By: Randy Campbell (OLD DOLFAN)
GAME 11; Miami @ Dallas, Nov. 22, 1973 (Thursday)
The NFL schedule maker arranged a real feast for football fans on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 1973. The defending Super Bowl VII champion Miami Dolphins were sent to Texas Stadium to play the Cowboys, who defeated Miami in Super Bowl VI. Before the game started, a moment of silence was observed to acknowledge the 10th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
The Dallas Cowboys were the NFL’s first modern era expansion team. In the late 1950’s, Lamar Hunt was rebuffed in his efforts to bring NFL football to Dallas. Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall enjoyed his status as the only professional football representative of the southern states. Repeatedly, Marshall blocked any potential applicant from getting a franchise in the deep south. So Hunt, and a group of extremely wealthy businessmen, formed the rival American Football League. It was announced that TWO AFL franchises would be located in Texas (the Dallas Texans, owned by Lamar Hunt, and Bud Adam’s Houston Oilers), beginning in 1960.
Two prominent Texas residents, Clint Murchison, Jr., and Bedford Wynne, applied for an NFL franchise for Dallas. Sensing opposition from the Redskins, Murchison and Wynne purchased the rights to the Redskins fight song, “Hail to the Redskins!” They informed Redskins’ management they would REFUSE PERMISSION for Washington to play the song at Redskins’ games unless Marshall supported the new Dallas NFL application. Marshall relented and, belatedly, Dallas was awarded an NFL franchise in 1960.
This franchise initially was known as the Dallas Steers and, then, the Dallas Rangers. Soon, the nickname was changed to Cowboys. The ownership group hired Texas (Tex) Schramm as general manager, Gil Brandt as director of player personnel and Tom Landry, formerly defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, as their head coach. Both Schramm and Landry have since been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
By the end of 1971, the Dallas Cowboys were among the very best franchises in the National Football League. They narrowly lost Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts (who were quarterbacked to victory by back-up QB Earl Morrall, who replaced an injured Johnny Unitas in that game’s second quarter). Then, at Super Bowl VI, they easily defeated the Dolphins. By 1973, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders had achieved iconic status. And the football team had become “America’s Team.”
Dallas was riding high as they came into this Thanksgiving Day showdown against Miami. In succession, they had crushed the Bengals (38-10), the Giants (23-10) and the Eagles (31-10). Quarterback Roger Staubach and his teammates were brimming with confidence. And why not? A total of FIVE future Hall of Famers were on this team!
But NO TEAM in the NFL was playing as well as the Miami Dolphins. Miami had won 8 consecutive games and 25 of their last 26 contests. Miami’s last two shutout destructions of Baltimore (44-0) and Buffalo (17-0) had observers saying “This may be the best defense in NFL history!”
Head coach Don Shula stressed to his team the importance of winning this game. A victory over the Cowboys would maintain Miami’s edge in the race for home field advantage in the AFC. While many called Dallas “America’s Team,” Shula wanted his team to be known as “America’s BEST Team.” He believed the Dolphins would prove it on the football field.
The players, for their part, also thought they had something to prove. Most of them were on the Super Bowl VI team that was drubbed by Dallas. There was this matter of pride. Their pride had carried them through the NFL’s one and only Perfect Season in 1972. This same pride would help them to prove they were the BEST team in 1973. To achieve this, they HAD to defeat Dallas in this nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game.
Miami had gotten off to a very fast start in their last two shutout victories. All-Pro safety Jake Scott made sure of a third straight Dolphins’ fast start when he intercepted Staubach’s first pass at the Dallas 38 and returned it to the Cowboys’ nine yard line! A Dallas penalty moved the ball inside the five. Two Csonka runs got the ball to the one. From there, Csonka bulled his way into the Cowboys’ end zone putting Miami ahead 7-0.
Miami’s “No-Name” defense stuffed Dallas on their second possession. Marv Bateman’s punt backed the Dolphins up to the Miami 32. From there, Mercury Morris sprinted for a 12 yard gain. Two plays later Griese went back to pass. No one was open, so Griese scrambled for 21 yards for a first down at the Dallas 45.
The time was ripe for one future Hall of Famer, Paul Warfield, to test another future Hall of Famer, Dallas cornerback Mel Renfro. Griese and Warfield faked a quick-out sideline pattern. Renfro bit. Griese’s downfield pass was right on the money. Warfield left Renfro in his dust as he scored a 45 yard touchdown, putting Miami ahead 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Roger Staubach was determined to get Dallas right back in this game. He guided a Dallas drive that started from their 17 yard line. Tough running by Walt Garrison and Calvin Hill got the Cowboys moving. Passes to Hill and Drew Pearson kept the drive alive. On fourth down and three yards to go from the Miami five, Landry decided to forego a short field goal. He told Staubach to go for it! Cowboy fans stood and applauded!
Miami appeared to stack the defense toward the middle of the field. Seeing this, Staubach checked-off to a Calvin Hill run around right end. Right after the audible, Lloyd Mumphord and Dick Anderson shifted to the exact area the run was designed to go. They occupied Dallas’ blockers, giving Jake Scott a clean shot at Hill. Scott crushed Hill, forcing him out of bounds for a SEVEN YARD LOSS!! You could hear a pin drop as the Dolphins jogged off the field with a 14-0 halftime lead at Texas Stadium!
A scoreless third quarter was dominated by the two defenses. A desperate Dallas team finally mounted a successful drive in the fourth quarter. The long 94-yard drive ended when Walt Garrison scored on a one yard run, narrowing the gap to 14-7.
With 8:41 left on the clock Griese and the Dolphins offense went to work. First down followed first down. The clock kept running. With less than one minute left, Miami had the ball at the Dallas one yard line. They COULD have scored again. But head coach Don Shula let the clock run out. The Dolphins had defeated the Dallas Cowboys.
The star of the game, Jake Scott, celebrated in the post game locker room. Head coach Don Shula was also smiling. His running offense had run the ball 41 times for an average of 4 yards per carry (even with a couple of Griese kneel downs at the end.) Griese was 6 for 10 for 103 yards passing, including a key touchdown to Warfield. Once again, Griese was not sacked in this entire game. In fact, Griese had only been sacked 8 times in Miami’s first 11 games!!
Next up: a Monday Night Football date in the historic Orange Bowl with another NFL heavyweight, the talented Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 1973 Miami Dolphins were now 10-1.