Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
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Super Bowl XIX - San Francisco 49ers vs Miami Dolphins: 1st Half
Bill Walsh was confident after watching films of the Dolphins. However, he felt even better about his chances during warmups. "As I walked through the Dolphins, I could see a distinct difference between the two squads. We were a much more physical, more athletic football team than Miami. ... We weren't a really big team, but we were very athletic. At that moment my confidence soared. I felt that we matched up well against the Dolphins. We truly feared Dan Marino and his battery of receivers, but they were a one-dimensional team with no running attack to worry us, and I thought we could attack their defense effectively. It wasn't difficult to recognize that they didn't have outstanding speed and quickness. I realized that Don Shula had done it with mirrors because he didn't have the physical ability we had. For the Dolphins to have gone 14-2 and win two playoff games was a real tribute to Don."

84,509 in Stanford Stadium saw the 49ers start shakily but get their act together by the end of the first period.

Quarter 1

The 49ers started in a hole when RB Derrick Harmon made the mistake of trying to field the kickoff at the sideline but couldn't keep his balance and stepped out at the six. After an incompletion and a Wendell Tyler sweep for eight, QB Joe Mon­tana converted the 3rd-and-2 by flipping to Tyler in the left flat for 10y to the 24. A 4y Tyler run and a completion to TE Dwight Clark moved the chains again to the 36. But Roger Craig gained just five on two runs, and CB Don McNeal broke up Montana's pass to TE Mike Wilson to force a punt. Fulton Walker took Max Runager's hurried, low kick on the run and returned 9y to the Miami 36.

Joe Montana pitches to Roger Craig.
The Dolphins moved to the game's first score in seven plays. Using one of Miami's favorite patterns, sending the wide receivers over the middle and the backs into the flat, QB Dan Marino flipped to Tony Nathan on the left side. He juked the first tackler, Eric Wright, and scampered 25y to the SF 39.
Wright: "He came in my zone area, and I missed the tackle. I'd been making that tackle all year. We were too hyper starting that game. We were very unsettled, and they were picking us apart."

Dan Marino calls signals.
Dan then foiled the blitz by flipping quickly to TE Dan Johnson over the middle for five. RB Woody Bennett gained seven for another first down. But the 49ers dug in and forced a field goal try. First, blitzing S Carlton Williamson tipped Marino's pass, which fell short in the right flat. When throws to Nathan and Mark Clayton gained only 4y each, Uwe Von Schamann came in to try a 37y field goal. The six-year veteran had endured a poor year in what would prove to be his last in the league. He made only nine of 19 FG tries and hadn't even attempted a kick in the last four regular season games. However, his boot barely curved inside the right upright. Dolphins 3 49ers 0 (7:24)

Roger Craig eludes LB Charles Bowser (56) for a short gain.
The Niners responded with a touchdown drive during which Montana went 4-for-4. He alternated passes and runs on the first six plays. First came a 6y screen pass to Craig followed by a Tyler run for six more. Then Clark took a quick throw for nine before Wendell again struck for six and another first down. Three snaps later, the 49ers faced 3rd-and-7. Montana sidestepped blitzing LB Jay Brophy and sped around the left side for 15y to the Miami 33. Then Joe hit RB Carl Monroe who was one step ahead of a lunging Lyle Blackwood at the right sideline. McNeal fell down when Blackwood crashed into him, allowing Monroe to zip down the sideline to the end zone. Ray Wersching converted. 49ers 7 Dolphins 3 (3:12)
Walsh had encouraged his QB to run the ball when the opportunity arose. "In preparing for Miami, it became apparent that Joe Montana could run effectively against this defense. I declined to remark on it until just because the game, because I didn't want to preoccupy Joe with this option and preferred it to be as spontaneous and instinctive as possible. Just before the game I said to Joe, 'If you see it, take it.' With the linebackers chasing the backs, there would be nobody to take Joe."
Montana: "Our first touchdown came on a pass to Carl Monroe, who was a backup running back. ... We used that play a bunch during the season, so it wasn't like people hadn't seen it. Carl was the primary receiver, but there was another guy underneath, and if he was open, I'd usually just give him the ball. Carl ran through their defenders, caught the ball, and broke free into the end zone. ... Actually, it would have been a tight play if one of their defenders hadn't fallen down. We probably would have gotten the completion, but we wouldn't have had a touchdown."

