1972 Miami Dolphins Season
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1972 Miami Dolphins Season
Jim Kiick (center right) rushing the ball for Miami in Super Bowl VII

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. By going 14-0, they improved on their 10-3-1 record from the previous season.

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 complete the regular season undefeated and untied is the Chicago Bears, who accomplished the feat in both 1934 and 1942, but those teams failed to win the NFL Championship Game.

During the 1972 season, 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 Morrall for the rest of the regular season. Griese returned as a substitute in the final regular season game against the Baltimore Colts, relieved Morrall for the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and started in Super Bowl VII.

The Dolphins clinched the AFC East title in Week 10.[1] On the ground, running backs 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, who played every down during the season,[2] and Larry Little and Pro Bowler Norm Evans.

The 1972 Dolphins defensive unit was the league's best. It is often called the "No-Name Defense", a moniker coined by Cowboys coach Tom Landry in an interview, because the Dolphins' offense received much more publicity. 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 Little, Morrall, Stanfill, and Anderson were named first-team All-Pro.[3]

On August 20, 2013, four decades after the perfect season, President Barack Obama hosted the 1972 Dolphins, noting that they "never got their White House visit."[4][5]

Background

The Miami Dolphins entered their seventh season in 1972. In the first four seasons, George Wilson served as the head coach, compiling a record of 15-39-2, but was fired in February 1970 and replaced by Don Shula. Despite his poor results as head coach,[6] Wilson acquired many players who contributed to the Dolphins' success in the early 1970s. For instance, the Dolphins' 1967 draft picks included quarterback Bob Griese and punter Larry Seiple, the 1968 draft added fullback Larry Csonka and running back Jim Kiick, and defensive end Bill Stanfill and running back Mercury Morris were drafted in 1969.[7][8] The Dolphins also signed an important undrafted player in 1968, defensive tackle Manny Fernandez. Wilson traded for linebacker Nick Buoniconti and guard Larry Little in 1969, and for wide receiver Paul Warfield in 1970, less than a month before being fired.[6] Mostly because of the acquisitions that he had made during his tenure as head coach, Wilson would initially be resentful of the Dolphins' success in first few years after being fired, believing that he had been fired prematurely and that Shula had inherited a "ready-made team."[9] However, tensions between Wilson and Shula disappeared after the team won Super Bowl VII, and Wilson congratulated Shula and invited him to play at his golf course.[10]

Among the first moves Shula made as head coach was assembling a coaching staff. By April 20, 1970, he had hired Bill Arnsparger as defensive coordinator, Monte Clark as offensive line coach, Mike Scarry as defensive line coach, Howard Schnellenberger as offensive coordinator, and Carl Taseff as offensive backs coach, while defensive backs coach Tom Keane, a holdover from the Wilson era, remained on the coaching staff.[6] All of these key members of the coaching staff would be retained through the 1972 season. In the 1970 draft, the Dolphins added players such as tight end Jim Mandich, cornerback Tim Foley, and safety Jake Scott. Future Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, who went undrafted, was signed, while guard Bob Kuechenberg was acquired during free agency. The 1970 team was greatly improved from the previous season, posting a 10-4 record and reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but losing to the Oakland Raiders 21-14 in their postseason debut. Notable additions to the team via the 1971 draft included defensive end Vern Den Herder and wide receiver Otto Stowe. Before the season, one important trade saw the Dolphins acquire linebacker Bob Matheson. After posting a 10-3-1 regular season record in 1971, the Dolphins advanced much further in the postseason, reaching Super Bowl VI. However, they suffered an embarrassing 24-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Off-season

NFL Draft

1972 Miami Dolphins draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 25 Mike Kadish  Defensive tackle Notre Dame
3 77 Gary Kosins  Running back Dayton Drafted by the Dolphins, but signed with the Chicago Bears[11]
4 91 Larry Ball  Linebacker Louisville
4 105 Al Denton  Tackle Ohio
5 129 Charlie Babb  Safety Memphis
6 155 Ray Nettles  Linebacker Tennessee Drafted by the Dolphins, but opted to play for the CFL's BC Lions[12]
7 161 Bill Adams  Guard Holy Cross Drafted by the Dolphins, but signed with the Buffalo Bills[13]
7 180 Calvin Harrell  Running back Arkansas State Drafted by the Dolphins, but played for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos[14]
8 207 Craig Curry  Quarterback Minnesota
8 233 Greg Johnson  Defensive back Wisconsin
11 285 Ed Jenkins  Wide receiver Holy Cross
12 311 Ashley Bell  Tight end Purdue
13 337 Archie Robinson  Defensive back Hillsdale
14 362 Willie Jones  Linebacker Tampa
15 389 Bill Davis  Defensive tackle William & Mary
16 415 Al Hannah  Wide receiver Wisconsin
17 441 Vern Brown  Defensive back Western Michigan
      Made roster    +   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career

