GAME 11: NOV. 27, 1972 (Monday) – ST. LOUIS at MIAMI
The Miami Dolphins hosted the St. Louis football Cardinals on Monday Night Football the 11th week of the Perfect Season. This franchise (now known as the Arizona Cardinals) began way back in 1899 as the Morgan Athletic Club in the rough Irish section of the south side of Chicago. It is the oldest continuous football franchise in pro football history.
In 1920, this team, known as the Chicago Cardinals, joined the American Professional Football Association, which soon became the National Football League. In 1925, sensational halfback Paddy Driscoll led the Cards to victory in Comiskey Park over the Pottsville Maroons in the NFL Championship Game. The Chicago Cardinals were purchased in 1932 by Charles Bidwell, Sr., a wealthy Chicago businessman, for $50,000. After 15 unremarkable seasons, Bidwell went on a spending binge acquiring Charlie Trippi, Marshall Goldberg, Elmer Angsman and rifle-armed quarterback Paul Christman. This “million dollar backfield” got the Cardinals to the 1947 NFL Championship Game where they defeated the Eagles 28-21. In 1948, the Cards lost a rematch in the title game 7-0 to Philadelphia. Eventually, the Cards sank back into mediocrity. In 1960, Bidwell moved the team to St. Louis, where they shared Busch Stadium with the St. Louis baseball Cardinals. From 1960 through 1971 this football team continued their losing ways, failing to make the playoffs one single time. 1947 seemed like a million years ago to Cardinal fans!
The 1972 edition of the football Cardinals put together another losing season. After starting the campaign 2-2, St. Louis went 0-5-1 in their next six games. At 2-7-1, the red birds already had been eliminated from playoff contention. Quarterbacks Jim Hart and Gary Cuozzo combined for 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions during the first 10 games. Their top two running backs, Donny Anderson and Johnny Roland, averaged 3.5 and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively. Chicago’s best known wide receiver. future broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, had 29 receptions for 500 yards and three touchdowns. Future Hall-of-Fame tight end Jackie Smith was infrequently utilized during this season. Future Hall-of-Fame defensive back Larry Wilson was the leader of the Cardinals defense. Many experts consider Wilson one of the 10 best safeties to ever play the game.
This contest would represent the Miami Dolphins third appearance on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins would go on to win their first seven appearances before finally losing a Monday Night Game in 1975. Head coach Don Shula was concerned that his players were still caught-up in the excitement of their dramatic, heart-pounding, win over the New York Jets eight days ago. He sensed the team lacked focus as they prepared for this nationally televised game. The Don of Miami wasn’t about to let his team slack off. Practices were intense, even though few thought this game would be competitive.
ABC promoted this game as a chance for many Americans to see the undefeated Dolphins for the first time. Remember, there were only three major TV networks at this point in history. Most games were regionally televised during the regular season, so many fans had seen very little of the Dolphins run to perfection. “Are these Dolphins really that good? Or are they just lucky?” asked Howard Cosell. “We’ll know in a couple of hours” replied Dandy Don Meredith.
Wide receiver Paul Warfield was banged-up in the ferocious Jets’ game. Shula decided to start speedy Otto Stowe in place of the all-pro wide receiver. In the first quarter, Dick Anderson recovered a fumble at the St. Louis 29. Earl Morrall drove the Dolphins down to the two yard line. Jim Kiick found a narrow seam and scored, giving Miami a 7-0 lead. A lethargic second quarter saw Jim Bakken and Garo Yepremian trade field goals for a 10-3 score at intermission.
After the obligatory halftime highlights from Sunday’s games, Cosell and his crew came back on the air. “The Dolphins certainly didn’t blow me away with their first half performance,” said Cosell. “Nothing that’s happened here tonight has blown me away,” said Meredith, perhaps in a veiled reference to his alledged marijuana smoking during football broadcasts.
The Dolphins would make a stronger impression in the second half. Larry Csonka led a 69-yard Miami drive into Cardinals’ territory in the third quarter. St. Louis moved their linebackers and a defensive back closer to the line of scrimmage. Seeing this, Earl Morrall tossed a 37-yard bomb to Otto Stowe who easily beat his man for a touchdown! St. Louis tried to respond. But intense pressure by 6-foot-6 defensive end Vern Den Herder caused a wild pass that was picked-off by Lloyd Mumphord. Mumphord returned the interception 28 yards for a touchdown and the Dolphins were in full control, leading 24-3 after three quarters.
After a short Leon Burns TD run for the Cards, Earl Morrall and Otto Stowe hooked-up for a 27-yard scoring strike midway through the final quarter. The final score was Miami-31, St. Louis-10. On the night, Morrall completed 12 of 19 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns to Otto Stowe. Larry Csonka rumbled for 114 yards on only 16 carries. The “No Name Defense.” led by Den Herder, Anderson and Mumphord, stymied the St. Louis offense.
Next up: A date with the New England Patriots in Foxborough. The 1972 Miami Dolphins were now 11-0.