1985 Bears Coverage: Oh, man: Miami, Marino Monday

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Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Oh, man: Miami, Marino Monday

Gary Fencik

Originally published Dec. 1, 1985

Ten years ago I was a young rookie fresh from Yale who looked forward to an opportunity to make one of the best teams in the NFL. In many ways, I still owe a great deal to the Miami Dolphins, the team that drafted me in the 10th round, for they made the decision to switch me from wide receiver, my position in college, to safety, the position I play today.

Back then, many of the great players who were part of the undefeated 1972 world champions were still there – Tim Foley, Manny Fernandez, Jake Scott, even Mercury Morris. Before I got a chance to play with them, however, I was injured and subsequently cut.

Ten years later, I have very little emotional connection to Miami. There is no need for vengeance or to prove that they made a mistake in letting me go.

The New York Jets’ loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day provides the opportunity for Miami to tie the Jets (and possibly New England) for first place in the AFC East. This can certainly be expected to be a motivating factor for the Dolphins – as if playing an undefeated team on national TV on a Monday night isn’t enough!

Playing on Monday night is a double-edged sword for the Bears. Public recognition, from both a team and an individual standpoint, is something we all enjoy. Forget about O.J. Simpson and Joe Namath’s inaccurate commentary and Frank Gifford’s tendency to confuse Buddy Ryan with Buddy Curry. This game, against a potential Super Bowl

contender that features one of the best passing offenses in the league, provides another opportunity for us to prove our record is no fluke.

However, there are negative aspects to traveling to Miami to play on Monday night. We have a long flight home immediately afterward, and next week we lose our day off in order to prepare for the upcoming Indianapolis Colts game Dec. 8. In fact, we won’t get a day off for the next two weeks because we play the Jets in New York on Saturday, Dec. 14.

What makes this a special game is the infrequency of our meetings with Miami. According to the scheduling decisions of the NFL, we may play any particular AFC East team only once every three years. The last time we played Miami was in 1979. Since then, they have been to the Super Bowl twice.

The weaknesses of the Dolphin defense – the Killer Bees – became apparent in the last Super Bowl and have not improved since. While injuries have contributed to their problems, the loss of defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger was a more devastating blow.

After his departure, the Dolphins tried to play a 3-4 defense without one necessary ingredient – a great blitzing outside linebacker (although their recent acquisition of Hugh Green may eventually fill this gap.) They also continue to rely on their easily penetrable zone coverage. That their defense ranks 26th in the NFL states the case clearly.

The Dolphins rely on a great scoring offense to compensate for the weaknesses of their defense. With Dan Marino at quarterback, their passing game will provide the greatest test for our pass defense this season. Marino has a great arm, a quick release and is tough to sack. He has great wide receivers to throw to, a trio of tight ends who work hard to get open, and a running back – Tony Nathan – who has 54 catches this year.

This will require great coverage from our linebackers and everyone in the secondary, and we hope to continue to receive the great pass rush we’ve come to expect.

While the running game is not the strength of their offense, coach Don Shula will effectively mix his play selections to keep us off balance.

We recognize the importance of establishing a running game to keep our front line and linebackers from concentrating on the pass rush.

Some people may wonder why we did not leave early to acclimate ourselves to the hot Miami weather. If this was a crucial game and if the weather this week in Chicago made practice miserable, I am sure the decision to leave early would have been made. The desire to stay home for Thanksgiving was also an important consideration.

So here we go, 12-0, to play the organization that last posted a perfect NFL season. We feel very little pressure, and yet there is a tremendous desire to prove that we’re the best and to continue into the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFL.

Gary Fencik’s column appears Sundays through the Bears’ season.

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