Thirty-five years later, ‘72 Dol­phins still stand alone

Pa­tri­ots pose ma­jor threat

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Steven Wine

MI­AMI — The Mi­ami Dol­phins were two months into the 1972 sched­ule be­fore guard Bob Kuechen­berg first dis­cussed with any­one the pos­si­bil­ity of a per­fect sea­son.

With the record 10-0 af­ter a win over the New York Jets, Kuechen­berg and team­mate Jim Langer worked out at the team’s di­lap­i­dated com­plex.

“We were lift­ing weights in the bath­room they called a weight room,” Kuechen­berg said with a laugh. “It re­ally was that small. We had to put our feet on the wall to do the bench press.

“I told Langer, ‘Ob­vi­ously we’re go­ing to have to lose a game.’ “’I sup­pose,’ he said. “’When?’ I said. “’Not this week,’ was the only an­swer.”

For the ‘72 Dol­phins, that was the an­swer ev­ery week. By beat­ing Wash­ing­ton 14-7 to win the Su­per Bowl, the Dol­phins fin­ished 17-0 and be­came the first NFL team to com­plete a sea­son un­de­feated and un­tied.

Their achieve­ment still stands alone. The ‘72 Dol­phins are di­vided as to whether the ‘07 New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to eclipse the ac­com­plish­ment by go­ing 19-0. But there’s no de­bat­ing that in this era of the In­ter­net, talk ra­dio and cable sports chan­nels, per­fect-sea­son hype starts much ear­lier.

With more than half the sea­son to be played, the Pa­tri­ots (9-0) are al­ready touted for their chances of fin­ish­ing un­de­feated.

“We never talked about it,” ‘72 quar­ter­back Earl Mor­rall said. “It was like a base­ball pitcher who was throw­ing a no­hit­ter. You never said any­thing.” Kuechen­berg agreed. “Be­cause it had never been done be­fore, it was never thought pos­si­ble,” he said.

While the Dol­phins sur­prised even them­selves by go­ing un­de­feated, at first glance they weren’t as dom­i­nat­ing as this year’s New Eng­land team. The Dol­phins won reg­u­lar-sea­son games by one, two and four points, and their only blowout was a 52-0 win against — how times have changed — New Eng­land.

But the rules were dif­fer­ent then, with bump-and-run cov­er­age mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to throw down­field. Quar­ter­back Bob Griese and re­ceiver Paul Warfield are in the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame, but the Dol­phins threw a to­tal of only 40 passes in their three post­sea­son games, win­ning them by a com­bined 17 points.

Coach Don Shula in­stead re­lied on a grind­ing ground at­tack led by full­back Larry Csonka and half­backs Mer­cury Mor­ris and Jim Kiick. The Dol­phins broke the 36-year-old NFL record for yards rush­ing, and with Csonka and Mor­ris, they be­came the first team to have two 1,000-yard rush­ers.

“Our whole thing was to be sec­ond-and-6,” Kuechen­berg said. “If we got a play that gained more than 10 yards, it was a mir­a­cle. But you were not go­ing to stop us from get­ting at least 4 yards. We were sec­ond-and-6, third-and-2, first-and-10 all year long.”

Re­mark­ably, the Dol­phins kept win­ning even when Griese missed 11 starts with a bro­ken leg. Mor­rall proved equally ef­fi­cient at run­ning the of­fense.

“We called 75 per­cent of the plays from the line of scrim­mage,” said Norm Evans, a Pro Bowl tackle. “We could even call the snap count from the line. It was a lot of fun. You would go up there with Bob or Earl, and they would look at where the de­fense was lined up and run where they weren’t. We would just pick them apart.”

The ball-con­trol at­tack was the ideal com­ple­ment to Mi­ami’s “No-Name De­fense.” The mon­icker was a bit mis­lead­ing be­cause the unit had plenty of stars, with safeties Jake Scott and Dick An­der­son, end Bill Stan­fill and line­backer Nick Buon­i­conti mak­ing the Pro Bowl that sea­son. But Buon­i­conti is in the only Dol­phins de­fender in the Hall of Fame.

Still, Shula’s team was no fluke. The ‘71 Dol­phins reached the Su­per Bowl be­fore los­ing, and in ‘73 they went 152 and re­peated as cham­pi­ons.

The ‘72 Dol­phins con­cede they weren’t the big­gest, strong­est or fastest team. But they were smart, knew their as­sign­ments, rarely made mis­takes and shared con­fi­dence.

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