|1972 Miami Dolphins season|
|Head coach||Don Shula|
|Home field||Miami Orange Bowl|
|Division place||1st AFC East|
|Playoff finish||Won Divisional Playoffs (Browns) 20-14|
Won AFC Championship (at Steelers) 21-17
Won Super Bowl VII (vs. Redskins) 14-7
The 1972 Miami Dolphins season was the team's seventh season, and third season in the National Football League (NFL). The 1972 Dolphins are the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. The undefeated campaign was led by coach Don Shula and notable players Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, and Larry Csonka. The 1972 Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season and won all three postseason games, including Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins, to finish 17-0.
The team remains the only NFL team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied from the opening game through the Super Bowl (or championship game). The closest team to repeating this feat was the 2007 New England Patriots, who recorded the most wins in a season in NFL history by going 18-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII (the Dolphins won 18 straight through and until the first week of the 1973 season). Besides the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots, the only other team to ever complete the regular season undefeated and untied is the Chicago Bears, who accomplished the feat in both 1934 and 1942. Both of those Bears' teams however failed to win the NFL Championship Game.
During the 1972 season, Bob Griese's ankle was broken in Week 5 as he was sacked by San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Ron East and defensive end Deacon Jones. He was replaced by veteran Earl Morrall for the rest of the regular season. Griese returned to the field as a substitute in the final regular season game against the Baltimore Colts and then also relieved Morrall for the second half of the AFC Championship game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and then started for Miami in Super Bowl VII. On the ground, running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Paul Warfield led the receivers, averaging over 20 yards per catch on 29 receptions. The offensive line included future Hall of Fame members Jim Langer and Larry Little and Pro Bowler Norm Evans.
The 1972 Dolphins defensive unit, called the No-Name Defense because Miami's impressive offense received much more publicity, as well as Cowboys coach Tom Landry coining the phrase in an interview, was the league's best that year. It was led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. In all, nine players--Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, Evans, Buoniconti, Stanfill, Anderson and Scott--were selected to the Pro Bowl, and Morrall, Stanfill and Anderson were named 1st team All-Pro.
|1||at Detroit Lions||L 23-31||0-1||Tiger Stadium|
|2||Green Bay Packers||L 13-14||0-2||Miami Orange Bowl|
|3||at Cincinnati Bengals||W 35-17||1-2||Riverfront Stadium|
|4||Atlanta Falcons||W 24-10||2-2||Miami Orange Bowl|
|5||at Washington Redskins||L 24-27||2-3||Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium|
|6||September 10||Minnesota Vikings||W 21-19||3-3||Miami Orange Bowl|
|1||September 17||at Kansas City Chiefs||W 20-10||1-0||Arrowhead Stadium||Recap|
|2||September 24||Houston Oilers||W 34-13||2-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|3||October 1||at Minnesota Vikings||W 16-14||3-0||Metropolitan Stadium||Recap|
|4||October 8||at New York Jets||W 27-17||4-0||Shea Stadium||Recap|
|5||October 15||San Diego Chargers||W 24-10||5-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|6||October 22||Buffalo Bills||W 24-23||6-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|7||October 29||at Baltimore Colts||W 23-0||7-0||Memorial Stadium||Recap|
|8||November 5||at Buffalo Bills||W 30-16||8-0||War Memorial Stadium||Recap|
|9||November 12||New England Patriots||W 52-0||9-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|10||November 19||New York Jets||W 28-24||10-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|11||St. Louis Cardinals||W 31-10||11-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|12||December 3||at New England Patriots||W 37-21||12-0||Schaefer Stadium||Recap|
|13||December 10||at New York Giants||W 23-13||13-0||Yankee Stadium||Recap|
|14||Baltimore Colts||W 16-0||14-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
The Dolphins' 1972 regular season began with a road match against the Kansas City Chiefs – the first regular season game ever played at Arrowhead Stadium. Previously, the two teams met in Kansas City during the Divisional Round of the 1971-72 playoffs, which saw the Dolphins defeat the Chiefs in the longest game in NFL history. Miami held Kansas City scoreless until the third quarter in this game. During the Chiefs first possession, running back Ed Podolak fumbled the football, which was recovered by Miami safety Dick Anderson. The turnover led to a 57-yard, seven play drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Bob Griese to Marlin Briscoe. With 4:12 remaining in the first quarter, the Chiefs attempted to score a field goal, but Dolphins defensive back Lloyd Mumphord blocked Jan Stenerud's kick.
