1972 Miami Dolphins season
OwnerJoe Robbie
Head coachDon Shula
Home fieldMiami Orange Bowl
Results
Record14–0
Division place1st AFC East
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (vs. Browns) 20–14
Won AFC Championship (at Steelers) 21–17
Won Super Bowl VII (vs. Redskins) 14–7
Pro Bowlers
AP All-Pros
Running back Jim Kiick (center right) rushes for Miami in Super Bowl VII
Running back Jim Kiick (center right) rushes for Miami in Super Bowl VII

The 1972 Miami Dolphins season was the franchise's seventh season and third in the National Football League. The team was led by third-year head coach Don Shula and achieved the only "perfect season" in NFL history. They also led the league in both points scored and points allowed.

Starting quarterback Bob Griese broke his ankle in Week 5, leaving backup Earl Morrall to start the remainder of the regular season, though Greise relieved Morrall in the second half of the AFC Championship Game and started Super Bowl VII. Morrall, a thirty-eight-year-old who spent much of his career backing up stars including Griese, Johnny Unitas, and Bobby Layne, was named MVP in 1968 under Shula when the pair led the Baltimore Colts to the NFL championship. The Dolphins clinched the AFC East title in Week 10 with Morrall at quarterback.[1]

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 team in receptions and receiving yards. The offensive line included future Hall of Famers Jim Langer and Larry Little.[2]

The Dolphins' early-1970s defensive unit was termed the "No-Name Defense" by Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry given its lack of high-profile players (the unit's only Hall of Famer, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, achieved much of his success with the New England Patriots and was not inducted until 2001). The defense was led by Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. In all, nine Dolphins—Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, Norm 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]

The Dolphins went 14–0 in the regular season and won all three postseason games to finish 17–0, the only undefeated and untied season in NFL history. Three other teams, the Chicago Bears in 1934 and 1942 and the New England Patriots in 2007, reached the NFL's title game undefeated, but all three lost the championship. Miami led the league in total offense, total defense, scoring offense, and scoring defense, the only team ever to do so. On August 20, 2013, four decades after the perfect season, President Barack Obama hosted the surviving members of the 1972 Dolphins, noting they "never got their White House visit."[4][5]

Background

The Miami Dolphins franchise was founded in 1966 under head coach George Wilson. Wilson led the Dolphins to just fifteen wins in four seasons before being fired and replaced by Baltimore Colts head coach Don Shula. Despite his poor record, many of Wilson's acquisitions contributed to the Dolphins' success in the early 1970s. The team drafted quarterback Bob Griese in 1967, fullback Larry Csonka in 1968, and defensive end Bill Stanfill and running back Mercury Morris in 1969.[6][7] Wilson also signed Manny Fernandez and traded for Nick Buoniconti, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield.[8] Wilson was initially resentful of the Dolphins' success, believing his firing was premature and Shula had inherited a "ready-made team."[9] However, tension between Wilson and Shula lessened after the team won Super Bowl VII, and Wilson congratulated Shula and invited him to play at his golf course.[10]

After accepting the job in Miami, Shula hired Howard Schnellenberger as offensive coordinator, Bill Arnsparger as defensive coordinator, Carl Taseff as offensive backs coach, Monte Clark as offensive line coach, and Mike Scarry as defensive line coach, and retained defensive backs coach Tom Keane from Wilson's staff;[8] each of these coaches remained with the team through 1972. In the 1970 draft and ensuing free agency period, Shula added cornerback Tim Foley, safety Jake Scott, guard Bob Kuechenberg, and future Hall of Fame center Jim Langer. In Shula's first season, the Dolphins went 10–4 and reached the playoffs for the first time. Miami returned to the playoffs in 1971 and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the longest game in NFL history to secure the franchise's first playoff victory. The Dolphins shut out the Baltimore Colts, Shula's former team, to reach Super Bowl VI, where they lost 24–3 to Dallas.

Off-season

NFL Draft

Main article: 1972 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 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 Signed with the BC Lions[12]
7 161 Bill Adams  Guard Holy Cross Signed with the Buffalo Bills[13]
7 180 Calvin Harrell  Running back Arkansas State Signed with the 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

1972 Miami Dolphins roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists


Practice squad


Rookies in italics

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 opened the season against the Chiefs in the first regular season game at Arrowhead Stadium. In the Divisional Round the year prior, Miami defeated Kansas City at Kansas City Municipal Stadium in double overtime, the longest game in NFL history.