Marino rolls right.
Marino & Company bounced right back with a touchdown of their own. They used a no-huddle offense with Dan calling the plays at the line of scrimmage that they had practiced all week despite Shula's public protestations to the contrary. ("To think you'll win this game with some gimmick-type thing is unrealistic," Don had said on Wednesday.) The purpose of the "hurry-up" attack was to blunt the 49ers' pass rush and prevent them from shuttling their defensive packages on and off the field. The move paid off immediately. The Dolphins moved 70y in only 2:27. After handing to Tony Nathan for 5y, Dan completed five straight passes:
Zap: 18y to Clayton across the middle.
Zap: 11 to Duper at the left sideline.
Zap: 13 to Clayton on the right.
Zap: 21 to TE Dan Johnson running ahead of LB Dan Bunz to put the ball on the two.
Time to go back to the ground, right? Wrong! Marino rolled right and fired to John­son behind LB Hacksaw Reynolds in the end zone. It looked like the Miami offense was on track for another monster game. Dolphins 10 49ers 7 (0:45)

Marino passes.
Dan Johnson had spent four days in the hospital and lost 25 pounds with an intestinal problem that caused him to miss the Seattle playoff game.
49ers defensive coordinator George Seifert was an early proponent of situational substitution. He used the 3-4 as his base defense but sent in a fourth lineman on passing downs. After seeing their linebackers exploited by Marino on the touchdown drive, Seifert and Walsh made the decision to play a nickel defense for the rest of the game. That put Dan Bunz, Hacksaw Reynolds, and Riki Ellison on the bench. Rookie Jeff Fuller joined fleet-footed Teena Turner as the nickel LBs, and S Tom Holmoe became the extra defensive back.
"Our nickel defense was the most skilled defense we had," said Seifert years later. "Danny Bunz and some others were very good base players but not as skilled in running and chasing. It really was key defensively in what happened. Fuller was awesome. I wouldn't say he was a blazer, but he was so fluid and a beautiful athlete. Marino had an awesome, spectacular season, but our offense put pressure on them. Then they were just going to throw the ball, and we got in our nickel and our athletes matched up with theirs and we got after them pretty good."
CB Dwight Hicks: "I can remember Lawrence Pillers and Fred Dean saying they only need three seconds. They said that's all they needed to get to Marino. I had to cover Nat Moore. Marino went to Nat Moore on third downs a lot. Instead of covering him off, I just bumped him the whole game because our defensive line said they only needed three seconds."
Shula recalled: "Early in the game, we didn't use a huddle, and we scored a touchdown. That made the 49ers decide to go to a four-man line and six defensive backs. We got a lot of that at the end of the season and felt we would get it today."
Harmon returned the kickoff to the 30, and Montana hit Craig wide open on the right side for 18 to end the highest-scoring opening period in Super Bowl history.
End Q1: Dolphins 10 49ers 7
Shula recalled: "That first quarter was a hell of a football game. It was exciting, and we did well."
Walsh later wrote: "Without a potent pass rush, Miami was forced to cover the receivers tightly. The Miami defense depended on locking their linebackers into man-to-man coverage on running backs. That had worked well for them during the season, but I doubted that they could cover our backs, particularly Roger Craig, coming out of the backfield. We had one play in particular that was ideally suited to work against that defense: On '20 Bingo cross,' both backs would release between guard and tackle just past the line of scrimmage and then cross. The Miami inside linebackers couldn't cover Craig when he broke sharply away on that pattern, and that was exactly what happened."
Montana recalled what his offense was thinking. "Because Miami was moving the ball so easily, we had the feeling that the game might turn into a shoot-out. We thought that it may reach a point where we had to score every time we got the ball just to stay even. But not because of the lack of defense on our part. Danny was just on a roll."

