By: RANDY CAMPBELL (OLD DOLFAN)
GAME 9: NOV. 12, 1972 – BOSTON at MIAMI
On Nov. 16, 1959, Boston business leader Billy Sullivan won the eighth and final franchise for the new American Football League. Sullivan invited area citizens to submit possible nicknames for the franchise. The most popular choice (and the one preferred by Sullivan) was “Patriots.” The team had a vagabond existence in the AFL. Their home fields included Nickerson Field (1960-62); Fenway Park (1963-68); Alumni Stadium at Boston College (1969); and Harvard Stadium (1970). Beginning in 1971, the renamed New England Patriots moved to a stadium in Foxborough then known as Schaefer Stadium. It was renamed Sullivan Stadium in 1983. The Boston Patriots made only one appearance in the AFL playoffs from 1960 through 1969. The 1963 squad, led by Vito (Babe) Parilli, receiver and place kicker Gino Cappellitti and linebacker Nick Buoniconti, made it all the way to the AFL Championship Game. That game, played at tiny Balboa Stadium, proved to be a nightmare for Patriots’ fans as the San Diego Chargers destroyed Boston 51-10.
The New England Patriots struggled mightily when the AFL and the NFL merged. A 2-12 record in 1970 was followed by a 6-8 slate in 1971. In 1972, Patriots fans hoped their team finally would have another winning campaign. Quarterback Jim Plunkett, running back Carl Garrett and receiver Randy Vataha were all upper echelon players. But the lack of defensive playmakers led most observers to predict a sixth consecutive losing season for New England. Suspicions about the Patriots’ defense proved to be justified. This 2-6 team had already given up an average of over 30 points a game. And now they had to travel to the historic Orange Bowl to face an offense deemed “unstoppable” by Miami’s offensive coordinator, Howard Schnellenberger.
The Dolphins were overwhelming favorites. But I didn’t care. To my surprise, the U. S. Army sent me back home to my beloved Florida two months before my tour of duty was scheduled to end. I received what is known as an “early out.” I was broke, tired, despondent and in a poor frame of mind after working on mostly was casualties for nearly two years (often working 16+ hours per day). But when my brother-in-law said he had an extra ticket FOR ME, I jumped for joy like a little boy! I would get to see MY DOLPHINS play IN PERSON! I WOULD BE A WITNESS TO HISTORY! Thankfully, my old Datsun sedan got me all the way from Ft. Ord, California, to South Florida without breaking down.
This game was, in reality, a scrimmage for the vastly superior Dolphins. Mercury Morris, the star in the previous win over Buffalo, scored from four yards away and Miami had a quick 7-0 lead. A few minutes later, Morris scored again from the four to increase the lead to 14-0. A chip shot field Yepremian field goal made it 17-0 after the first quarter. The rout was on! New England simply could not stop the Dolphins offense. In the second stanza, Larry Csonka steam rolled to a three yard touchdown run. Before halftime, Mercury Morris scored his THIRD touchdown of the first half and Miami was in complete control at 31-0. Early in the third quarter, Earl Morrall tossed a bulls eye, good for 16 yards and a touchdown, to Marlin Briscoe. It was 38-0 and Shula pulled Morrall, Csonka, Kiick, Morris and Warfield.
Meanwhile, the “No Name Defense” continued to stuff the Patriots’ offense. Dolphin fans expected, and GOT, another shutout. In the final quarter, third string quarterback Jim Del Gaizo got to see significant action. Known as “The Mad Bomber” for his propensity for deep passes, Del Gaizo unleashed a 51-yard bomb to Briscoe to expand the lead to 45-0. Not satisfied, the University of Tampa product tossed another long bomb to tight end Jim Mandich, good for 39 yards and a 52-0 final score.
On the day, Schnellenberger’s “unstoppable” offense roared for 181 yards rushing and 318 yards passing! Meanwhile, the “No Name Defense” limited the Pats to just 169 yards total offense, much of it in “garbage time” in the second half. Jim Plunkett completed only 7 of 19 passes for 66 yards. And the “No Names” intercepted three New England passes.
This game marked Don Shula’s 100th victory as an NFL head coach. Only 8 other NFL coaches had achieved this plateau. And Shula was the YOUNGEST to ever do it. President Richard Nixon called Shula in the locker room to congratulate the Don of Miami. Shula responded “I hope the next time you call me it’s in the locker room after we’ve won the Super Bowl!” This undefeated team was now the talk of the sporting world. They had won their last three games by a combined score of 105-16. Talk of a Perfect Season was now in the air.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins were now 9-0.