Absolute Perfection – The 1972 Miami Dolphins – Game 1

By: Randy Campbell (Old Dolfan)

Note:  We are re running this series starting today and continuing each Sunday during the off season.

Game 1:  Sept. 17, 1972 – Miami at Kansas City

In 1972 the Miami Dolphins did what no other team had ever done before AND what no other team has ever done since.  They ran the table.  They were perfect.  They were 17 and 0.

The Perfect Season had its roots in the 1971 campaign. Young head coach Don Shula had guided the Dolphins into the playoffs.  Then, on Christmas Day 1971, the underdog Dolphins visited the Kansas City Chiefs in what would be the last football game ever played at Municipal Stadium (the former home of the Kansas City Athletics baseball team).  The Chiefs had crushed the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.  In 1971 They were still regarded as one of the very best teams in all of football.  Few outside of South Florida gave the Dolphins any chance in this game.  It was a high-scoring contest.  When regulation time was completed, the score was 24-24.  What would happen in sudden death overtime?  Both teams failed to score in the first overtime.  Then, midway through the second overtime, Larry Csonka burst through a gaping hole, running for nearly 40 yards near the Chiefs’ 30 yard line.  Miami lined-up for a 37-yard field goal attempt.  Earlier, future Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud had missed a shorter field goal that would have won it for the Chiefs.  The winds swirled. Garo Yepremian’s 37-yard kick WAS GOOD!!  The longest game in NFL history WAS OVER!  It took 82 minutes and 40 seconds of playing time.South Florida football fans had received an extra special Christmas gift — the gift of Miami’s first ever playoff victory!

Eventually, the thrill of this historic overtime victory gave way to the bitter taste of defeat.  The Dolphins were embarrassed in Super Bowl VI, losing 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys.  Shula and his players vowed this would never happen to them again. They wanted another shot at the Super Bowl.  They wanted revenge.

On opening day, Sept. 17, 1972, the Chiefs also wanted revenge.  And why not?  Brand new Arrowhead Stadium was a madhouse as nearly 80,000 fans came to the game with one thing on their minds: REVENGE!!  Tickets were selling for 10 to 20 times face value in the parking lots and side streets on game day.  The intensity of these fans was unbelievable!  Psychologically, the Chiefs had the advantage.  But the Dolphins also had some advantages on this sultry day inKansas City.  In no particular order they had: 1) The Brain; 2) The 53 defense; and 3) The Heat.  Calm, cool, collected Bob Griese was The Brain for Miami’s grind-it-out ball control offense.  The key was Griese’s belief that Miami needed to run BETWEEN, not OVER, the Chiefs’ huge defensive linemen.  Griese’s clever play-calling produced a huge running game advantage for the Dolphins.  Fullback Larry Csonka repeated his “Longest Game” heroics by rushing for 118 yards.  Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris also gained important yardage.  The raging late summer heat provided Miami with an extra edge.  Dressed in all-white uniforms (which repelled some sunlight) the Dolphins had an advantage over the red-clad Chiefs (whose dark colors ABSORBED more of the heat).  The temperatures on Arrowhead’s artificial surface approached 120 degrees that day!  “We were dying at the half so you know how they must have felt,” said Mercury Morris.  “We feel we’re in better shape than any team we play.”  Shula’s fearsome 3-A-Day workouts in pads during summer camp were paying off. “This was a real hot one,” said the Don of Miami.  “We felt our preparation gave us an advantage.”

Two Kansas City mistakes led to both Miami touchdowns.  On KC’s first possession, Ed Podolak fumbled and Dick Anderson recovered at Miami’s 43.  After several running plays, Griese lofted a perfect 14-yard TD pass to his newest target, Marlin Briscoe, who’d been acquired from Buffalo for a 1st round draft choice.

After a 47-yard Yepremian field goal, Len Dawson was picked-off by Jake Scott near the Chiefs’ 40.  A 30-yard pass, Griese to Paul Warfield, set-up Csonka’s 2-yard TD run.  Miami had a commanding 17-0 halftime lead in front of a stunned sell-out crowd at Arrowhead.

Miami’s famed 53 defense was created during the preseason of 1972.  Injuries to two defensive ends forced defensive coach Bill Arnsparger to play #53, Bob Matheson, at either defensive end (on a 4-3 defense) or linebacker (on a 3-4 defense).  Miami sprung this new defense on the Chiefs in the 2nd quarter.  In the 3-4 alignment,Miami dropped back 8 defenders in the pass coverage, throttling the KC passing game.  It worked to perfection.  Future Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson appeared confused and indecisive.

The two teams traded field goals in the 3rd quarter as Miami led 20-3.  It was incredibly hot.  Not too hot though, for 265 pound Miamiguard Larry Little who SPRINTED down to the other end of the field as the 3rd quarter came to a close! “That was the sweetest sight” said a smiling Don Shula.  The Chiefs finally scored their lone touchdown with just 9 seconds left on the clock.  The final score, 20-10, was deceptively close. In fact, Miami was in total control of this football game.

Losing coach Hank Stram commented “I didn’t think either team played with much enthusiasm.” It was a listless game throughout.”  When told of Stram’s comments, Shula broke into a wide grin and replied, “I was very happy with our enthusiasm.”

The road to Absolute Perfection had begun with a most impressive road win over one of the best teams in the National Football League.  The 1972 Dolphins were now 1-0.

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66 Responses to Absolute Perfection – The 1972 Miami Dolphins – Game 1

  1. Mike E. says:

    I’ve watched a few Senior Bowl practices, and I have to say OJ Howard fits what we need perfectly. We want an in-line TE who can block and stretch the seam, and actually catch the ball and do damage after the catch, and he’s that guy. Evan Engram looked good, but he’s too small to be an in-line guy, so he would line up in the slot. He’s good, but not not what we’re looking for as a TE. Re-sign Sims, and you have big TE’s that can block in the run game, and 2 guys that catch the ball too.

    • Tim Knight says:

      Totally agreed. Think about using 2-TEs with Sims and Howard and just 2 WRs at times to open holes for Ajayi and then play-action off of it. As we all know if you get Ajayi to the 2nd level he’s a beast. A guy like Howard could change the dynamic of our offense.

    • I just have one thing to say on the subject. If Tannenbaum and Grier take a TE in the 1st rd and end up blowing it on the offensive line with the amount of talent that’s there this year I’d like to see both of them shown the door.

  2. a lot of people these days are blowing their minds over Anzalone but a guy who’s missed 20 games over his 4 yrs in college is someone I think you’d want to stay away from.
    this is what gets me about NFL scouting. they poo poo Cunningham for missing tackles which is something that can be cleaned up with coaching at the next level and most of those missed tackles were because he was in on plays that every other lb in this draft wouldn’t have been in on to begin with.
    Then, you’ve got Anzalone, who seems to be made of glass and you can’t FIX someone who’s injury prone and say “we can stop him from getting injured at the next level”. It’s not possible.
    PASS. Let someone else take him and have him standing on the sidelines. We’ve had enough injured LB’s with Jenkins and Misi. We don’t need another one.

  3. I have to say after watching the Senior Bowl Haason Reddick has really impressed me with what he’s been able to do playing inside instead of just playing that pass rushing OLB position.
    Showed some excellent versatility at the LB position and is someone I think the Phins should/will have on their radar come draft time.

  4. Tim Knight says:

    Anyone have the latest projections on what comp picks we should be receiving?

  5. Mike E. says:

    Fact is, if Howard has say a 6.8 grade, and whatever LB is left carries a 6.2 grade, it’s irresponsible to to pick the greater need and get a lesser talent. Not saying that’s what will happen, but if Howard is available at #22, he may be the highest graded player there.

    • Tim Knight says:

      ^

      Then when another team has him and he’s a big playmaker and we have a LB who’s solid but nothing special…

      • Mike E. says:

        It’s one pick, and people act like of we don’t get a LB or DE with that pick, the draft is ruined. I think we’ll have at least 6-7 other picks, plus free agency

  6. Mike E. says:

    Lou

    Why would taking a TE give you any indication that we blew it on the offensive line? We may very well have picked up a quality OL or 2 in FA, and then need 1 more in the draft. We are definitely going to spend some money on other FA’s besides our own.