Roster

Preseason

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue
1 August 5 at Detroit Lions L 23-31 0-1 Tiger Stadium
2 August 12 Green Bay Packers L 13-14 0-2 Miami Orange Bowl
3 August 19 at Cincinnati Bengals W 35-17 1-2 Riverfront Stadium
4 August 25 Atlanta Falcons W 24-10 2-2 Miami Orange Bowl
5 August 31 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

Regular season

Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Recap
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 November 27 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 December 16 Baltimore Colts W 16-0 14-0 Miami Orange Bowl Recap

Game summaries

Week 1: at Kansas City Chiefs

1 234Total
• Dolphins 7 1030 20
Chiefs 0 037 10

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

Week 2: vs. Houston Oilers

1 234Total
• Dolphins 13 777 34
Oilers 0 0130 13
  • Date: September 24
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 77°F; wind 11

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.[18]

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.[18] 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.[19]

Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings

1 234Total
• Dolphins 0 0610 16
Vikings 7 007 14
  • Date: September 24
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EST
  • Game weather: 56°F; wind 5

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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[21] 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, sacking Tarkenton five times,[22] and improved to 3-0.[23]

Week 4: at New York Jets

1 234Total
• Dolphins 0 14310 27
Jets 7 037 17

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.[24] 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.[25]

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 Steve Tannen of the Jets 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.[25]

Week 5: vs. San Diego Chargers

1 234Total
Chargers 3 007 10
• Dolphins 3 1470 24
  • Date: October 15
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 78°F; wind 10

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 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.[26]

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.[26]

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.[27] 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.[28]

Week 6: vs. Buffalo Bills

1 234Total
Bills 0 13010 23
• Dolphins 7 0107 24
  • Date: October 22
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 77°F; wind 18

The Dolphins remained at home during week 6 for a game against the intradivisional rival Buffalo Bills.[29] Miami scored a touchdown on the opening drive, capped off by a 5-yard run by Mercury Morris. After regaining possession later in the first quarter, the Dolphins managed to reach the Bills 7-yard line. However, four failed attempts at reaching the end zone gave the Bills possession again. Then, in the second quarter, Dolphins running back Jim Kiick fumbled the ball, recovered by Alvin Wyatt of the Bills. This ultimately set up a 35-yard field goal by Buffalo's John Leypoldt. Shortly after, Bills linebacker Ken Lee intercepted a pass from Earl Morrall and returned it for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter, Morrall attempted to throw a lateral pass, but fumbled and Buffalo defensive tackle Don Croft secured the ball. Leypoldt then kicked a 34-yard field goal, allowing the Bills to lead 13-7 at halftime.[30]

Dolphins tackle Manny Fernandez strip-sacked Bills quarterback Dennis Shaw at the Buffalo 10-yard line on the first play of the third quarter. Miami fullback Larry Csonka then ran 10 yards into the end zone, allowing the Dolphins to take a 14-13 lead. A few minutes after this transpired, Dolphins cornerback Curtis Johnson blocked a punt by Spike Jones of the Bills. After the Dolphins were penalized four times on that drive (a loss of 33 yards), Garo Yepremian kicked a 54-yard field goal,[30] the longest in franchise history until Pete Stoyanovich's 59-yard field goal in 1989.[31] The fourth quarter began with a 45-yard field goal by Leypoldt, cutting Miami's lead to 17-16. With 9:18 remaining in the final period, the Dolphins scored again with a 15-yard run by Morris, amassing 106 rushing yards in the game.[32] Later, the Bills capped off a touchdown-scoring drive with a 6-yard pass from quarterback Mike Taliaferro to fullback Jim Braxton. However, with only about one minute remaining by then, the Dolphins won the game by a score of 24-23.[30]

