This was the Dan Marino we were told so loudly in recent weeks did not exist anymore, could not exist, never would exist again in a Dolphins uniform.
The game was against him. The game plan was against him. The score, the noise, the third down, the long distance and too little time both on the scoreboard and more dramatically on his career all were against the Dolphins quarterback as he walked to the line in Sunday's fourth quarter.
He stood 3,000 miles from home, either eight minutes from retirement or 92 yards from victory, and he wasn't numbering any such nonsense.
Heroes never do.
They're too busy.
"I was thinking about making one play," Marino said.
Everyone has spent so many months cross-referencing Marino's past and debating his future, but this is all he has ever wanted. This present. This play. This here and now, today and forever, third-down-and-17-yard long shot. As he called the play in the huddle his eyes never left the receiver he was counting on.
"When he just stares at you as he calls the play, and holds the stare, he doesn't need to say anything more," Tony Martin said. "You know everything you need to know."
Marino threw down the split in the Seattle defense's zone, Martin dove for the catch and 24 yards downfield the Dolphins' season was still open for business. And then these two connected for 17 yards more. And then 20 more.
And now as he sat at his locker, recounting the drive that saved the season, rewinding the throws that staved off the coldest off-season for at least another week, Marino began laughing when reminded that earlier in a news conference he had called this the biggest drive of his career.
"Did I say that?" he said after this 20-17 playoff win. "Aw, I don't know. Maybe it was. Maybe it was."
He pulled a brown T-shirt down over his blue jeans, ran a hand that he clawed into a comb through his wet hair and smiled as he thought about that last drive.
This was the best seat to have in sports late Sunday, the one beside Marino after he had done it again, the one South Florida has pulled up to for 17 seasons now.
"I'm sure it was the biggest drive we've had in recent years," he said. "There was a lot riding on that one right there."
All around him, the locker room was full of this day's big names.
There was Olindo Mare, whose two field goals kept the Dolphins going.
There was J.J. Johnson, who ran for an efficient 87 yards.
There was defensive end Trace Armstrong, who had sacks on three plays and, for all but the official accounts, on a fourth as well since Seattle quarterback Jon Kitna gained only a half-yard.
But here, at this locker, sitting on a metal folding chair, was the player who won the game even with a game plan that was built away from him.
Jimmy wanted to keep the game close no matter if that meant running for losses into blitzes or playing so conservatively that eight punts were necessary.
It was an example of why, if Jimmy is calling shots, Marino probably will be invited back next season.
It will be his decision to retire or put the Dolphins into a decision.
It is a style that asks Marino to holster his mind as well as his right arm.
It demands discipline. It asks for patience. It rejects risks to the point that linebacker Zach Thomas, asked what he felt on the sideline as the Dolphins offense faced the pivotal third-and-17, answered: "I thought we'd be running a draw play they were going so conservatively."
There's no arguing it with the way it turned out. Marino, in fact, ended up throwing no interceptions on the day but completed 17 of 30 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Eighty-four of those passing yards came on the game-winning drive. Four of the completions did.
But this drive that decided the day started all wrong with J.J. Johnson running backward for 2 yards and then tackle Richmond Webb getting an illegal procedure penalty. The Dolphins, trailing 17-13, were now back to their 8, needed the 17 yards for a first down. They felt the Kingdome turned to full volume.
"You couldn't hear anything," Marino said. "It's as loud as you can get in a stadium, and all you can try to do is get everyone working together to where the noise doesn't come into play."
He figured he was going to Martin when he called the play, knew it when he saw the Seattle secondary in its zone defense.
Martin knew it, too.
No matter that the cornerback under attack would be Shawn Springs, the Seahawks' best.
"That was the best place to go given the defense," Martin said. "All I'm thinking when I'm running the pattern is, `It's coming to me, it's coming to me.'"
It was a laser to Martin down the middle, a little high from Marino's view but of little difference when Martin pulled it. That put the ball at the 31.
Two more completions to Martin moved it to Seattle's 29 where, on first down, a flea-flicker failed.
On second down, Marino missed Martin. And on third-and-10, when a field goal wouldn't decide matters, Marino turned this time to the other side and Oronde Gadsden.
"I saw him one-on-one with [cornerback Willie Williams]," Marino said. "Had to go there."
That went for 24 yards to the 5. Johnson ran it in on the second carry from there. And now a security guard stood beside him holding the football Marino had taken on the game's final snap and then carried off the field surrounded by cameras.
As he walked off, a voice boomed from 30 yards away.
"Hey, Dan! Dan!" it called.
Marino turned to find it and, when he did, Jimmy gave him two big thumbs up.
Marino waved back. Smiles came, the season lived and the tough questions awaited another week mainly because the Marino who some thought to be gone from view took over another Sunday afternoon.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun