriots, which is precisely how it ended.
Now, look at the AFC title game: The Patriots led at halftime, 17-7. Just when you thought the Dolphins might be primed for a comeback, Tatapu tackled Lorenzo Hampton on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. Hawthorne recovered the fumble at Miami's 25. The Patriots scored quickly to make it 24-7; they won, 31-14.
Miami had a 9-0 record in the Orange Bowl this season before Sunday's game. Neither Marino, who completed only 20 of 48 passes, nor any of the team's running backs who fumbled (Joe Carter, Tony Nathan and Hampton) blamed the rain for their errors.
Miami's defense, which allowed 255 yards rushing on 59 carries, had no excuse either, when Robert Weathers ran 45 yards to the Miami seven in the second period.
That arranged for the first of Tony Eason's three touchdown passes and brought about the end of Miami's only lead, 7-3. Come draft day 1986, don't think Miami Coach Don Shula won't be searching for some buzz-saw tackler who can make a running back think twice before turning the corner.
Late in the game, Patriots reserve quarterback Steve Grogan, the 11-year veteran who helped spring a six-game victory streak before hurting a knee in Week 12, sat next to Eason on the bench. A hero of glories past, Grogan also recalls much of the gloominess of a franchise that had won one playoff game in its first quarter-century before winning three in three weeks.
As visiting fans chanted "No More Jinx!" Eason recalled that Grogan said only two words to him: "Thank you." Grogan was so emotional he said it twice to Eason, his replacement. The second time, Grogan admitted, he had tears in his eyes.