On the Chiefs' first drive, Miami safety Dick Anderson recovered an Ed Podolak fumble, leading to a seven-play, 57-yard drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown from Bob Griese to Marlin Briscoe. Lloyd Mumphord blocked a Jan Stenerud field goal attempt on Kansas City's ensuing drive.[15] Late in the second quarter, the Dolphins scored twice in quick succession – a 47-yard Garo Yepremian field goal and a two-yard Larry Csonka run following an interception by Jake Scott. The Chiefs did not score until a 40-yard field goal by Stenerud late in the third quarter, and a touchdown from Len Dawson to Willie Frazier was the only score of the fourth quarter as Miami won 20–10.[16]

Week 2: vs. Houston Oilers

1 234Total
Oilers 0 0130 13
• Dolphins 13 777 34

The Orange Bowl's new Poly-Turf field and intermittent rains led to slippery conditions for Miami's Week 2 meeting with Houston. Less than two minutes in, Bill Stanfill returned a Hoyle Granger fumble to Houston's one-yard line to set up a Jim Kiick touchdown. Minutes later, Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini muffed the ball in punt formation; the Dolphins recovered again and Mercury Morris scored four plays later. Garo Yepremian's subsequent extra point attempt was blocked, his first miss after seventy-five consecutive successful attempts. Miami engineered another four-play scoring drive on its following possession, using a 30-yard Paul Warfield reception to set up a short Larry Csonka touchdown and give the Dolphins a 20–0 halftime lead. Pastorini completed three of ten passes for minus-ten yards in the first half.[17]

A nine-play, 76-yard drive to open the second half pushed Miami further ahead.[17] A long Charlie Joiner touchdown got Houston on the board and a second score after a Morris fumble cut Miami's lead to 27–13. However, Kiick's second touchdown following a fourteen-play drive in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach, and a Tim Foley interception sealed a 34–13 Dolphins victory.[18]

Week 3: at Minnesota Vikings

1 234Total
• Dolphins 0 0610 16
Vikings 7 007 14

The first-ever meeting between the Dolphins and Vikings began with a long first-quarter touchdown from Fran Tarkenton to John Gilliam; Minnesota held this 7–0 lead into halftime.[19] Tim Foley intercepted Tarkenton early in the third quarter, setting up a 51-yard Garo Yepremian field goal. A second Yepremian field goal cut Minnesota's lead to one point, but the Vikings responded with thirteen-play drive which ended in a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.[20]

Minnesota quickly regained possession by intercepting Bob Griese, but two sacks of Tarkenton kept Minnesota out of field goal range and the game at 14–6. On Miami's ensuing drive, a 22-yard pass from wide receiver Marlin Briscoe to Jim Mandich set up another 51-yard Yepremian field goal.[20] A short Vikings punt was followed by a six-play Miami drive and a three-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Mandich to give the Dolphins a 16–14 win. The Dolphins sacked Tarkenton five times and intercepted him three times.[21][22]

Week 4: at New York Jets

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

The Jets received the opening kickoff and quickly marched 65 yards downfield, taking a 7–0 lead when a Cliff McClain fumble was recovered by guard Randy Rasmussen in the end zone.[23] New York maintained this advantage until early in the second quarter when a 16-yard touchdown pass from Bob Griese to Howard Twilley tied the game. A six-yard Jim Kiick touchdown run gave Miami a 14–7 lead just before halftime.[24]

A field goal early in the third quarter increased Miami's lead to ten points. On New York's subsequent drive, Joe Namath found Jerome Barkum for a 52-yard gain which gave the Jets first-and-goal at the one-yard line. However, two penalties and three failed attempts forced New York to settle for an 18-yard Bobby Howfield field goal, cutting the lead to 17–10. Early in the fourth quarter, Miami capitalized on a long pass interference penalty against Steve Tannen with a second Jim Kiick touchdown run. Miami fumbled a punt deep in its own territory in the fourth quarter and allowed New York cut the lead to 24–17, but a late field goal put the game out of reach as the Dolphins won 27–17.[24]

Week 5: vs. San Diego Chargers

1 234Total
Chargers 3 007 10
• Dolphins 3 1470 24
  • Date: October 15
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m. EDT
  • Game weather: 78°F; wind 10 mph
  • Referee: Chuck Heberling
  • TV announcers (KCST (San Diego only)): Jerry Gross, Mike Smith

The Dolphins and Chargers traded first-quarter field goals before Dick Anderson returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown to give Miami a 10–3 lead. The Dolphins scored a second touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Earl Morrall to Howard Twilley to take a 17–3 lead into halftime.[25] In the third quarter, Morrall's second touchdown pass increased the lead to 24–3. A late San Diego touchdown made the final score 24–10 as the Dolphins moved to 5–0.[25]

Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese broke his ankle early in the first quarter on a sack by Ron East and Deacon Jones.[26] He did not play again for the remainder of the regular season; Griese was replaced by the thirty-eight-year-old Morrall until returning in the AFC Championship Game.[27]

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. EDT
  • Game weather: 77°F; wind 18
  • Referee: Ben Dreith
  • TV announcers (WKBW): Rick Azar, Paul Maguire

The Dolphins remained at home during week 6 for a game against the intradivisional rival Buffalo Bills.[28] 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.[29]

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,[29] the longest in franchise history until Pete Stoyanovich's 59-yard field goal in 1989.[30] 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.[21] 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.[29]