    • Tim Knight says:

      I don’t get why trying to add a playmaking TE destroys the offseason. LOL

      • Mike E. says:

        I think because some people feel we have to use 5-6 picks on defense or we’re doomed

      • There’s nothing wrong with trying to add a playmaking TE but the idea seems to be that we MUST get Howard as that playmaking TE or it isn’t going to work. There’s a few TE’s we could add to the roster thru the draft and still have a playmaking TE. One guy isn’t going to make or break us on offense; or defense for that matter.

    • Well, the idea that we NEED Howard or we blew it with TE’s is a bit farfetched as well. We could just as easily go with Leggett or Everett and get the guy we need. Remember, it’s a team game. One guy isn’t going to have that much of an impact on the team just by himself.
      We’re paying Suh all that money and our defense hasn’t improved one bit with him here. We could just as easily have four guys on the defensive line that are solid and have a better run defense right now. Look at other teams with better run defenses than we have. They don’t have Suh and they’re doing just fine.
      I also didn’t say that taking a TE in the first is an indication that we blew it with the o-line. I SAID “if we take a TE in the first round and end up blowing it on the offensive line with the amount of talent that’s there”.
      I know one doesn’t preclude the other but the play of the offense all starts with a solid offensive line. If you don’t have that you don’t have a consistent running game or passing game. I’d rather take two offensive linemen in the first two rounds than take a TE in the first. Who da fuh takes a TE in the first rd? Ridiculous.

  7. Tim Knight says:

    FA and The Draft is a commodity business. You don’t have to sign a Suh to try and improve. Let’s say we re-sign some of our own, 5-7 UFAs and have 6-7 draft picks. Let’s not forget some guys already on the team will get better. 2017 will yet again be a different team with some core guys still here. 2016 wasn’t the win it all or bust season. I wasn’t even sure we’d make the playoffs. To have that wrapped up at 10-5 was a nice surprise. Build on it!

    • no, no, no my friend. you don’t understand. Mikey T MUST pay an offensive lineman $50M this year in FA or just isn’t going to be happy. lol. he’s like the woman who just has to have that expensive purse or pair of shoes she’s only going to use once a month but she just wants to be able to say she has them.

    • Mike E. says:

      Absolutely, and we will. We’ll have a tougher schedule, but that changes too. Teams that were good last year sometimes take a step back for various reasons, FA losses, injuries, etc. We definitely have holes, but we can fill a few of them in FA and the draft, and salary cap wise, we have some room to do it. Can’t fill every hole, no team ever does, but you feel as many as you can.

  8. Mike E. says:

    Lou

    We may just give a guy like Zeitler a 5 or 6 YR $45-50M deal, and if plays well for us during that time, he’d be worth it.

    • Is it worth it to pay Suh all the money we’re paying him? Again, one guy isn’t worth that much to the team. If you need to be that desperate to bring in that kind of talent and pay out the nose for it your organization sucks at what it does.

  9. Tim Knight says:

    Lou, if you have the chance to add a quality blocking TE and playmaker in the passing game why not do it? No team’s back-end has anyone 6-6 250 to cover them. Cameron was supposed to be that for us, it didn’t work out.

    • Because it’s not all that cut and dry. You guys do this every year, you get a woody for one guy and that’s it. There’s going to be a half dozen guys at #22 we could choose from that will help our team and all of them will be pretty darn close as far as grades are concerned so it’s not like Howard is going to be head and shoulders above any of them.
      How about we draft a guy on the offensive line and get THAT straightened out once and for all instead of continuing to have the same issues.
      Plus, drafting Howard doesn’t mean we’re better from the start because it takes Tannehill 2 years to develop chemistry with a new receiver.