Late in the second quarter, the Dolphins scored twice within a span of 37 seconds – a 47-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian and then a 2-yard run from Larry Csonka following an interception by Jake Scott. After possessing a halftime lead of 17-0, Miami scored again in the third quarter with another field goal by Yepremian. Later in the third quarter, the Chiefs got on the board with a 40-yard field goal by Jan Stenerud. In the fourth quarter, Kansas City scored again with a touchdown pass from Len Dawson to Willie Frazier. However, the Chiefs were unable to gain additional points thereafter, resulting in the Dolphins winning 20-10.
In week 2, the Dolphins played against the Houston Oilers at the Orange Bowl. A newly installed Poly-Turf field and intermittent rains led to slippery conditions. Less than two minutes into the game, Oilers running back Hoyle Granger fumbled at the Houston 14-yard line, while Dolphins defensive end Bill Stanfill recovered the ball and returned it to the Houston 1-yard line. Miami running back Jim Kiick then scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run. Only a few minutes later, Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini muffed the ball in punt formation at the Houston 30-yard line and lost possession. The Dolphins scored again four plays later, capped by a Mercury Morris 2-yard rush, though Garo Yepremian's extra point attempt was blocked, his first miss after 75 consecutive successful attempts. After regaining possession, Miami engineered another four play scoring drive, which included a 30-yard pass from Bob Griese to Paul Warfield and ended with a Larry Csonka 4-yard rush. The Dolphins led 20-0 at halftime. Of note, Pastorini completed just three out of ten passes in the first half for a dismal -10 yards.
Miami increased their lead further to 27-0 less than six minutes into the third quarter, the end result of a 76-yard, nine play drive capped off by a 2-yard rush by Griese. Houston then finally scored after Pastorini threw a touchdown pass to Charlie Joiner for 82 yards. However, Skip Butler missed the extra point attempt. On the Dolphins next possession, Morris fumbled and defensive tackle Ron Billingsley of the Oilers recovered. Three plays later, a Willie Rodgers 1-yard rush cut Miami's lead to 27-13. The Dolphins would score again, though, in the fourth quarter after a 14 play drive that lasted almost seven minutes and concluded with a 6-yard pass from Griese to Kiick. Miami effectively sealed the game on Houston's next possession when cornerback Tim Foley intercepted Pastorini. The Dolphins won 34-13.
The Dolphins traveled to Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota for a match against the Vikings in week 9. Miami trailed Minnesota for much of the game. In the first quarter, the Vikings scored a touchdown via a 56-yard pass from quarterback Fran Tarkenton to wide receiver John Gilliam. With no further scoring in the first or second quarters, the Vikings led 7-0 at halftime. As Tarkenton attempted another pass to Gilliam early in the third quarter, cornerback Tim Foley intercepted and returned the ball to Minnesota's 37-yard line. Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian kicked a 51-yard field goal and later a 42-yard field goal with 5:23 left in the third quarter after Miami re-gained possession. The Vikings then executed an 80-yard, 13-play drive which consumed all time remaining in the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter started, Minnesota scored a touchdown via a 1-yard run by running back Bill Brown, with the score being 14-6. After the Dolphins re-gained possession, Vikings linebacker Roy Winston intercepted Bob Griese. However, the No-Name Defense stopped Minnesota's subsequent drive with two sacks on Tarkenton. Miami's next drive, which included a 22-yard double reverse pass from wide receiver Marlin Briscoe to tight end Jim Mandich, ended with a 51-yard field goal by Yepremian. The Dolphins defense then stalled the Vikings next drive and took possession at the Miami 41-yard line. After 39 seconds, 6 plays, and a penalty for roughing the passer, Miami scored a touchdown – a 3-yard pass from Grise to Mandich. The Dolphins thus took a 16-14 lead. With one minute and twenty-eight seconds left, the Vikings attempted to reach field goal range. With little time left, Tarkenton threw a Hail Mary pass at the Minnesota 28-yard line, but was intercepted by Dolphins defensive back Lloyd Mumphord. Miami won by a score of 16-14 and improved to 3-0.
