The Undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins

The Arguement for Why the 1972 Miami Dolphins Is One of the Greatest NFL Teams

African American football player standing in hallway
The Miami Dolphins went 17-0 in 1972. John Fedele / Getty Images

Any debate about the greatest NFL teams generally begins with the 1972 Miami Dolphins who had a 17-0 record that year. No other NFL team in the Super Bowl age has ever posted an undefeated season and gone on to win a Super Bowl championship.

Considering today's athletes are considerably bigger and faster, it's hard to argue that the team back then could hold up so admirably today, but, still, they maintain their record.

2007 Patriots Come Close to Breaking the Record

The New England Patriots came close to eclipsing the Dolphins' undefeated regular and post season record in 2007 with a perfect regular season of 16 games, two more than the Dolphins had to play after the NFL expanded its regular season to sixteen games in 1978.The biggest difference, however, is they lost in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants, giving them a final record of 18–1.

Other Perfect Regular Seasons Before the Super Bowl Age

In 1934, the Bears played a 13–0–0 regular season and became the first NFL team to complete an undefeated regular season without tied games, but lost the 1934 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants. Despite losing several players and head coach ​George Halas to military service in World War II, the 1942 Bears finished 11–0–0 but again lost the NFL Championship Game, this time against the Washington Redskins.

Dolphins' 1972 Path to Victory

The Dolphins were led by legendary head coach Don Shula. With Bob Griese at quarterback and Larry Csonka at fullback, the Dolphins opened the season with high expectations, although the path to victory was not always smooth and the games were often not decided until the fourth quarter.

Games 1 and 2

Miami started the season by helping the Kansas City Chiefs open the new Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Dolphins handled the Chiefs fairly easily, defeating them 20-10, with the Chiefs scoring their only touchdown with nine seconds to play in the game. Larry Csonka led the way with 118 yards rushing and scored one touchdown, while Griese chipped in with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Marlin Briscoe. Week two was no different as Miami dominated the Houston Oilers, 34-13.

Game 3

Week three brought the first close call of the season for the Miami Dolphins. They were playing Minnesota, and the Vikings had the upper hand most of the game. The Dolphins were trailing, 14-6 in the fourth quarter before kicker Garo Yepremian connected on a 51-yard field goal attempt to make the score 14-9. After the Vikings offense bogged down, the Dolphins took possession of the ball and Griese led them down the field. The drive culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Griese to tight end Jim Mandich with 1:28 left on the clock. The Dolphins, at the time, were the only undefeated team left in the league.

Game 4 and 5

Miami pulled off easy victories over the Jets in week four and the Chargers in week five, but the victory over San Diego came at a huge cost.

Quarterback Bob Griese suffered the fracture of a small bone in his right leg, and he also dislocated his right ankle. Griese was replaced by 38-year-old Earl Morrall, and in his first full game, the veteran backup barely slipped the Dolphins past the Buffalo Bills. Morrall, relying heavily on the running game, threw only 10 passes the entire game, completing six of them for 91 yards.

Games 6 through 10

Miami went into cruise control the next three games, recording two shutouts and outscoring their opponents, 105-16. They would not be tested again until week 10 in a rematch with the New York Jets. With a chance to clinch the AFC East title, the Dolphins found themselves trailing the Jets, 24-20 as the fourth quarter started. But running back Mercury Morris, who rushed for 107 yards during the game, would not be denied as he scampered 14 yards into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

With four games left in the regular season, the Dolphins clinched the AFC East title and were the proud owners of a 10-0 record.

Last Games of the Regular Season

The Dolphins finished off the final four games of the season in dominant fashion. They knocked off the Cardinals, 31-10, the Patriots, 37-21, and then the Giants, 23-13. In week 14, the final week of the regular season, the Dolphins beat Baltimore, 16-0, in a game that turned out to be opposing quarterback Johnny Unitas' last with the Colts. Not since the Chicago Bears finished the season undefeated thirty years earlier had a team finished the regular season schedule without a loss.

Divisional Playoff

In the first round of the playoffs, Miami was able to get past the Browns as wide receiver Paul Warfield slipped past defenders for 60 of the 80 yards in the Dolphins game-winning drive.

AFC Championship Game

In the AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dolphins were able to capitalize on mistakes by the defense and the return of Griese. They squeezed past the Steelers, 21-17, to take their undefeated record to the Super Bowl to face the Washington Redskins.

Super Bowl VII

The NFC champion Redskins ​went to the Super Bowl VII as a three-point favorite despite the fact that the Dolphins had not lost a game all year. But Miami soon had the Redskins down 14-0 and seemed to be on their way to a dominant victory.

Then, in one of the strangest plays in Super Bowl history, kicker Yepremian's field goal attempt was blocked. Instead of just covering the ball, he tried to pick it up and throw it. The ball slipped out of his hand and was batted into the arms of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who ran the ball back 49 yards, cutting the lead in half.

Fortunately for Yepremian, the Dolphins were able to hold on to win the game, 14-7, and finished off their undefeated season with a Super Bowl championship.