  10. Mike E. says:

    Lou

    I’m not saying we “blew it” if we don’t get Howard, but if we draft a guy at LB with a lower grade than Howard at LB just because we need LB’s, then we will have made a poor pick. That’s different. We don’t have to draft Howard at TE, there are a few other good TE prospects, I was making a specific point.

    • All depends on how much of a difference there is between the grades. It the LB is close enough to Howard and he really fits what we’re trying to do there’s no reason not to go with the LB especially because TE isn’t a major need.
      Again, getting the offensive line right is more important than that one guy on the offense. There isn’t a single guy on the offensive side of the ball on this team that is that important to it and can’t be replaced.

  11. Tim Knight says:

    Take the BPA… that makes sense, okay! LOL

  12. D says:

    Lou anzalone had a broken arm, some things happen in football that have no relation to what could lead to another injury. Anzalone would be a fine LB for us, and just because the same scouts are wrong about Cunningham doesn’t me the people they do like wouldn’t be a good choice. Cunningham is obviously a great LB that I’d be happy if he were our first round selection, but I think Anzalone would be a really good pickup if we miss on him.

  13. D says:

    Howard and Sprinkle both look the part of a pro TE. Engram and Everett are both good TEs they are just less effective as blockers right now. Engram do decent in that respect, Everett didn’t look too great at it and probably would take more to get to be really effective as a blocker. He wasn’t awful his technique just wasn’t as polished.

  14. D says:

    Mikey I think there are several TEs hat give us a good pair with Sims, Howard is definitely the best but I don’t think we blew it if we go for some other position in the first and then get one of the others later

  15. D says:

    Reddick was OK, he isn’t anything special though.

    • I watch him in his ’16 games and he doesn’t look outstanding. The game that does it for me is the ’15 game vs Notre Dame. I know it’s just one game but his play in that game is what you want to see from a LB in the 1st or 2nd rd. Not the dancing around in the middle of the field you see from so many of these guys.
      From an athletic point of view he’s head and shoulders above any of the other guys in the 2nd rd on; not even close.
      The fact that he played inside at the Senior Bowl and did well says a lot and helped him quite a bit as compared to those who chose to sit it out in favor of the Underwear Olympics.
      He showed his versatility in that game and he’s the one guy who’s got the athletic ability to be able to make the switch.

  16. Tim Knight says:

    Would taking a dynamic TE at #22 crush anyone? I mean we’re not picking top 10 here. Then we have a 2nd. Prior to that we already did most of FA. I’m not sure why so many people are panicking already. LOL

    • D says:

      I wouldn’t be bent by it, I’m just saying we shouldn’t feel pressured to. If we got a candidate we rank higher take that person. I do think care about the player rankings by NFL.com if we have him as BPA sure pick him that’s what BPA is best player FOR US

    • I’m looking at it from the point of view that there’s several players who will be available at that spot who will be just as good at their positions as what Howard is at his so it would be tough to justify taking Howard over one of those other guys; especially when we’re talking about defense.
      McKinley, Charlton, Cunningham, Jones, Humphrey, Robinson could all be sitting there when we’re on the board and I doubt we have Howard rated head and shoulders above any of these guys.

  17. D says:

    Lou you keep judging him on a guess that he would be like Jenkins because they went to the same school…. I don’t follow your logic. Jenkins didn’t have an injury history. Anzalone broke an arm and came back and played great in the Senior bowl… He is healthy or he wouldn’t have played. These are all guesstimates you are making there is no fact behind them

    • D says:

      Gurley had an injury history. Ajayi has a serious one. Drake. Wake, Albert, etc etc

      • No fact behind them? I just posted the facts. He’s missed 20 games in 4 yrs and I listed his injury history. Ajayi missed 2 his first 2 games in his first season and never missed a game after that.
        Yeah, guys get injured and miss games here and there but this guy’s made of glass. If we took him in the 6th or 7th rd I guess I’d be okay with it but I wouldn’t take him before that. Plus, he’s not that great of a talent to begin with. Probably one of the more underrated linebackers out there. One partial year of decent production.