Randy Cross leads Roger Craig.
Quarter 2

Montana threw too long incompletions to WR Renaldo Nehemiah - the first down the left sideline and the second down the middle. In both cases, the former world-class 110m hurdler was double-covered. In between, Craig gained only three. So Runager punted out of bounds at the 14.
The proud 49er defense finally began to assert itself. Fred Dean, lined up at NT, roared through and dumped Woody Bennett for a 4y loss. Then Marino threw unsuccessfully to TE Bruce Hardy, who fell down. On 3rd down, Dean again brought pressure, forcing Dan to fire incomplete to Nat Moore. So Reggie Roby, third in the league with a 44.7 average, punted 7y below that average to the 47.
Taking advantage of their best field position so far, the Niners took only four plays to take the lead. Montana started with his second long run out of the pocket - 19y to the 28. Then he zipped the ball to TE Clark down the middle for 16 more. Following Tyler's 4y run, Craig lined up at RHB and ran a circle route on a play Walsh called "20 Bingo Cross." Roger followed TE Russ Francis who took MLB Brophy with him, allowing Craig to catch the ball in the vacated area on the three and dive into the end zone. 49ers 14 Dolphins 10 (11:34)

Montana in the pocket
Walsh later wrote: "The (Montana) run I appreciated most was the 20-yarder down the sideline in front of our bench. Craig was running a pass pattern down that sideline with the linebacker chasing him. Joe sensed it and quickly took off, so the three of them were running in a line down the sideline - Roger, followed by the Miami linebacker, followed by Joe. The linebacker had no idea that Joe was right behind him, almost on his heels, and it was a defensive back who eventually came over to force Joe out of bounds."
Montana: "Our second touchdown came early in the second quarter. We were inside their 10, and we ran a play where we had Roger Craig and the other back crossing underneath, and I could take my pick. A tight end also was running a shallow crossing route to help confuse the coverage, and that's about what happened. ... That put us back ahead 14-10. We liked an early lead because during the year we'd hit lulls in the middle of games that we couldn't explain and let the other team get close. ... Miami's defense was set up to give us the short passes. That was fine with us because our game plan was to throw it underneath most of the time unless they gave it to us down the field. ... As long as we were getting first downs, we didn't care how we got them. We were just trying to be patient. That way, we had an edge over other teams. Other teams wouldn't be as patient. We waited until they came up to play close, and then we'd throw the ball over their heads. I noticed that Miami's inside linebackers, Jay Brophy and Mark Brown, started dropping back in order to stop our short passing game. They would follow our backs into the secondary. They would kind of match up in a zone, so if Craig or Tyler or another back came into that zone, they would play him man-to-man and go with him. ... It's not that Brophy and Brown were turning their backs on me, but when they'd move away from the line of scrimmage, they'd occasionally give me a lane in which to run. I had a few good runs in the first half."

Teena Turner tackles Vince Heflin with assistance from Gary Johnson (95).
Continuing their dominance, the 49ers forced a three-and-out. Walker returned the kickoff 28y to the 35. After Bennett gained four, Marino went to the shotgun for two straight plays. He connected with Nathan for four, but on 3rd-and-2, Dwight Hicks broke up his pass to Moore. So Roby punted 40y but netted only 12 when Dana McLemore returned 28y to the SF 45.
Roby recalled: "It was the worst game of my life, counting high school, college, counting everything. The three punts just messed things up. It was a combination of things - too fast, too hard, too anxious."
Walsh writing later about the game: "We got an unexpected bonus because their great punter, Reggie Roby, had three successive mediocre punts of 37, 40, and 39 yards while punting from deep in his own territory. We took over after those punts at the Miami 47 the first time and then at our own 45 and 48. On the sideline, we were almost celebrating because, operating from midfield, we could use all the weapons in our arsenal. Working against a physically weaker Miami defense, we knew that getting the ball at midfield meant an almost automatic score. In fact, we scored three touchdowns on those three possessions to turn the game into a rout."