Week 7: at Baltimore Colts

1 234Total
• Dolphins 7 970 23
Colts 0 000 0

The Dolphins then traveled to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore for a match against the Colts on October 29.[31] 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.[32]

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.[32]

Week 8: at Buffalo Bills

1 234Total
• Dolphins 10 677 30
Bills 6 730 16

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.[33] 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.[34]

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.[34]

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. EST
  • Game weather: 78°F; wind 9
  • Referee: Fred Silva
  • TV announcers (NBC): Jay Randolph and Dave Kocourek

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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[35]

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.[37] 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.[35] 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.[36]

Week 10 vs. New York Jets

1 234Total
Jets 7 1070 24
• Dolphins 7 777 28

The Dolphins then returned home in week 10 for their second matchup against the Jets.[38] 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.[39]

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.[39]

Week 11 vs. St. Louis Cardinals

1 234Total
Cardinals 0 307 10
• Dolphins 7 3147 31

The Dolphins remained at home at the Orange Bowl in Week 11 for a Monday Night Football game against the St. Louis Cardinals.[40] 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.[41]

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.[41]

Week 12 at New England Patriots

1 234Total
• Dolphins 3 10177 37
Patriots 0 7014 21

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.[42] 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.[43]

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.[43]

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.[43]

Week 13 at New York Giants

1 234Total
• Dolphins 10 706 23
Giants 6 700 13

The Dolphins traveled to Yankee Stadium in New York to face the New York Giants in Week 13.[44] After Joe Orduna of the Giants returned the opening kickoff for 38 yards, New York began a five play, 50-yard drive. New York running back Ron Johnson rushed 1-yard for a touchdown, which was preceded by a 34-yard pass from quarterback Norm Snead to wide receiver Don Herrmann. However, the Dolphins blocked Pete Gogolak's extra point attempt. Miami quickly responded with a 10 play, 82-yard drive capped off by a 12-yard rush by Mercury Morris for a touchdown and a successful extra point attempt by Garo Yepremian. Later in the first quarter, New York's Rocky Thompson fumbled during a kickoff return, with the ball recovered by Miami running back Charles Leigh. The Giants defense forced the Dolphins to kick a 37-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 10–6.[45]

Miami extended their lead further in the second quarter, when wide receiver Paul Warfield caught a 34-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall. New York responded with another touchdown, the result of an 81-yard, 12 play drive which again ended with a 1-yard run by Johnson. By the end of the first half, the Dolphins led by a score of 17–13. Neither team scored in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Dolphins cornerback Curtis Johnson intercepted a pass from Snead, which eventually led to Yepremian kicking a 31-yard field goal. A turnover by New York's John Mendenhall during a punt return later in the fourth quarter led to another field goal by Yepremian, this time by a distance of 16 yards. The Giants were unable to score after the second quarter, and thus, the game ended with a 23–13 victory for the Dolphins.[45]

Week 14 vs. Baltimore Colts

1 234Total
Colts 0 000 0
• Dolphins 3 733 16
  • Date: December 16
  • Location: Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida
  • Game start: 1:00 p.m.
  • Game weather: 69°F; wind 14
  • Referee: Jim Tunney
  • TV announcers (NBC): Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis

In the final week of the regular season, the Dolphins returned home for their second matchup against the Colts. The Dolphins scored first, with a 40-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian in the first quarter. Miami extended their lead further in the second quarter, with a 14-yard pass from quarterback Earl Morrall to wide receiver Paul Warfield. After Colts quarterback Marty Domres sprained his ankle, Baltimore briefly inserted Johnny Unitas at quarterback late in the second quarter for what would be his final game as a Colt. In the second half, the Dolphins added six more points with a pair of third and fourth quarter field goals by Yepremian from 50 yards and 35 yards, respectively. Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese entered the game in the fourth quarter, his first time on the field since his injury against the Chargers in Week 5. With Baltimore unable to score throughout the game, Miami won 16–0.[46]

With the Dolphins defeating the Baltimore Colts, they finished the regular season with a perfect win–loss record of 14–0. The 1972 Dolphins became the third team in the history of the NFL to complete a regular season undefeated and untied, after the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears, while the 1948 Cleveland Browns achieved a 14–0 record as a member of the All-America Football Conference. Later, the 2007 New England Patriots also earned an undefeated and untied regular season record.[47]

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.[48][49] 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.[50]

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.[51]

The perfect season

Main article: Perfect season

The 1972 team on the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll
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.[52]

An enduring controversy is based on the argument that the 1972 Dolphins played a soft schedule not possible under the current scheduling formula.[53] Prior to the implementation of position scheduling in 1978, opponents were set by the NFL on a rotating basis.[54] 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 not 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.[55]

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 65–15–1, 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
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."[56] 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.[57] 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).[58] 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,[59] 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.[60] Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Manny Fernandez all refused to attend because of their political differences with the Obama administration.[61]

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