Week 7: at Baltimore Colts

1 234Total
• Dolphins 7 970 23
Colts 0 000 0
  • Date: October 29
  • Location: Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Game start: 4:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 59°F; wind 12

The Dolphins then traveled to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore for a match against the Colts on October 29.[33] Miami scored in the first quarter on an 80-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall to wide receiver Howard Twilley, a 32-yard rush by running back Larry Csonka, a 19-yard rush by running back Mercury Morris, and finally a 1-yard rush by Csonka for a touchdown. Garo Yepremian's extra point allowed the Dolphins to take a 7-0 lead. Dolphins cornerback Curtis Johnson blocked a punt by David Lee of the Colts and recovered the football at Baltimore's 22-yard line. A few plays later, at 3rd and 15 on Baltimore's 27-yard line, Morrall threw the ball to wide receiver Marlin Briscoe, who then threw a pass to wide receiver Paul Warfield at the 1-yard line. Csonka then ran 1-yard for a touchdown, but defensive tackle Jim Bailey blocked Yepremian's extra point attempt.[34]

Later in the second quarter, Dolphins defensive back Lloyd Mumphord blocked Boris Shlapak's field goal attempt. The second quarter then ended after Yepremian kicked a 24-yard field goal. The Dolphins led 16-0 after the first half. The game's final score occurred in the third quarter. Bruce Laird of the Colts was returning a punt but fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Hubert Ginn of the Dolphins at Baltimore's 20 yard line. After a few more plays, Morris scored a 7-yard rushing touchdown, followed by a Yepremian extra point. Miami won the game with a score of 23-0 and improved to 7-0 at the halfway point of the regular season.[34]

Week 8: at Buffalo Bills

1 234Total
• Dolphins 10 677 30
Bills 6 730 16
  • Date: November 5
  • Location: War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo, New York
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 41°F; wind 12

For week 8, the Dolphins traveled to War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo to take on the Bills on November 5. A Garo Yepremian 33-yard field goal allowed Miami to take an early 3-0 lead.[35] The Bills then overtook the Dolphins on a drive capped off by quarterback Dennis Shaw throwing a 13-yard pass to running back Randy Jackson, although John Leypoldt's extra point attempt would be blocked. Buffalo now led Miami by a score of 6-3. However, the Dolphins reclaimed the lead on a possession culminating in a 22-yard run by running back Mercury Morris, followed by an extra point by Yepremian. Miami increased their lead further early in the second quarter with a pair of Yepremian field goals from 17 yards and 16 yards. Shortly thereafter, Dolphins quarterback Earl Morrall was intercepted by Bills safety Tony Greene and returned for a touchdown, narrowing Miami's lead to 16-13. This would be the final score of the first half, as Miami halted another scoring attempt by Buffalo when cornerback Tim Foley intercepted Shaw at Miami's 20-yard line.[36]

Miami increased their lead again in the third quarter with a 7-yard pass from Morrall to tight end Marv Fleming. The antecedent drive included several long runs and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Bills. Later in the third quarter, Leypoldt kicked a 28-yard field goal, cutting their deficit to 23-16 at the end of the period. However, in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins put together another scoring drive that included a 26-yard pass from Morrall to Morris and then 4-yard rush by Morris for the touchdown. With neither team able to accumulate more points after that drive, the game ended as a 30-16 win for the Dolphins. Of note, Morris surpassed 100 rushing yards in a game for only the second time in his professional football career.[36]

Week 9: vs. New England Patriots

1 234Total
Patriots 0 000 0
• Dolphins 17 14714 52
  • Date: November 12
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 78°F; wind 9

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.[37] 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.[38]

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, with 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.[37]

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.[39] 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.[37] 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.[38]

Week 10 vs. New York Jets

1 234Total
Jets 7 1070 24
• Dolphins 7 777 28
  • Date: November 19
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 75°F; wind 11