Wendell Tyler eludes LB Bob Brudzinski
The 49ers zipped to their third touchdown in just six plays. Tyler ran for nine and Craig for six. Montana then hit Francis twice in a row for 10 and 19y to the 11. On the second pass, Joe froze the LBs with a great fake and hit Russ behind them. Following Craig's 5y run, Joe stepped back to pass but, seeing Tyler cut down the blitzer coming in from the left, scampered through the hole that created to the end zone. 49ers 21 Dolphins 10 (6:58)

Montana runs into the end zone.
Montana: "My touchdown against Miami from outside their 5 was a breakdown, but the breakdown was more on Miami's part. All of a sudden a big hole opened in front of me. They blitzed, and I stepped up to find a receiver and the hole was right in front of me, so I just took it. I didn't actually think I'd make it to the end zone. My second running touchdown in a Super Bowl - who'd have thought that?"
Miami started sensing that the game was getting away from them. DE Kim Bokamper: "I remember running in the game. I knew I could beat my guy inside, but then Joe would just come around. He picks up yards, and you knew it was that kind of day. They were a very, very good offensive football team." Bokamper cracked his sternum early in the first quarter but continued to play.
Craig recalled: "We played every play 100 miles per hour. When we were marching down the field, things were going so fast. It was just amazing how we dominated. It's probably one of the best games I've played. I was in rhythm, and I could do whatever I want. The linebackers couldn't cover me. I was so focused that I caught two one-hand passes."
Starting from the 26 after Walker's 24y return, the Dolphins again went nowhere. DE Gary "Big Hands" Johnson struck on the first two plays. He fired through to hit Marino just as he threw incomplete down the middle. Then Johnson dumped Nathan for a loss of 3y. On 3rd-and-13, Duper ran a down-and-out against CB Eric Wright on the left side, but Marino held the ball too long, and Wright was able to recover the ground and defense the pass. Still not in a groove, Roby punted only 39y to McLemore, who returned 10y to the SF 48.
A pass rush specialist, Gary Johnson had been an outstanding player for a decade with the Chargers but was unhappy with his contract. Four games into the 1984 season, San Diego traded him to the 49ers for fifth- and 11th-round draft choices.
At this point, San Francisco had outgained Miami 100-2 in the second quarter.
The Dolphin defense filled the passing zones to give LB Doug Betters time to sack Montana for a loss of five. But Joe bounced back with an underneath completion to Craig, who took the ball at midfield and continued to the Miami 37. Then Joe rolled right and, seeing Francis covered, kept running for 7y. Blackwood stemmed the tide momentarily by breaking up a pass to Freddie Solomon on a controversial incompletion. TV replays showed that Solomon caught the ball and then fumbled, Blackwell picking up the ball and starting to run with it.
Coach Shula was asked about the bad call after the game. "We were dominated to the point where one play didn't make much of a difference."
Tyler got nine around LE and Montana-to-Francis over the middle gained nine more for a first down on the 12. Harmon, a pleasant surprise out of Cornell, swept RE to the five. The next two plays against Miami's goal-line defense showed the Niners could play old-fashioned power football. Tyler gained three over the right side. Then Craig followed Tyler over LT into the end zone. 49ers 28 Dolphins 10 (2:05)

