By: Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN)
Game 7; MIAMI @ NEW ENGLAND, Oct. 28, 1973
Weather: 44 degrees, relative humidity 58%, wind 14 mph
Start Time: 1:00pm
Stadium: Schaefer Stadium
Two games into the 1973 NFL season, some fans of the Miami Dolphins wondered aloud “What happened to our Dolphins?” After Miami lost 12-7 to the Oakland Raiders many questioned the effectiveness of the offense, which, in 1972, had been rated #1 in the NFL.
A month later, those questions had disappeared. Decisive wins over New England (44-23), the Jets (31-3), the Browns (17-9) and the high-scoring Buffalo Bills (27-6) had silenced the critics. Miami had defeated four consecutive opponents, averaging almost 30 points per game in the process.
The Dolphins’ offensive line, coached by Monte Clark, was the key to Miami’s improved offensive performance. Exactly WHO were these guys? And how were they acquired??
Monte Clark was hired by Don Shula not long after Shula came to Miami in 1970. He soon realized that several of his incumbent O-linemen had to be replaced for lack of talent. But tackle Norm Evans wasn’t one of them. Evans was drafted out of TCU by the Houston Oilers in 1965. He saw lots of action, starting most of Houston’s games that year. The Oilers decided that Evans was a marginal lineman. They left him unprotected in the expansion draft of 1966. Miami GM Joe Thomas was only too happy to acquire Evans who, he believed, was one of the better young lineman in the AFL. By 1972, Evans and receiver Howard Twilley were the only remaining Dolphin players from the original 1966 squad. Evans would be a rock solid performer in Miami’s first three Super Bowl teams.
In 1969, Joe Thomas reviewed some films and reports of back-up San Diego lineman Larry Little. He remembered being impressed with Little’s play in college at Bethune Cookman, located in Daytona Beach. GM Joe Thomas offered back-up Miami defensive back Mack Lamb to the Chargers in exchange for Little’s services. San Diego’s Sid Gillman reluctantly accepted the deal. Mack Lamb failed to make the San Diego squad. He never played another game. But Larry Little, one of the greatest pulling guards in NFL history, went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Miami Dolphins! Prior to the 1970 season, Thomas and Clark discussed a young Cleveland player named Jim Langer. Langer switched from linebacker (which he played at South Dakota State) to the offensive line in camp. Cleveland tried to sneak Langer through on waivers, expecting no one would claim this virtual unknown. Sharp-eyed Joe Thomas put in a claim. That summer, Langer won the Dolphins’ starting center job over the veteran Bob De Marco. His amazing career would end with his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton! Score yet ANOTHER HOFer for Thomas!
Bob Kuechenberg, a Notre Dame product, had trials with the Eagles and the Falcons in 1968. Both teams released him. A year later he was playing in a “beer” league for the semi-pro Chicago Owls in the Continental League. The team went bankrupt midway through the season. But the players kept on playing, getting rewarded with beer and pizza instead of paychecks.
In early 1970, Kuechenberg studied the rosters of several NFL teams. He noticed a reserve guard for the Dolphins names Ed Tuck. This was the SAME Ed Tuck Kuechenberg had beaten out of a starting job at Notre Dame. So he tried out with the Dolphins. “Kooch’s” heart almost stopped when coach Monte Clark told him he had been cut. But Clark PROMISED Kuechenberg he’d recall him from waivers if nobody claimed him. Sure enough, EVERY NFL TEAM PASSED ON KUECHENBERG and Clark brought him back to the Dolphins where he was placed on the taxi squad. By the second half of the 1970 season, “Kooch” had replaced Maxie Williams at left guard. He would start for Miami for the next 15 years, play in four Super Bowls, making All-Pro six times, and play in a Miami record 196 games! Kuechenberg has since been nominated (but not elected) to the Pro Football Hall of Fame!
The same day the Browns cut an unknown Jim Langer, the 49ers cut a player they listed as “Solomon” Moore. Monte Clark wondered is this really Wayne Moore, a guy he had trained with in the off season, along with several other guys? Clark, who lived out west before being hired by Miami, still knew several 49er players. One of them told Clark “Solomon” was Wayne Moore’s first name. Clark believed the 6’7″ tackle had a real future in the league. He convinced GM Joe Thomas to claim him off waivers. By 1972, Wayne Moore was seeing plenty of playing time (along with 1969 first round draft pick Doug Crusan). By 1973, Moore was solidly entrenched as Miami’s left tackle.