The Dolphins then returned home in week 10 for their second matchup against the Jets.[40] Near the beginning of the first quarter, Dolphins safety Dick Anderson intercepted Jets quarterback Joe Namath's first pass of that game. After seven more plays, Miami scored on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall to wide receiver Howard Twilley. New York responded with an 80-yard drive that included several short passes from Namath, before eventually ending with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by fullback John Riggins. In the game's second quarter, Morrall fumbled on a lateral pass, with the ball being recovered by cornerback Earlie Thomas of the Jets at the Dolphins 38-yard line. Within a few plays, the Jets scored another touchdown via a 28-yard pass from Namath to wide receiver Rich Caster. New York increased their lead on Miami to 17–7 after Bobby Howfield kicked a 33-yard field goal. However, the Dolphins cut the Jets lead to 17–14 just before halftime on a drive that ended with a 1-yard run by running back Mercury Morris.[41]

Early in the third quarter, Morrall rushed for 31 yards for a touchdown. Miami then led New York by 21–17. The Jets reclaimed the lead later in the third quarter on a drive that ended with a 4-yard pass from Namath to tight end Wayne Stewart. However, in the game's final quarter, Anderson landed on the ball after Jets running back Cliff McClain fumbled it at New York's 27-yard line. On the fourth play after the fumble, Morris managed to run 14 yards to the end zone. Miami would ultimately win the game by a score of 28–24 and improve to 10–0. With the victory, the Dolphins also clinched the AFC East title.[41]

Week 11 vs. St. Louis Cardinals

1 234Total
Cardinals 0 307 10
• Dolphins 7 3147 31
  • Date: November 27
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 9:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 66°F; wind 10

The Dolphins remained at home at the Orange Bowl in Week 11 for a Monday Night Football game against the St. Louis Cardinals.[42] Dolphins safety Dick Anderson intercepted St. Louis quarterback Gary Cuozzo's first pass of the game at the Cardinal's 29-yard line. On the sixth play following the interception, Dolphins running back Jim Kiick reached the end zone on a 2-yard run. Miami led St. Louis 7–0 following the first quarter. Both teams scored a field goal in the second quarter, from 49-yards and 25-yards by Jim Bakken of the Cardinals and Garo Yepremian of the Dolphins, respectively. At half time, Miami led St. Louis by a score of 10–3.[43]

The Dolphins would widen their lead by two touchdowns in the third quarter. First, Miami scored on a 37-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall to wide receiver Otto Stowe. Later in the quarter, Dolphins cornerback Lloyd Mumphord intercepted Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart and returned the ball for a touchdown. Miami now led by 24–3 after the third quarter. St. Louis finally responded again in the fourth quarter via a 2-yard rush by running back Leon Burns. However, the Dolphins then scored another touchdown on a drive capped off by a 27-yard pass from Morrall to Stowe. Miami won the game by a score of 31–10.[43]

Week 12 at New England Patriots

1 234Total
• Dolphins 3 10177 37
Patriots 0 7014 21
  • Date: December 3
  • Location: Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 44°F; wind 19

In Week 12, the Dolphins traveled to Schaefer Stadium for their second matchup of the season against the Patriots. The only score in the first quarter was 36-yard field goal by Miami's Garo Yepremian.[44] The Dolphins increased their lead further in the second quarter, with a 10-yard field goal by Yepremian and a 1-yard rush by running back Jim Kiick on a drive that spanned 89 yards. New England responded late in the second quarter via a 36-yard pass from quarterback Jim Plunkett to wide receiver Tom Reynolds. The Dolphins led by a score of 13–7 at halftime.[45]

Early in the third quarter, Miami defensive Vern Den Herder intercepted a pass by Plunkett and reached New England's 11-yard line before the play ended. The Dolphins soon scored another touchdown when quarterback Earl Morrall threw a 3-yard pass to tight end Jim Mandich. Later in the third quarter, Yepremian kicked a 18-yard field goal. Dolphins linebacker Doug Swift intercepted Plunkett on New England's next possession. On the fifth play following the interception, Miami scored on a 14-yard pass from Morrall to wide receiver Marlin Briscoe. Miami added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter via an 8-yard rush by running back Hubert Ginn. At this point, the Dolphins led by 37–7. The Patriots scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first being an 8-yard pass from quarterback Brian Dowling to running back John Tarver and the second being a 1-yard rush by Dowling. The game ended with a 37–21 victory for the Dolphins.[45]

With the win, the Dolphins became only the third team in NFL history to win at least 12 consecutive games, after the 1934 Chicago Bears and 1969 Minnesota Vikings. Also of note, running back Larry Csonka surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season during this game.[45]