The Dolphins then traveled to Shea Stadium in New York to face the Jets in week 3. In the game's opening drive, New York moved the ball 65 yards for a touchdown. Although running back Cliff McClain fumbled, Jets guard Randy Rasmussen recovered the ball in the end zone. New York maintained their 7-0 lead until about one minute into the second quarter, when a 16-yard touchdown pass from Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese to wide receiver Howard Twilley and an extra point by Garo Yepremian tied the game. Another touchdown via a 6-yard rush by Miami running back Jim Kiick allowed the Dolphins to take a 14-7 lead with 2:30 left in the second quarter. Neither team scored again before halftime.
A 27-yard field goal by Yepremian in the third quarter increased Miami's lead to 10 points. During New York's subsequent drive, Jets quarterback Joe Namath completed a pass to tight end Jerome Barkum, who took the ball for 52 yards until being tackled at the Miami 1-yard line by Dolphins safety Jake Scott. However, three failed attempts at entering the end zone and two penalties against the Jets forced them to settle for an 18-yard Bobby Howfield field goal, cutting the deficit against the Dolphins to 17-10. Early in the fourth quarter, Miami orchestrated a 60-yard, 8 play drive that included a 23-yard pass from Griese to wide receiver Paul Warfield, while a significant pass interference penalty against Jets Steve Tannen, which moved the ball to New York's 4-yard line. Eventually, the Dolphins scored with a 3-yard rush by Kiick. Later in the fourth quarter, Miami fumbled a punt, allowing New York to their next drive at the Dolphins 20-yard line. Five plays later, the Jets scored a touchdown via a 1-yard rush by Emerson Boozer cut Miami's lead to 24-17. However, a 43-yard field goal by Yepremian allowed the Dolphins to win with a score of 27-17.
In the fifth week, Miami returned home to host the San Diego Chargers. The Dolphins scored first on a 37-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian, though the Chargers would respond with a 12-yard field goal by Dennis Partee to tie the game at the 3–3 to end the first quarter. In the second quarter, Miami scored a touchdown when safety Dick Anderson recovered a fumble and ran 35 yards to the end zone. The Dolphins then scored another touchdown in the second quarter via an 18-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall to wide receiver Howard Twilley, ending the first half with Miami leading 17–3.
Miami also scored a touchdown in the third quarter. A 19-yard touchdown pass from Morrall to wide receiver Paul Warfield increased the Dolphins lead to 24–3. San Diego cut the deficit to 24–10 after a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Hadl to running back Cid Edwards. However, the Chargers could not complete a comeback. Miami's win-loss record improved to 5–0.
The game is noted for an injury to Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese. Early in the first quarter, Chargers defensive tackle Ron East and defensive end Deacon Jones sacked Griese. He suffered a serious ankle injury and would not play again for the remainder of the regular season. Griese was replaced by 38-year old Morrall before returning in the AFC championship game.
Following their win against the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins hosted the New England Patriots at the Orange Bowl for Week 9. Miami annihilated New England both offensively and defensively. On the third play of the game, Dolphins safety Dick Anderson intercepted Patriots quarterback Jim Plunkett at New England's 26-yard line. Anderson returned the ball to the New England 4-yard line before fumbling. Although it appeared that the Patriots may have recovered the fumble, the officiating crew ruled that they did not. Dolphins running back Mercury Morris then scored a touchdown on a 4-yard rush. On just the fifth offensive play for the Dolphins, Morris again scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown. Miami scored on every possession they had during the first half, leading the Patriots 31-0 at intermission.
