January 14, 1973: The only undefeated season in NFL season is realized. The 1972 Miami Dolphins still stand alone in time as the only team to finish the regular season and playoffs unbeaten.
This team was led by quarterbacks Bob Griese and Earl Morrall, and running back Larry Csonka, and the "No-Name Defense" as they were called. Don Shula was the coach. The team was coming off a stinging 24-3 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
Back then there were only 14 regular-season games and the Dolphins had a very soft schedule. Not many know, but statistically, the Dolphins’ 1972 regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .397 and only two opponents had winning records that year (both were 8–6). Not every game was easy as well, Miami escaped a game with the Minnesota Vikings, 16-14, and one with the Buffalo Bills, 24-23.
The playoffs were by no means a breeze. Miami downed the Cleveland Brown 20-14 in the divisional round. And get this, the undefeated Dolphins had to travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road! Home playoff games were determined by a preset rotation through each of the three divisions. Select division winners would play all playoff games at home, regardless of the comparative record of their opponent. The Dolphins prevailed, 21-17, to reach Super Bowl VII.
On this day 42 years ago, Super Bowl VII was played between the Dolphins and the Washington Redskins. Despite the close score of 14-7, the game was largely dominated by the Dolphins. It's the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Griese returned at quarterback after breaking his ankle in Week 5. The only drama was during the final minutes of the game, in what was later known as "Garo's Gaffe" when the Dolphins attempted to cap off their 17-0 season with a 17-0 win by attempting a late field goal. The kick was blocked and recovered by Miami kicker Garo Yepremian, who then tried to pass the ball but it slipped out of his hands and the Redskins returned it for a touchdown. It's considered one of the biggest Super Bowl blunders ever:
The Dolphins would hold on, however, and set the benchmark for football immortality at 17-0. Safety Jake Scott was named Most Valuable Player. He recorded two interceptions for 63 return yards, including a 55-yard return from the end zone during the 4th quarter.
Watch highlights of the game:
The New England Patriots are the only team since to have a chance to finish the season perfect (19 games), but failed to do so by falling to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Here's to you 1972 Dolphins and the day you completed your perfect 17-0 season. Go ahead, pop some champagne bottles to that.