The Super Bowl is just 45 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 45 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
The Los Angeles Coliseum hosted Super Bowl VII on January 14, 1973. The game pitted the NFC champion Washington Redskins against the Miami Dolphins of the American Football Conference.
Washington Redskins 45 Years Ago
Washington’s 1972 season was their best in 27 years. Fiery George Allen coached this roster that was littered with veterans and cast offs. They had a terrific running back, a great wide receiver, and 38 others of the blue-collar variety. In fact, Allen’s bunch was dubbed, “The Over-the-Hill” gang. Nobody embodied that reputation better than QB Billy Kilmer. Kilmer did not possess the body of an athlete. Rather, he played with the grit and heart that allowed him to play over 18 NFL seasons. He was only in the lineup due to an injury to all-time Redskins’ great Sonny Jurgensen. He took full advantage of his opportunity playing at an elite level in 1972.
The Redskins greatly relied on NFL MVP, Larry Brown. Brown made the All-Pro team in each of his first four seasons. But, ’72 was the best campaign of his career. He had 1700 yards from scrimmage and 8 rushing touchdowns. Future Hall of Famer Charley Taylor was possibly the best wide receiver in the NFC scoring 7 touchdowns of his own.
The Skins finished the season with the number three defense in the NFL. The “D” came up huge in a midseason win against their hated rival and defending champion Cowboys. That victory proved vital down the stretch as Washington won the division and Dallas got the wild card.
In their two NFC playoff games at RFK Stadium, the Skins allowed a total of 6 points to Green Bay and Dallas. The game against the Packers was particularly brutal as both Kilmer and Packers’ starting quarterback Scott Hunter got pulverized all day. The Redskins prevailed 16-3. One week later in front of their raucous home crowd, they defeated the Cowboys 26-3, clinching their first NFC championship.
Miami Dolphins 45 Years Ago
Their opponent in Super Bowl VII was the 16-0 AFC Champion Miami Dolphins. There are not enough superlatives to describe how good the Dolphins were in the early 1970s. In many ways there are overlooked when one discusses the greatest teams of all-time. People bring up the 1978 Steelers, 1989 49ers, 1992 Cowboys, etc. But, the Dolphins of 1972-73 were as good as all those teams and maybe better.
Don Shula was a great leader and game-time coach. Consider this: His 1967-68 Colts and 1972-73 Dolphins combined for a 58-5-2 record. How many starting QBs did he use over those four seasons? Four. That is coaching.
Shula’s masterpiece was his 1972 season especially since starting QB Bob Griese missed nine games due to injury. No problem. Ancient Earl Morrall was undefeated coming off the bench.
Miami topped Cleveland in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Dolphins did not play a great game overall, but Shula went to his bag of tricks and punter Larry Seiple rushed for 37 yards on a fake. Miami prevailed, 20-14. (By the way, this game was played one day after the Steelers defeated the Raiders on the “Immaculate Reception.”)
In the AFC Championship game, Griese came off the bench to rally Miami to a 21-17 victory. The unheralded Jim Kiick scored twice. The Dolphins were off to Super Bowl VII. Their date with history was to take place in Los Angeles against the Redskins and miraculously, they were a 1-point underdog.
Perfection vs. Emotion
From the outset, it was Miami’s defense that dictated the action. League MVP Larry Brown got abused. And, Washington could get nothing established through the air.
Contrariwise, Miami was able to move the ball behind their powerful offensive line. They used well-conceived sweeps where giant tackles matched up against the Skins’ small defensive backs and linebackers like Pat Fischer and Jack Pardee. And it was no match. The misdirection and power sweeps led to the neutralization of All-Pro Chris Hanburger. Thus, Miami rushed for 184 yards on the day.
The Dolphins’ first score came as a result of two perfect throws by the gallant Griese. One throw went to Warfield for 18 and the touchdown was scored by Howard Twilley from the twenty-eight.
The Dolphins intercepted Kilmer twice in the first half. Buoniconti robbed him late in the second half setting Kiick’s touchdown. The score was 14-0 at the half.
In the second half, Washington moved the ball on virtually every possession. However, each drive stalled in the red zone. They missed a field goal and late in the game, Miami cornerback Jake Scott recorded his second interception of the game. This one he ran out from his own end zone.
Scott’s interception put Miami in line to put this thing on ice. With just over two minutes to play, the ‘Fins lined up for a field goal. The Skins blocked it. Garo Yepremien, the tiny Cyprian kicker retrieved the ball and attempted to throw a pass. That turned into an utter comedy/horror show. The pigskin bounced into the air to be grabbed by a Redskin. Mike Bass took the trophy home and the lead was 14-7.
Miami held on to win by that score and special team gaffe aside, completed the perfect season. Every season serves as a reminder that the ’72 Dolphins were the only team to complete a season with an undefeated record. The vaunted 2007 Patriots came the closest; just 40 seconds from football immortality, but it was not to be in Super Bowl XLII. The 1984 49ers came three points away from perfection. The 1985 Bears came one visit to Miami away from perfection. But, only one team did it. And, they deserve the special accolades they receive for such an incredible accomplishment. It has now stood for 45 seasons!
In 1973, Miami came back to defend their title. They whipped Minnesota 24-7.
The Redskins also had an excellent 1973 season. But, they did not win the Super Bowl until the ‘80s. Who did they beat? Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII.
Tomorrow, we will talk more about the forgotten 1973 Dolphins in our series – 51 Super Bowls in 51 days!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_bills