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: 2nd Half
Roger Craig recalled, "There was a tremendous amount of energy in the locker room. We felt that if we kept up the pressure, we could win the game. That sounds simple, but when you're dealing with Marino nothing is simple. We knew he could get them right back in the game."

Quarter 3

Miami received the kickoff, Fulton Walker returning to the 26. The Dolphins returned to huddling. On 2nd-and-10, Dan Marino threw low to Mark Clayton. Then with the 49ers deploying six DBs, DE Dwaine Board sacked Dan Marino on 3rd-and-11. So Reggie Roby punted 45y to Dana McLemore, who returned 8y to the SF 47.
"They were able to get some pressure on us and cover our receivers well," said Marino. "The chances we did have, when guys were open, sometimes I didn't hit 'em."
"It all started from up front, with the line," said 49ers LB Keena Turner. "Once they got pressure on Marino, he couldn't wait as long to throw, and we could do a better job of coverage."
The 49ers added three points to their lead with a nine-play, 43y drive. After a throw away incompletion to avoid a sack, Montana rolled out to escape pressure and connected on the run with Wendell Tyler for a 15y gain to the Miami 38. Runs by TE Earl Cooper on a reverse for four and Tyler for seven moved the chains to the 27. On 2nd-and-10, the rush flushed Montana out of the pocket, but he sprinted for 12y, stepping out on the 15. But the Dolphin defense rose up. After Lyle Blackwood stuffed Tyler for no gain and Montana hit Dwight Clark at the left sideline for only 5y, Joe's pass over the middle to TE Russ Francis went awry. So Ray Wersching kicked a 27y field goal. 49ers 31 Dolphins 16 (10:12)

Wendell Tyler looks for an opening.
"We tried to keep the same tempo that we had during the first half," recalled Montana. "We knew if we did that we had a good chance to win the game. And we didn't let up."
Even after returning to the no-huddle attack, Miami still couldn't make any headway. Following Marino's quick 8y pass to Tony Nathan, the 49er front got successive sacks - NT Manu Tuiasosopo for -5 and Board again for -3. So Roby punted 43y to McLemore again. The 5y return set up the Niners at their 30.
The biggest difference between the two quarterbacks was the ability to react to pressure. Marino showed almost no escapability whereas Montana was surprisingly quick leaving the pocket and running in open space.
SF defensive coordinator George Seifert put in new stunts up the middle for the game. He wanted to neutralize or overwhelm C Dwight Stephenson, the anchor of the Miami line. "We had to go right up the middle on Marino," said Johnson.
49er DT Gary Johnson: "You could see Marino getting rattled out there. He would throw away passes, or he would talk more than usual to his linemen. We could see we were getting to him, but you'd be upset, too, if you were getting hit a lot."
Fred Dean: "We were always in his face, getting a piece of him, letting him know we were around. After a while, he started flinching when he'd get rid of the ball. He was rushing and trying to force things. Everybody talked about his quick release, but that was offset by his lack of mobility. Marino doesn't move as well as some other quarterbacks, and that makes it easier to put pressure on him. If you get good coverage, it neutralizes his quick release, and he can't buy more time with his feet."
Frisco removed what little suspense was left in the game by moving 70y in five plays - all passes - for their fifth touchdown. Nimbly moving forward to avoid pressure, Montana started with a 40y checkoff pass and run to Tyler over the middle, then followed up with a 14y strike to Francis to the 16. After LB Bob Brudzinski broke up a pass to Roger Craig and a false start penalty, Tyler made up the lost yardage by taking a dump off pass in the right flat to the 10. Joe then found Craig crossing across the middle from the right. Since the linebacker covering him got caught in raffic, Roger pranced into the end zone untouched for his third touchdown, a Super Bowl record. 49ers 38 Dolphins 16 (6:18)