      • Tim Knight says:

        Right now I don’t see Ajayi having a serious anything. Could he be a 3-5 year guy, I guess so but I’m not focused on it until it happens.

      • I meant to say probably one of the more overrated lb’s out there. I don’t get the love for this guy. he’s not an outstanding talent by any means.

    • steveccnv says:

      Remove the Florida reference and read it again. He’s just saying the guy is injury prone and would rather not deal with. I agree.

  18. Can’t believe it. Let’s replace the oft-injured Misi and Jenkins with another oft-injured linebacker in the draft. Makes sense.

    • Tim Knight says:

      Lou, it’s one man’s opinion. Not a bulk of the lot on Anzalone. Everyone gets nuts this time of year. LOL

      • steveccnv says:

        He’s taking the facts and making an opinion based on them. What’s wrong with that? I only know of this LB from what I read here, and based on what I read Lou has a point, it doesn’t mean he’s right it just means it’s an educated opinion.

      • Tim Knight says:

        I get it. 🙂

  19. well, at least nobody went nuts about Shelby going to the Super Bowl with Atlanta and tried to make it sound like we lost another good player. lol

  20. stangerx says:

    OD — man do I love reading these, and for some reason this line caught my eye (no comparison to now intended: “The Perfect Season had its roots in the 1971 campaign. Young head coach Don Shula had guided the Dolphins into the playoffs. ”

    Also loved, “Two Kansas City mistakes led to both Miami touchdowns.” And they won by less than two TDs….sounds like even that team had some things rolling its way. 🙂

  21. Mike E. says:

    D

    I thought I made it pretty clear, I think we can definitely get a different TE. I was just laying out 1 scenario where Howard is on the board, and theoretically carried a 6.8 grade, and there was a LB we need on the board who carried a 6.2 grade. You can’t just take the LB in that situation. I totally realize there are many options at TE, but I do think Howard would be the best. Just like I think Reuben Foster might be the best LB for us, but he’ll off the board when we pick.

    • stangerx says:

      Have not been following the draft yet, but am I right that at this point the Kipers of the world would say we would be darn lucky if Howard was there for us?

    • olddolphan says:

      Mike; Maybe some dumb-ass team will allow us to trade a pick and a certain player drafted 3rd overall by Ireland so we can move up and draft him?

  22. olddolphan says:

    THANK YOU, YOUNG STANGER, for your kind remarks! I believe a photo of Garo’s winning kick in “The Longest Game” was part of the header for this game. But, perhaps, it could not be added to the story? Anyway, thanks to HERD (or was it someone else?) for posting this rerun!! I really appreciate it.
    ————————–
    One HUMONGOUS FACTOR in this game was the ARTIFICIAL SURFACE!!! –The Orange Bowl also had “POLYTURF” installed by a firm known as “American Biltrite” (their spelling) which became totally useless in about a year or two. In games, the temperature on these fake grass surfaces usually was over 100 degrees in September and early October. Sometimes, as in Kansas City, it reached 120!! Nick Buoniconti put cabbage leaves in his playing shoes to prevent horrible blistering of his feet during games!!! –When the fake grass became hard as I-95, neither Robbie nor the City of Miami would pay to replace it. So a totally unsatisfactory situation continued while the city sued American Biltrite to live up to a guarantee and replace it with a new one. American Biltrite went bankrupt from several lawsuits, so it was several years before all the fake grass fields in the NFL were replaced by, you guessed it, REAL GRASS AGAIN!!! But polyturf no doubt greatly shortened many professional careers during the 1970’s!!!
    ———————–
    Just got back from a convention in Georgia. It was in the mid to low 30’s at daybreak all 4 days I was there! Sure glad I’m back in “F-L-A.”
    ———————–
    MIAMI’s superior conditioning was the difference in this, and several other, games during THE PERFECT SEASON. Now, of course, the CBA does NOT allow 3 practices per day in full pads, especially in the hot months of summer. So unethical coaches like Bill Belicheat use other tactics to gain advantages – – – I guess that’s what passes for “Progress” in the current NFL. I wonder if the FOX broadcast crew will EVEN MENTION the massive fines, penalties, suspensions and draft choice losses the Patriots have encountered during their s0-called “March to Glory?” My money says they “WON’T EVEN MENTION IT!!!” –Hope some Atlanta fans have shirts or signs referring to “The Cheatriots!!!!”