Postseason

Round Date Opponent Result Record Venue Recap
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

Standings

AFC East
W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Miami Dolphins 14 0 0 1.000 8-0 11-0 385 171 W14
New York Jets 7 7 0 .500 6-2 6-5 367 324 L2
Baltimore Colts 5 9 0 .357 4-4 5-6 235 252 L2
Buffalo Bills 4 9 1 .321 2-6 2-9 257 377 W1
New England Patriots 3 11 0 .214 0-8 0-11 192 446 L1

Awards and honors

Urban legend

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.[46][47] However, in a college football broadcast on ABC following the loss of an undefeated team, Bob Griese commented that he called former Dolphins, and they had Diet Cokes together.[48]

The NFL capitalized on the legend during a 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 the attendees dressed in black tie. Cacophony breaks out, and three members of the 1972 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.[49]

The perfect season

The 1972 team on the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll

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 only reach the Super Bowl again but to win it. He forced the team to watch film of the loss twice while 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.[50]

An enduring controversy is based on the argument that the 1972 Dolphins played a soft schedule not possible under the current scheduling formula.[51] Prior to the implementation of position scheduling in 1978, opponents were set by the NFL on a rotating basis.[52] The Dolphins' 1972 regular-season opponents posted 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). However, this does constitute any record; the 1975 Minnesota Vikings, who began 10-0 and finished 12-2, played 14 opponents with an average winning percentage of .332, and nine of their games were against teams 4-10 or worse.[53]

The Dolphins were beneficiaries of a weak AFC East that saw the Colts lapse from a perennial contender into a three-year stretch in which they would win only 11 games; a Bills team yet to find its legs with O.J. Simpson and the return of coach Lou Saban; a dysfunctional Patriots organization that 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 team that was in the midst of back-to-back 1-13 seasons, a Chargers team beginning a run of four consecutive seasons in the AFC West cellar, and a Cardinals team that appeared to lack direction by rotating its starting quarterbacks instead of giving the job full-time to Jim Hart. The Dolphins also caught the Vikings in the midst of a massive transformation following the return of Fran Tarkenton, missing the playoffs for the only time between 1968 and 1978, finishing 7-7.

The NFL's rules at the time forced the undefeated Dolphins (14-0) to play the Steelers (11-3) in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game. 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 consisted mostly of the same core of players that it possessed from 1970 through 1974 and was the most dominant NFL team during that stretch. In those five seasons, the Dolphins reached the playoffs all five years, won three AFC Championships, two Super Bowls 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 franchise inception and joining the NFL (seven years after starting in the AFL, three years after becoming a member of the NFL).

Television coverage

Fans in the Miami area could not view the team's home games on television, as 1972 was the final year in which all NFL home games were blacked out on local television even if the stadium had sold out. To view the team's home games, Dolphins fans in the Miami-Dade area would have to attend home games in person or travel to outside markets such as Orlando and Jacksonville to watch the games on television.

Super Bowl VII was the first game to be televised in the market of origin under new rules that would come into effect the following season requiring games to be sold out within 72 hours of kickoff time to be aired in the market of origin (these blackout rules were lifted in 2015). As all Super Bowls (except Super Bowl I) have sold out, none have been blacked out since.

President Richard Nixon, many of his White House staff, and members of Congress were angered by the blackout rules, as they could not watch the home games of the Dolphins' eventual Super Bowl opponent, the Redskins, even though all games at RFK Stadium had been sold out since 1966.

2013 White House visit

President Obama honoring the 1972 team at the White House in 2013

Four decades later, on August 20, 2013, the team was invited by President Barack Obama to visit the White House. Obama noted that the team "never got their White House visit."[54] Asked why the 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.[55] 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 that was broken up by Cowboys safety Cornell Green).[56] Obama had previously invited the 1985 Bears to the White House, as their original visit had been canceled because of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Obama, a Chicago resident and Bears fan,[57] had called the 1985 Bears the greatest team ever, but during the Dolphins' visit, he called his own words into question, also noting that the 1985 Bears' only defeat came at the hands of the Dolphins.[58] Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Manny Fernandez all refused to attend because of their political differences with the Obama administration.[59]

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External links


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