Roger Craig scores the 49ers' fifth touchdown.
On the 40y pass to Tyler, LB Jay Brophy once again got lost in coverage.
Miami D-coordinator Chuck Studley admitted afterward, "We didn't worry too much about Tyler, but Craig was a great back. Frankly, it surprised me that Tyler hurt us so much catching the ball, but he caught it short and then made us miss. Asking linebackers to try to tackle that guy, it was really unfair."
Montana: "In the second half, we kept eating up yardage and picking up first down with short passes and the running of Tyler and Craig. Bill Walsh would have us run the same plays until they stopped us. ... We did have success running to the left behind Bubba Paris, who weighed 40 or 50 pounds more than his man ... It was obvious that Miami was getting flustered. It was easy to tell - by how they were getting up after a play and beating their fists into the ground ..."
Shula: "We tried everything we could think of to contain him (Montana). We blitzed, we stunted, we changed our coverages. Nothing worked. He got us off-balance and never let us regroup. That's the mark of a great quarterback."
Bruce Hardy returned Wersching's line drive kickoff 16y to the 34. The Dolphins quickly gained two irst downs, the first on Marino's 15y pass to a sliding Clayton, immediately followed by Nathan's 16y run up the middle to the SF 27. But two snaps later, Dan's throw to Clayton was intercepted by CB Eric Wright at the one.
Wright recalled: "That was the best play I ever made in my career. He (Clayton) ran a post-corner and was looking for me to overplay it. That was a pattern I always played well. If I hadn't been there, that was six and the momentum would have swung their way." Eric added, "I was more nervous before that game than at any time in my whole career. I knew I had to play the game of my life if we were going to win. Those two receivers had torn up the league all year ... but Ronnie and I were up to the challenge."
The 49ers couldn't drive 99y for a touchdown, could they? No, but they could drive 53y before punting. After Tyler gained two, Montana threw to Craig for seven and to Solomon for 14 to make it 1st-and-10 at the 24. Six and 10y runs by Roger moved the chains again before the period ended with a 6y connection to Dwight Clark.
End of Q3: 49ers 38 Dolphins 16
Roger Craig: "We didn't want to celebrate until the game was officially over, but I could tell we had them beaten going into the fourth quarter."

Montana back to pass
Quarter 4

With the fog rolling in - a rare occurrence in Palo Alto but a common one further north in San Francisco, Harmon's 6y run gained first down #27 for the Niners at the Miami 48. But the advance ran out of gas when two runs gained just two before an incompletion. So Runager punted 31y to Walker, who returned six to the 21.
Marino called seven straight pass plays. Johnson got his big hands on him for a 12y sack on the first one - SF's fourth sack of the game against a team that had allowed only 14 in the 18 previous games. But Dan then rolled out and fired to Clayton for a 27y gain to the 36. An incompletion was followed by a 14y strike to Jimmy Cefalo for another first down at midfield. When three throws failed to connect, Roby punted to McLemore, who called for a fair catch but fumbled, WR Vince Heflin recovering for Miami at the 21.
But the break proved to be Fool's Gold when Williamson intercepted Dan's pass to Rose in the end zone. Rose broke open in the middle of the end zone, but the ball hung and was picked off.

49ers embrace Williamson after his interception.
49ers DB Dwight Hicks: "We showed them a lot of different looks. We showed them a four-man front and a 3-4 in the first half, and they scored 16 points. In the second half, they didn't score. So that was a very effective game plan. I wish we would have started the game like that. I don't think the game would have been as close as it was."
The 49ers started on the ground against the weary defense. Solomon +5 on a reverse; Craig +8 for a first down at the 33; Tyler +7 around LE; Harmon +6 over the right side - 1st and 10 at the 46. After Harmon lost a yard, Montana threw a beautiful pass to Clark down the left side for 33y to the 22. Joe went for it all on the next play but overthrew Freddie in the end zone. He then found Francis over the middle for eight before handing to Craig who gained three to make it first-and-10 at the 11.
Craig recalled: "There was one play where we had a short-yardage situation and Guy McIntyre was in the backfield. They put me at tailback because I was good at jumping over the pile. When I jumped, I was hit three times in the air and was spinning every which way. Fortunately, I got the first down to keep the drive alive. That play showed the determination of both teams."
Joe handed to Roger four more times, the last one coming on 4th-and-one at the two. DT Mike Charles, the player some Miami scouts had urged Shula to draft with the #1 pick instead of Marino, made his second straight stop to turn the ball over on downs.
Operating out of the shotgun on his way to a Super Bowl record 50 passes, Marino threw on ten straight snaps, completing seven: two straight 7y gains to Rose, 9y to Moore, and 14 and five to Nathan. After an incompletion, 12 to Nathan before Tony dropped one and Wright knocked away a long one. Then his 29th and last completion to Ross again for 14 to the SF 44. The game ended fittingly with Dan fumbling the snap and falling on it for a loss of eight.
Montana was the overwhelming choice as the game's MVP.
The award gave Joe great satisfaction because he had burned inside for two weeks because Marino, his fellow Western Pennsylvania native, was getting more ink. So he had something to prove, although he never said a word to his teammates. "I'm sure it motivated him," said Dwight Clark.

Watch the game ...