In the third quarter, Morrall threw a 16-yard pass to Marlin Briscoe, increasing the Dolphins lead to 38-0. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, which little doubt about which team would win, Dolphins quarterback Jim Del Gazio replaced Morrall. Del Gazio threw two touchdown passes in the final quarter – a 51-yard pass to Briscoe and a 39-yard pass to Jim Mandich. The Dolphins did not allow the Patriots to score throughout the game.
The final score of 52-0 in favor of Miami remains the most lopsided win for either team in the history of the Dolphins-Patriots rivalry. Miami totaled 482 yards, far higher than New England's 169 yards. Morrall passed for 162 yards, while Del Gazio passed for 145. The Dolphins defense limited the Patriots to just 77 net passing yards and 92 rushing yards, including four sacks against Plunkett for a loss of 40 yards. Morris, the leading rusher of the game, accumulated 90 rushing yards and 35 receiving yards; he scored 3 rushing touchdowns. With the victory, the Dolphins improved to 9-0. Don Shula became the 9th head coach in NFL history to win at least 100 regular season games, but the first to do so in only 10 seasons.
|Divisional||December 24, 1972||Cleveland Browns||W 20-14||1-0||Miami Orange Bowl||Recap|
|AFC Championship||December 31, 1972||at Pittsburgh Steelers||W 21-17||2-0||Three Rivers Stadium||Recap|
|Super Bowl VII||January 14, 1973||Washington Redskins||W 14-7||3-0||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum||Recap|
|New York Jets||7||7||0||.500||6-2||6-5||367||324||L2|
|New England Patriots||3||11||0||.214||0-8||0-11||192||446||L1|
There is an urban legend that every season, whenever the last remaining undefeated NFL team loses its first game, all the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins open bottles of champagne in celebration. Coach Don Shula tried to play down the myth by saying that two players, Dick Anderson and Nick Buoniconti, who live near each other sometimes have a toast together. However, in a college football broadcast on ABC, following the loss of an undefeated team, Bob Griese, after being asked by his colleague, commented that he called former Dolphins, and they had Diet Cokes together. That celebration comes with the connotation that they no longer drink alcoholic beverages, but that a toast was customary.
With the popularity of this story, the NFL capitalized on it in an official commercial that aired during Super Bowl LIII commemorating the 100th year of the NFL. The commercial featured "44 of the greatest NFL athletes" at a formal dinner event with almost everyone dressed in black tie. Cacophony breaks out, and three members of the '72 Dolphins, Larry Little, Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka, are shown casually sitting at a table together uniquely dressed in aqua-colored formal coats, and all three are drinking champagne, laughing at the chaos happening around them.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins were the first team to execute a perfect regular season in the post-merger NFL. They are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied in the regular season and postseason.
After their loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI (Miami's only loss during calendar year 1972), Don Shula had vowed to not get to the Super Bowl but to win it. To achieve this, he made the team watch the loss two times at training camp. Shula would later go on to say:
I think that's when we all came together for what was going happen for the next two years. What I stressed in the locker room was that we wanted to make sure this wouldn't happen again. Our goal was not to go to the Super Bowl but to win it.
An enduring controversy is that the 1972 Dolphins played a soft schedule not possible under the current scheduling formula. Prior to the implementation of position scheduling in 1978, opponents were set by the NFL on a rotating basis. Statistically, the Dolphins' 1972 regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .397 and only two had winning records for that season (both the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants finished 8-6). This does not however constitute any record: the 1975 Minnesota Vikings, who began 10-0 and finished 12-2, played fourteen opponents with an average winning percentage of .332 and nine of their games were against teams 4-10 or worse.
