By: Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN)
GAME 13: DEC. 10, 1972 – MIAMI at NEW YORK GIANTS
The New York Football Giants were founded in 1925 by original owner Tim Mara with an investment of $500. Mara installed the word “Football” in the team’s legal name to differentiate them from the older, established, baseball Giants. Both Giants teams played at the Polo Grounds. The Football Giants went 11-1-1 in 1927, securing their first NFL Championship. Following the 1929 season, Tim Mara transferred ownership of the team to his two sons to insulate the team from creditors. At the time, Jack and Wellington Mara were ages 22 and 14, respectively. Steve Owen became the Giants head coach in 1931. From 1931 to 1948 the Giants won 8 divisional titles and 2 NFL Championships (1934 and 1938). Jim Lee Howell replaced Howell in 1954. In 1956, the Giants, playing their home games in Yankee Stadium for the first time, dominated the Chicago Bears 47-7 in the NFL Championship Game. For that game, played in icy conditions, the Giants wore sneakers, just as they had back in 1934 when they defeated the Bears in THAT title game. The 1956 team included future Hall-of-Famers Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and Roosevelt Brown. The Giants coordinators were Tom Landry (defense) and Vince Lombardi (offense). In 1958, the Giants lost an overtime classic to the Baltimore Colts in a title game some refer to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The following season, under new coach Allie Sherman, New York lost again to the Colts 31-16. From 1961 through 1963 the Giants would lose three straight NFL Championship games. Overall, from 1927 through 1963, the Giants were in an amazing 14 NFL title games, winning 4 and losing 10.
The 1970 Giants squad started 0-3 but rebounded to finish 9-5, narrowly missing the playoffs. In 1971, injured star running back Ron Johnson missed most of the season and the team slumped to 4-10. The Giants traded quarterback Fran Tarkenton back to Minnesota for QB Norm Snead. Snead would have his best season as a professional in 1972, leading the NFL in completion percentage. Running back Ron Johnson, back from injury, set an all-time Giants record by rushing for 1182 yards in 1972.
Head Coach Don Shula understandably was concerned about facing this very strong Giants team on the road. Just two weeks ago, the Giants had destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles 62-10!! Shula and defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger agreed that forcing turnovers would be one way to slow down the Giants’ scoring machine. In practice sessions, the defense practiced stripping the ball away and forcing fumbles with big hits. And defensive backs were urged to play for the interception. On offense, Shula got some good news. All-Pro receiver Paul Warfield’s arch injury was significantly better. Warfield, who had caught only one touchdown pass all season, was determined to be at his best in this, the next-to-last regular season game of the year.
A huge contingent of New York media members were present to see if the Giants could end Miami’s dream of a Perfect Season. Even a few hundred Jet fans bought tickets to this game hoping to witness a Dolphins’ defeat.
Sharp passing by Norm Snead keyed the Giants’ first drive. Ron Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run gave New York an early 6-0 lead. Pete Gogolak’s PAT was no good. Miami responded with a very impressive 80-yard march. Mercury Morris ended the drive when he scampered around the corner, stayed in bounds, and scored from 12 yards out. Yepremian’s extra point gave Miami a 7-6 lead. Later in the opening stanza, a crunching hit by Mike Kolen led to a fumble recovery by Doug Swift. Garo Yepremian’s 37-yard field goal put the Dolphins ahead 10-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Another Giants turnover gave Miami the ball in the second quarter. On 3rd and 9 from the New York 34, everyone knew a pass was coming. Warfield, the likely target, drew double coverage. After blowing by Willie Williams, Warfield put an all-world move on Spider Lockhart and blew by him just as Earl Morrall released a perfect deep pass. Warfield caught the ball in stride and scored a most impressive touchdown! Miami now had a solid 17-6 lead. The Giants desperately wanted to score before halftime. Another impressive drive led by Norm Snead got the ball deep in the Dolphins’ end of the field. Ron Johnson’s second one-yard touchdown run pulled New York to within 17-13 at halftime.
Continued steady rains turned an already messy field into a second half quagmire. Temperatures were in the 40’s and it was windy. The hard-hitting Dolphins’ defense, combined with very sloppy conditions, produced SIX GIANTS’ TURNOVERS! At the end of the third quarter, the score remained 17-13, Miami. Giants’ (and Jets’) fans knew that one big play could turn this game completely around. Emphasizing the run, Morrall drove Miami down the field in the final quarter. Some nice runs by Morris put Yepremian in position for a 31-yard field goal attempt in the slop. Garo’s kick was GOOD!! Miami had a 20-13 lead. New York’s sixth and final turnover set up Miami inside Giant’s territory. Yepremian’s chip-shot field goal CLINCHED a 23-13 victory for the wet, tired, but very happy Miami Dolphins! On the day, Miami rushed for 204 yards on 41 carries (a 5.0 average) and passed for 171 yards (132 of them to Warfield). The six turnovers produced by the “No Name Defense” were the key factor in holding the high-scoring Giants’ to just 13 points.
In seven days, the Miami Dolphins would have a date with destiny in the historic Orange Bowl. The entire nation would be watching their final regular season game against the Colts.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins were now 13-0.