Norm Evans, Larry Little, Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Wayne Moore, as a group, had not cost Miami ONE SINGLE DRAFT CHOICE!!! –By the end of 1973, they were, unquestionably, the BEST OFFENSIVE LINE in the National Football League!
The Patriots, Miami’s foe Oct. 28, already knew how good the Dolphins’ offensive line was. In 1972, the Dolphins crushed New England 52-0 and 37-21 on the way to the NFL’s one and only Perfect Season! A month prior to this game, Miami’s O-line led the Dolphins to well over 200 yards rushing against the Patriots on the way to a 44-23 victory in week #3 of the ’73 season. But, since that game, New England’s defense had shown marked improvement. They defeated Baltimore 24-16, lost to the Jets 9-7, before going on the road to defeat the Bears 13-10. The Patriots defense had limited their last three opponents to just 11.7 points per game.
Head coach Don Shula remained supremely confident of Miami’s ability to score points. O-line coach Monte Clark and offensive coordinator Bill McPeak realized the Patriots were a better team than they were in September. But they both believed Miami’s offense would have yet another big day on this nippy (44 degrees) in Foxboro.
New England was sky high for this contest! They knew another loss to Miami would leave them at 2-5 with no hope of making the playoffs in a 14-game regular season schedule. Then, head coach Chuck Fairbanks reminded his defense that Miami had run-up 52, 37 and 44 points in their last three meetings. He asked them “Are you guys tired of getting your asses kicked?”
The New England defense laid a big hit on Bob Griese in the game’s first series, forcing a fumble which the Patriots’ recovered. Pats’ quarterback Jim Plunkett decided to go for broke on the very next play. He spotted Sam (the Bam) Cunningham wide open down the field. Plunkett’s pass was on target. Cunningham caught the ball and roared 34 yards into the end zone and the Patriots had a quick 7-0 lead.
Shula and Griese agreed the best way to quiet the suddenly noisy New England crowd was to respond with a scoring drive. Miami’s offensive line opened up some running lanes for Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. From the Pats’ 11 yard line, Griese fired a dart to Marlin Briscoe who cradled the touchdown pass, tying the score at 7-7 after one quarter.
New England continued to have offensive success. Sam Cunningham’s six yard touchdown run gave the Pats a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Two long drives by the Dolphins’ offense ended, frustratingly, in short Yepremian field goals. When the first half was over, New England still held a 14-13 lead. This improved Patriots’ team was giving Miami all they could handle.
Don Shula urged his players to give him a total team effort in the second half. But even the Don of Miami could not have predicted what was about to take place in the third quarter. Patriots’ punter/place kicker Jeff White had failed to win a spot with Miami during summer camp. Eventually, he ended uo in New England. Shula decided to rush 10 players when White punted early in the third quarter. Lloyd Mumphord got a piece of it, forcing a short punt. Garo’s ensuing 23 yard field goal put Miami ahead 16-14.
Again the Dolphins’ defense stopped the Patriots’ offense cold. White, under a ferocious rush, kicked the next punt STRAIGHT UP IN THE AIR! A backwards bounce left the ball at New England’s three yard line! Mercury Morris’ two yard touchdown run put Miami ahead 23-14 after three quarters.
The Dolphins mounted a long, time consuming, drive in the final stanza. Miami’s outstanding offensive line simply wore down the Patriot’s defense. A crack-back block by Paul Warfield sprang Morris for a nice game. More runs followed as Miami ate up the clock. This methodical 75-yard drive ended when Langer and Little blew open a huge hole allowing Csonka to roar up the middle for an eight yard touchdown rumble! The Dolphins total domination of the second half had turned a 14-13 halftime deficit into a convincing 30-14 victory.
On the day, Miami rushed 45 times for 238 yards and two touchdowns. A smiling Don Shula heaped praise on his offensive line as he awarded the game ball to center Jim Langer, who immediately praised his fellow offensive linemen for a terrific effort!
The 1973 Miami Dolphins were now 6-1.
|Net pass yards||73||142|
Passing, Rushing, & Receiving
Defense & Returns
|Def Interceptions||Fumbles||Kick Returns||Punt Returns|
|Def Interceptions||Fumbles||Kick Returns||Punt Returns|
Kicking & Punting