    • herdfan says:

      OD, the photo wouldn’t copy over when I was loading it from our archives and I wasn’t sure what photo was attached.

      • olddolphan says:

        NO PROBLEM, Herd. It was a photo of Garo Yepremiam of Miami kicking the winning Field Goal at Municipal Stadium in KC on Christmas Day, 1971. The caption on this particular SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover says something like “Miami Wins the Longest Game.” It was the Dolphins first ever playoff win.

  23. herdfan says:

    These pro bowl uniforms are hideous

    • olddolphan says:

      PS: Many of those who attended this convention I attended in Georgia had “Falcons’ Fever!” I made damn sure every one of them knew all about “The Cheatriots!”–To my surprise, most said they were “Very Aware” of it!!

  24. D says:

    What I’m saying is a lot of these players got injured in college, a lot of them were injured more than once, and it has 0 to do with them being able to stay healthy in the pros. Pros is a whole different world and the injuries he sustained aren’t ones that make you more prone to reinjure. Again, there is no fact there to say he would be like Jenkins or misuse because Misi and Jenkins weren’t that in college and many who were like that aren’t in the pros. One does not beget the other.

    I like Anzalone, I think he looks like a good LB. I’m not saying draft him in the first so I don’t see it as anything but a different perspective on a player we could take later in the draft. I bet you dug into any of those guys injury history you find something. I wouldn’t count on a guy like that as a top pick but that’s why the ajayi’s become value picks.

    Seriously though, doesn’t the bone on bone assessment concern you more than a flipping broken arm that is already healed enough to play in a game? Gurley spent a lot of time injured and one of the injury was career threatening, yet everyone was on board to take him in the first.

    As for your comments Tim, Anzalone isn’t a my guy thing I just said he had a good senior bowl. If you don’t want my opinion on it you can ignore it and I’ll stop telling you guys about it when I go. Seems to put done if y’all’s panties in a bunch

  25. D says:

    Mike 6.8 assigned as his rating by us or someone else? This is rhetorical btw.

    • D says:

      Also I agreed with you about potentially selecting him if he is top of our board, so guess you are just getting pissy at Lou and taking it out on me?

    • Tim Knight says:

      I think he’s talking about what if another position is graded 6.8 and DE or LB is 6.2. Don’t reach in the 1st for need.

  26. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with disagreeing on a subject. It’s okay to do so. If someone wants to disagree with me I’m not going to take it personally.
    I don’t agree about Anzalone because I took the time to look at his injury history. Missing 20 games over a 4 yr period is a lot more alarming than the bone on bone Ajayi has that hasn’t been a concern since the first two games of his first year in college.
    Anzalone, on the other hand, has had shoulder issues three of the four years he played at Florida. If it was just the break this past yr it would be a different story.
    If someone wants to disagree with that then so be it. I just don’t understand how a scout could drop someone like Cunningham to a 2nd/3rd rd prospect when they say he has tackling issues but not drop someone like Anzalone who has injury issues which are more of a concern.
    Cunningham makes a lot of tackles. He misses some but he misses very few. This can be corrected at the next level. You can’t take a guy with a history of injuries and say, “we can correct that at the next level”. Injury issues ARE a concern with Anzalone. It was stated during the broadcast of the Senior Bowl after he made the tfl early in the game.
    Howard in the first? I just disagree that he’s going to be the best player available, by far, compared to other players who are going to be there. But, it’s okay to disagree with me. It’s just my opinion. Don’t take it personally.

  27. Mike E. says:

    D

    I’m not getting pissy at anyone. The post you made about us not blowing it if we didn’t take Howard made it seem like I felt that way. I don’t, and I was just explaining what I was trying to do in my scenario. Man, things do get twisted in print sometimes.

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