Final statistics

  • Time of possession: 49ers 37:11 Dolphins 22:49
  • First downs: 49ers 31 Dolphins 19
  • Rushing: 49ers 40-211 Dolphins 9-25
  • Passing: 49ers 35-24-0/326 Dolphins 50-29-2/289
  • Return yardage: 49ers 11-91 Dolphins 9-155
  • Fumbles-Lost: 49ers 2-2 Dolphins 1-0
  • Penalties: 49ers 2-10 Dolphins 1-10
  • Punting average: 49ers 3-32.7 Dolphins 6-39.3
  • Attendance: 84,059

The 49ers' 537y of offense was a Super Bowl record.


49ers Locker Room

  • Coach Walsh called his team's performance "almost perfect." He was asked about the quarterback duel. "Marino had just a fair game, but he'll be back. ... Marino is a great young quarterback, but in my mind Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback in football today." After a pause, he added, "Maybe of all time. His leadership, assertiveness, and his quick feet."
    His players awarded the game ball to Walsh, with Dwight Hicks making the presentation. "I didn't think as much of it at the time," recalled Bill, "being overwhelmed by all the excitement, as I did later, when I realized how much it meant to be awarded the game ball for the world championship. It was the nicest ackonwledgment the players could give me."
  • Montana: "All week, all we heard was, 'Miami, Miami, Miami.' What about us? That motivated the entire offense. It wasn't so much me against Dan. Our whole offense was overlooked the last two weeks." Joe added, "None of my runs were planned. Look, running is not a lot of fun most of the time. Running is not high on my list of priorities." Asked to evaluate his performance, he replied: "As far as my own game, well, I'd have to admit it was pretty close to the best I've ever played. I didn't throw anything I didn't have confidence in."
  • Dwight Clark: "Joe will never say it, but it's understandable that with all the talk about Marino, he would like to do well. The talk pushed him. I know I am prejudiced, but he is the best quarterback around today, no question."
    G Guy McIntyre recalled: "We had a real veteran offensive line and a veteran defensive line. We had a good mix of everything. These guys had been together and had played together. They knew what it took. It could be considered the greatest team of that dynasty era."
    DB Dwight Hicks: "Everybody looks at the offense. Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships. It's really true because if the team can't score on you, you have a pretty good shot at winning the game."

Dolphins Locker Room

  • Coach Shula: "Defensively, we never stopped them. ... Montana was outstanding in every way. He knew just what to do with the football the entire day. Every time we tried to put some pressure on him, he scrambled for a big play on his own or he bought time to hit one of his receivers. He hurt us in every way. ... When you get beat we way we got beat, you have to take your hat off to them, and that's what I'll do. Their defense stopped our team. Dan Marino certainly didn't play the way he had done all year. The disappointment of not getting it done today will live with all of us."
  • Marino: "Their defense played me better than anybody all year. They got the job done. I probably could have played a better game. We knew what we had to do, but they took us right out of our game. ... I hope we get another chance. You don't get here often."
    Dan played 17 years, all with Miami, but never made it to another Super Bowl.
    Mark Clayton recalled later: "I felt I was going to play in at least four or five Super Bowls and win two or three. That just shows that there's nothing wrong with dreaming big, but you have to go out and play the game."
  • TE Joe Rose: "If somebody had told me two weeks ago that we'd be held to 16 points, I would have laughed."
  • LB Doug Betters: "They drilled us. It was embarrassing. ... There's no other way to put it. We said to ourselves all week we'd be able to stop him (Montana). We should have executed better, but there were breakdowns. We weren't always where we were supposed to be, and that puts a lot of pressure on the three-man rush. If there's the correct coverage, he can't get away."
  • Frustrated LB Jay Brophy said Montana played "about as perfect a game as a quarterback can play."
  • CB Don McNeal: "The 49ers looked better on the field than they do on paper. We didn't."
  • NT Bob Baumhower on pursuing Montana: "It was like chasing a rabbit out there."
    DE Kim Bokamper recalled: "We just got beat by a better football team. It seemed like everyone they had was making plays. Joe Montana was Joe Montana. He was in his prime. It was Joe Montana vs Dan Marino, and there was no question Joe Montana was a better quarterback on that day."

Dwaine Board

Dana McLemore

Keena Turner

Earl Cooper

Tyler on the loose

Lyle Blackwood tackles Russ Francis.

Manu Tuiasosopo

Dwight Stephenson

Bob Brudzinski

Bruce Hardy

Montana calls signals.

Roger Craig scores.

Max Runager

Jeff Fuller exults after Dan Johnson's sack of Marino.

Roger Craig goes over the top.

Walsh carried off in victory.

Super Bowl XIX Champion San Francisco 49ers
Part 1 - SB XIX Pregame | Part 2 - SB XIX 1st Half