By: Randy Campbell (Old Dolfan)
GAME 8: NOV. 5, 1972 – MIAMI at BUFFALO
Two weeks earlier, the Miami Dolphins narrowly escaped the historic Orange Bowl with a 24-23 win over the Buffalo Bills. As they prepared for the rematch head coach Don Shula asked offensive coordinator Howard Schnellenberger, “What do we do best against Buffalo?” “That’s easy. The thing we do best is running the football.” said Schnellenberger. “Then THAT’s what we’re going to do,” said the Don of Miami. Together, the two coaches developed a strategy they originally sprang on the Houston Oilers in week #2; the “3-Back Attack.” A few new wrinkles were added to the mix. But the philosophy was “We’re going to run the ball until forced to do something else.”
One of the three backs, Eugene (Mercury) Morris, had his own private rivalry with Bills’ star back O. J. Simpson. “Back in college, O. J. beat me out two years in a row for the NCAA rushing title,” said Morris. “Simpson always seems to beat me out. When we both turned pro, he was an instant starter; I was on the second team.” Morris continued, “O.J.’s always in the limelight. But, today, things will be different. My team, and my performance, will grab the headlines.” Morris’ prophecy came true. On Miami’s second play, Mercury Morris swept around right end and ran 33 yards down to the Bills’ 20. Yepremian’s 33-yard field goal gave the Dolphins a quick 3-0 lead. Buffalo responded. A 13-yard touchdown pass, Dennis Shaw to Randy Jackson, put the Bills ahead 6-3 after a missed PAT. Now was the time to put the “3-Back Attack” into high gear. On the next drive, Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka combined for four carries for 25 yards. Then Morrall connected with tight end Jim Mandich for 13 yards to the Buffalo 22. Next, Morrall handed-off to Morris on a play designed to go off right tackle. The hole was jammed, so Morris sprinted outside and burst to the 10 where the Bills’ Robert James and Maurice Tyler were waiting for him. Morris juked James, bounced-off Tyler, and sped into the end zone for a 10-6 Miami advantage!
A pair of Yepremian field goals, set-up by the “3-Back Attack,” gave the Fins a 16-6 lead. But Buffalo’s Tony Green intercepted Morrall and returned it for a touchdown, narrowing the gap to 16-13 at halftime. The huge Buffalo crowd roared its approval! Would there be another heart-stopping finish to a Dolphins-Bills game? Would this be the end of The Perfect Season?