When it comes to discussions of the best NFL teams of all time, the talk almost always begins with the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 season. That was the year that the Miami Dolphins became the first team in the Super Bowl age to post a completely undefeated season. While they might not have been the greatest team in NFL history, 1972 was certainly a most impressive year for them. With a 17 to 0 record and a Super Bowl Championship to boot, the Miami Dolphins were placed on a pedestal that no other NFL team has yet managed to scale.
That year, the Miami Dolphins were led by head coach Don Shula – a legend in the NFL. The team was rounded out with Larry Csonka on fullback and Bob Griese on quarterback. With such a stellar line up, there were very high expectations for the Miami Dolphins from the outset. While the Dolphins did not lose a single game that year, it was not always smooth sailing for the team. Oftentimes, the outcome of the game would not be decided until the fourth quarter.
The season was launched with a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the newly opened Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Kansas. This game proved to be a breeze for the Miami Dolphins – they defeated them 20 to 10. The Kansas City Chiefs only managed to score a touchdown with nine seconds left to play in the game. It was Larry Csonka who led the way in this game. He scored one touchdown with one hundred eighteen yards rushing. Griese also managed to chip in with a touchdown pass to Marlin Briscoe.
The following week, the Miami Dolphins would beat the Houston Oilers, 34 to 13.
It was not until the third week that the Miami Dolphins experience their first close call. They were in the heat of a game against the Minnesota Vikings, during the course of which it seemed like they would lose. In the fourth corner, the Miami Dolphins were trailing behind at 14 to 6. Then Garo Yepremian managed to connect a fifty-one yard field goal, raising the score to 14 to 9. Then the Minnesota Vikings bogged down on the offense, at which point the Miami Dolphins managed to snag the ball. They were led down the field by Griese. This drive ended in a three-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Jim Mandich on the tight end, with only 1:28 left on the clock. This win positioned the Miami Dolphins as the sole undefeated team in the entire NFL.
It was not hard for the Miami Dolphins to win over the Jets in the fourth week. The fifth week victory over the Chargers was also a piece of cake.
But their next game, against San Diego, was not so easy. The team suffered the loss of quarterback Bob Griese, who dislocated his right ankle and suffered a small bone fracture in his right leg. At that point, Griese was replaced by thirty eight year old veteran player Earl Morrall. Morrall barely led the team to a victory past the Buffalo Bills in his first game with the Miami Dolphins. Morrall’s game relied heavily on running; throughout the entire game, he managed to throw only ten passes, six of which were completed for ninety-one yards.
At that point, the Miami Dolphins went into cruise control mode. For the next three games, they managed to record two shutouts and outscore their opponents 105 to 16. They would not encounter any major problems until the tenth week, when they were faced with a rematch against the New York Jets. This was Miami’s big chance the clinch the AFC East title.
But things were not looking good for the Miami Dolphins. By the end of the third quarter, they were trailing behind the Jets at 24 to 20.
Thankfully, Mercury Morris saved the day. He had rushed for 107 yards at that point, and would not be turned away when he scampered a further fourteen yards in to the end zone for the go ahead score. At that point, the Miami Dolphins were awarded the AFC East title. Their record at that point for wins was 10 to 0.
Nothing could stop the Miami Dolphins now. They would go on to finish the season’s final four games in winning fashion. They beat the Cardinals at 31 to 10, the Patriots at 37 to 21, and finally the Giants at 23 to 13. In the final week of the regular season, week fourteen, the Miami Dolphins faced off against Baltimore – and won, at 16 to 0. (This was also Johnny Unitas’s final game with the Baltimore Colts.) This was the first time a football team had finished off the regular season without a loss since the Chicago Bears made a similar finish thirty years prior.
In the playoffs’ first round, the Miami Dolphins managed to slip past the Browns, thanks to Paul Warfield, who slipped past the defenders for sixty of the eighty yards in the winning Dolphins game.
Bob Griese was able to return for the AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. During the course of that game, the Steelers made numerous fatal mistakes, which helped the Miami Dolphins ease their way towards victory at 21 to 17. At that point, they were slated to face up in the Super Bowl against the Redskins.
Despite the fact that the Miami Dolphins had not lost a game the entire year, Washington went in to the Super Bowl as a three-point favorite. It was not long before Miami gained an advantage over the Redskins at 14 to 0. It seemed certain that the Dolphins would win.
But then Garo Yepremian’s field goal attempt was blocked. Instead of covering the ball as he probably should have, Yepremian attempted to pick up the ball and throw it. The ball fell out of his hands and into the arms of Mike Bass, the Redskins quarterback. This could have been catastrophic for the Dolphins, but they managed to beat the Redskins at 14 to 7 anyway.