By: Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN)
Sometimes fans go to football games and witness something totally out of the ordinary. Something truly outstanding. Something they’ve never heard of or seen before. Something that is record breaking.
Such a thing ACTUALLY HAPPENED when the Colts traveled to Miami to play the first place Dolphins in the historic Orange Bowl on Nov. 11, 1973. It involved NOT a Hall of Famer NOR one of the leading stars. Instead, it involved low profile Dolphins’ defensive back Tim Foley who, like Bob Griese, was an alum of Purdue University. On this day, Foley would achieve something that had never been achieved before in the long history of the National Football League.
Head coach Don Shula had dealt with one of his unpleasant memories the previous Sunday when Miami came from behind to defeat the Jets 24-14 in Shea Stadium. The pain of Shula’s loss to Namath and the Jets in Super Bowl III was far from gone. But four consecutive wins over New York certainly salved Shula’s wounds.
And speaking of losing to the Jets, Don Shula had been head coach of the Colts that fateful day in the historic Orange Bowl. Shula hoped Super Bowl III would be the crowning achievement in his spectacularly successful stint as head coach of the Baltimore franchise. Over seven seasons, Shula compiled a gaudy 71-23-4 record. In the 1967 and 1968 seasons Shula had a 26-3-2 record, THE SECOND BEST TWO-YEAR RUN IN NFL HISTORY, exceeded only by his 32-2 TWO-YEAR RUN WITH THE 1972 AND 1973 MIAMI DOLPHINS! Shula’s overall record during his first 10 years as an NFL head coach 113-30-4, a mind-boggling 83 games over .500!! –Needless to say, THAT record has never been broken!!
Colts’ owner Carroll Rosenbloom could only remember Shula’s big Super Bowl defeat. An ungrateful Rosenbloom said “Shula always chokes in the big games.” After Miami owner Joe Robbie stole Shula away from Baltimore, Rosenbloom didn’t want Shula back. Instead, he demanded, and GOT, via a ruling from commissioner Pete Rozelle, Miami’s top draft choice. Later, Rosenbloom traded ownership of the Colts in exchange for becoming owner of the Los Angeles Rams. Rosenbloom was in Los Angeles the day Shula’s Dolphins won Super Bowl VII at the L. A. Coliseum and completed the NFL’s one and only Perfect Season. Said Shula, “I’m particularly pleased we won this championship in the very city where a certain man (Rosenbloom) now resides.”
Don Shula enjoyed great success against every one of his AFC East opponents in the decade of the ’70’s, including his former team, the Baltimore Colts. After losing to the Colts in 1970, Shula’s Dolphins won eight of their next 10 meetings. On January 2, 1972, Miami shutout Baltimore 21-0 in the AFC Championship Game. Then, during the 1972 Perfect Season, Shula’s Dolphins shut out the Colts twice more by scores of 23-0 and 16-0. The Don of Miami relished the thought of blanking the Colts for a fourth consecutive time!
Miami’s offensive coordinator during those three consecutive shutout victories was Howard Schnellenberger. Today, however, “Schnelly” was on the other side of the field. He had been hired by Baltimore as their new head coach not long after the Dolphins won Super Bowl VII. Schnellenberger’s rebuilding process in Baltimore was hampered by a lack of young talent. Both he and his former boss (Shula) knew that the 2-6 Colts would have to play their best game of the year just to keep this game close.
The temperature was a mild 74 degrees at the 1:00 PM kickoff. But swirling 15-20 MPH winds coming in from Biscayne Bay would play havoc with both teams’ passing games. This played right into Miami’s advantage. The Dolphins had the best offensive line and the best running game in the NFL.
On Miami’s second possession Mercury Morris used his quick feet to bouce outside left tackle, then back across the center of the field, on his way to a 48 yard touchdown romp! The “No Name Defense” stopped the Colts on their next series, forcing a David Lee punt. Cornerback Tim Foley, a special teams ace, broke through the line and BLOCKED LEE’S KICK! He snared the ball at the eight yard line and scooted into the end zone, giving the Fins an early 14-0 lead!
Miami continued to run the ball with success. The next long drive got the ball all the way to the Baltimore six yard line. Yepremian’s chip shot field goal expanded the lead to 17-0 at the end of the first quarter. The rout was on!
Neither of Baltimore’s quarterbacks, Marty Domres or Bert Jones, were effective against Miami’s suffocating defense. They would combine for just seven completions in 22 attempts for 59 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Miami would sack these two QB’s five times for 39 yards in losses. Thus, Baltimore ended with just 20 yards net passing FOR THE ENTIRE GAME!!
The second quarter featured a 53 yard touchdown run by Mercury Morris plus a 14 yard Yepremian field goal. It was 27-0, Miami, at the half.
Miami’s “No Names” stuffed the Colts again early in the third quarter. AGAIN, David Lee’s punt was blocked, this time by Bob Matheson! Tim Foley scooped-up the ball at the five and sprinted into the end zone with his second TD of the game! It marked the FIRST TIME IN NFL HISTORY that anyone had returned TWO BLOCKED PUNTS FOR TOUCHDOWNS in a single game! Foley was in the record books! And the Dolphins had a 34-0 lead.
Later, Garo would connect on a 38 yard 3-pointer and reserve running back Charlie Leigh would scamper 34 yards for another Dolphins’ TD, making the final score 44-0 in favor of Miami. Don Shula HAD his fourth consecutive shutout of the Colts, outscoring them 104-0 over that span!
Game statistics told an equally lopsided tale. Miami had 17 first downs to four for Baltimore. Miami had a club record 315 yards rushing plus 97 yards passing by Griese and Morrall. The Colts had a paltry 132 yards rushing and passing combined, much of it in the fourth quarter against Miami’s back-up defenders.
On the day, Mercury Morris rushed 12 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns. His average through nine games was 7.3 YARDS PER CARRY!! And the “No Name Defense” was now playing at their absolute best just as this team prepared to travel to Buffalo for a key AFC East showdown against OJ Simpson and the Bills!
Speaking of Buffalo, the news out of Rich Stadium was outstanding. The Bengals had just defeated the Bills 16-13, dropping Buffalo to 5-4. A Miami victory next Sunday would CLINCH THE AFC EAST TITLE FOR MIAMI!
The 1973 Miami Dolphins were now 8-1.