The Dolphins were beneficiaries of a weak AFC East which saw the Colts lapse from a perennial contender into a three-year stretch in which they would win only 11 games; a Bills team which had yet to find its legs with O.J. Simpson and the return of coach Lou Saban; a dysfunctional Patriots organization which had little to no talent to surround former No. 1 overall draft choice Jim Plunkett; and a Jets squad with a porous defense, offsetting the benefits of Joe Namath remaining healthy throughout the season and an emerging John Riggins in the running game. Miami also caught a scheduling break by facing an Oilers squad in the midst of back-to-back 1-13 seasons, a Chargers squad beginning a run of four consecutive seasons in the AFC West cellar, and a Cardinals squad which appeared to lack direction by rotating its starting quarterbacks instead of giving the job full-time to Jim Hart. Also, the Dolphins caught the Vikings in the midst of a massive transformation following the return of Fran Tarkenton. 1972 saw Minnesota miss the playoffs for the only time between 1968 and 1978, going 7-7.
However, the NFL's rules at the time also forced the undefeated Dolphins (14-0) to play the Steelers (11-3) in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game, a game in which the Dolphins won on the road to reach the Super Bowl. Subsequent rule changes have since changed the playoff structure so that this would never happen again. Since the 1975 season, teams that have won their division and have had a superior record than their opponent (as was the case with the 1972 Dolphins when they faced the Steelers) would play their postseason games at home.
The 1972 Dolphins team consisted mostly of the same core of players it possessed from 1970 through 1974 (five seasons) and was the most dominant professional football team in the NFL during that stretch. In those five seasons the Dolphins made the playoffs all five years, won three AFC Championships, went to the Super Bowl three times for two wins and went undefeated and untied while winning the Super Bowl in 1972. They posted a record of 64-14-1, and were also the fastest franchise to win a Super Bowl after its inception and joining the NFL (seven years after they started in the AFL and then three years after becoming a member of the NFL).
Fans in the Miami area could not catch the home games on television - they had to be there at the stadium for the games, listen to the radio, or travel to outside markets to watch the games on TV. For Miami-Dade residents in 1972, that would have meant driving northwest on Florida's Turnpike towards Orlando, or north on Interstate 95 to areas along the east coast of the state which picked up signals from Orlando and/or Jacksonville.
1972 was the last year that all home games were blacked out on local television even if they sold out. Super Bowl VII was the first game to be televised in the market of origin under new rules which would come into effect the following season - games must be sold out within 72 hours of kickoff time in order to be aired in the market of origin (these blackout rules were lifted in 2015). As all Super Bowls except the first have sold out, none have been blacked out since (tickets sell out rather quickly due to high demand to see the most major game of the NFL season schedule).
Coincidentally, President Richard Nixon, many of his White House staff, and members of Congress were angered by the blackout rules, since they could not watch the Dolphins' eventual Super Bowl opponent, the Redskins, play at home, even though all games at RFK Stadium had been sold out since 1966.
Four decades later in 2013, the team was invited by President Barack Obama to visit the White House. This occurred on August 20, when Obama noted that the team "never got their White House visit". As to why this team had not been invited by President Richard Nixon in 1973, Larry Csonka stated that he did not feel neglected as it had not been a regular occurrence at the time. However, MSNBC reported that this was a deliberate snub by Nixon, who was a Redskins fan, even though Nixon owned a vacation home in nearby Key Biscayne, Florida and telephoned Shula only hours after the Dolphins defeated the Colts in the 1971 AFC Championship game to suggest a play for Miami to use in Super Bowl VI (a down-and-out pass to Warfield which was broken up by Cowboys safety Cornell Green). Obama had previously invited the 1985 Bears to the White House, as their visit had gotten cancelled due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster by President Reagan. President Obama, a Chicago resident and Bears fan, had called them the greatest team ever, but during the Dolphins' visit he called his own words into question, also noting that the only loss the 1985 Bears had was to the Dolphins.Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Manny Fernandez all refused to attend due to political differences with the Obama administration.