Montana fakes to Craig.
The 49ers became the first team in Super Bowl history to score three touchdowns in a quarter.
Dolphins D-coordinator Studley recalled: "Our defense was really suspect, particularly our secondary. We had some guys in the secondary that really shouldn't have been in pro football compared to the kids I had in San Francisco. It's unusual when you go to the Super Bowl not to have at least one all-pro player on the defense. We had none. Our corners couldn't cover one-on-one, and I was always forced to help them, either underneath with a linebacker or on top with a safety. You're always afraid to help on top with a safety because that means the safety has deep coverage, and the Blackwood brothers couldn't run that well. They were tough against the run, but in my book defensive backs cover first."
Walsh: "We caught them in defenses that we could just take apart. They were playing a man-under style defense, so by bringing our backs through the line of scrimmage and crossing them, their inside linebackers had to try to cover them. They couldn't do it."
Miami NT Bob Baumhower said afterward, "I'll admit it. After a while, we were in a state of shock."
Desperately needing to put points on the board before halftime with all three timeouts, the Dolphins launched a 12-play drive deep into SF territory. The possession started badly with a holding penalty on the kickoff return that put the ball on the 15. Taking what the six-DB defense gave him, Marino completed three straight - 9y to Nathan, 8y to TE Joe Rose, and 8y more to Moore. Timeout at the 40 with 1:05 on the clock. After an incompletion, Marino threw to his right to Nathan who got out of bounds after a gain of three. Then Dan went left to Clayton, who stepped out at the SF 42. Another incompletion preceded Dan's best throw of the half - a beautiful pass down the right side that sailed over Williamson's head into the arms of Rose for a 30y gain to the 12. Timeout at 0:33. The next two plays gained a net of -1y: incompletion under pressure from Dean to Clayton; completion to Nathan for a loss of one as Turner tackled him inbounds. So Miami was forced to use its last timeout. Marino then threw a jump ball to Clayton in the end zone, but Lott, with his back to the quarterback, broke it up as Dolphins fans called for pass interference. So von Schamann booted a 31y field goal. 49ers 28 Dolphins 13 (0:12)
Fans who left their seats to beat the crowd to the concession missed another scoring play. Uwe squib kicked the ball to the 30 where rookie G Guy McIntyre took it on his knees. With no rule at the time about a player "giving up himself," Guy's teammates urged him to get up and run. Bad mistake!! Just as McIntyre got to his feet, Joe Carter put his helmet on the ball to cause a fumble that Miami's Jim Hensen recovered at the 12 with :04 left. That allowed von Schamann to kick his third field goal of the half as time expired.
End of Q2: San Francisco 28 Miami 16
The field goal "ruined a perfect game," Walsh said afterward. "We'd told Guy to hit the ground if the ball came to him, and he did as we'd told him, but then rookie Derrick Harmon came running up and said, 'Get up, get up,' and McIntyre got up just in time to get hit, and he fumbled. Miami then kicked a field goal as the half ended. That only cut our lead to 28-16, so we were still in control, but it marred the game for me. I guess that's a perfectionist talking."
McIntyre: "I was in my usual spot. My hands were a little more heavily-taped. I wasn't really ready to receive a ball. The ball just happened to bounce right there in front of me, and I'm in the middle of the field. You kind of felt the whole stadium say, 'Get up and run.'" After the fumble, "I was trying to run and hide under the nearest bench. Hacksaw Reynolds grabbed me when we were going off the field and said, 'Don't worry about it. We're going to be all right.' But I thought if we lose this game by three points, I'm going to run out of the stadium."
Shula recalled: "In the second quarter, we just quit playing, and the 49ers couldn't do anything wrong. That second quarter was a nightmare. We had worked so hard to get there, and we let it slip away. I know it's tough to come back. But I had that feeling at halftime, especially after we got that last field goal. We usually can move the ball in the third quarter. We're never stopped. That's what I'd hoped would happen."

Halftime show
The theme of the halftime show was "World of Children's Dreams" with the U.S. Air Force Tops in Blue.


Captains shake hands.

Dwight Clark

Don McNeal

Mike Wilson

Max Runager

Uwe von Schamann

Carl Monroe

Montana scampers.

Fulton Walker

Michael Carter smashes Dan Marino after he throws the ball.

Dan Johnson runs after catch.

Montana passes.

George Seifert

Joe Montana signals TD.

Marino passes.


Renaldo Nehemiah

Russ Francis

Jay Brophy

Jeff Fuller smacks Marino.

Reggie Roby punts.

Kim Bokamper

Montana heads for the end zone.

49ers celebrate Montana's TD.

Marino consults with Don Shula.

Gary "Big Hands" Johnson

Gary Johnson hits Marino right after he passes.

Derrick Harmon runs.

Lyle Blackwood

Joe Rose

Ronnie Lott defends against Mark Clayton in the end zone.

Guy McIntyre