Move over Miami
Patriots bound for 19-0 and NFL scoring record
Posted: Tuesday October 23, 2007 12:09PM; Updated: Tuesday October 23, 2007 1:46PM
As the weeks click by, and the Patriots' dominance starts to gather historical weight and register in our collective consciousness, we're beginning to hear more about New England's chances of measuring up to a pair of record-breaking teams from the past: the 1972 Miami Dolphins of 17-0 perfect season fame, and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, who set the league's single-season scoring record of 556 points en route to a 16-2 record.
It dawned on me Monday night that those are two teams with which I am rather intimately familiar with, putting me in a rather unique position to play the comparison game. An exercise I believe eventually will leave New England standing alone in NFL history. But first, let me explain my vantage point of the debate about where these Patriots are headed.
The Don Shula-led Dolphins of the early 1970s were my boyhood team. To grow up in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the pre-Tampa Bay Bucs era was to be a Dolphins fan, because the entire Sunshine State bled aqua, orange and white in those days, getting every Miami game on TV. I was a fourth-grader during that magical '72 season, and I was obsessed with the Dolphins' trek to perfection, filling scrapbooks with newspaper clippings of their unbeatable exploits (scrapbooks that I still have, somewhere buried in a box in the basement).
I knew those Dolphins of Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jake Scott, Manny Fernandez, Garo Yepremian and Paul Warfield like they were immediate family, but I treated them far more respectfully than that. I had their pictures tacked on my bedroom wall, a ratty old Dolphins pennant hung over my bed, and my stack of football cards always had Miami players on top. My oldest brother, a Baltimore Colts fan from the days when Shula coached them, spent the entire '72 season predicting doom and defeat for my unblemished Dolphins. But they never lost, Doug, and they never will.
Skip ahead 26 years, and by 1998 I was in my third season as the Vikings beat writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I watched, reported and wrote every week about those high-flying Vikings with Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Jake Reed. Minnesota scored so relentlessly and so easily in their 15-1 regular season, it seemed almost unfair to defenses.
The Vikings' favorite play was sending Moss on a go route, with Cunningham lobbing the ball up and letting No. 84 either run under it or pluck it out of the sky amidst two or three defenders who never could jump quite as high as the freakish rookie. There was a playground quality to the offense that year, and only a 27-24 Week 9 loss at Tampa Bay stood between them and their own run at a perfect season.
Nine more years have passed, and now here I am again, both covering and watching history unfold. This time, I live in Boston, and the steamrolling Patriots are the hometown team that carries with them both an air of invincibility and inevitability. They score whenever they feel like it, and an older and wiser Moss is at it again, pulling Tom Brady touchdown passes out of the sky, as if he was a high school senior somehow allowed to play in a Pop Warner league game.