They were a perfect 17-0, yet to this day the Miami Dolphins of 1972 talk about lack of respect. "We were the only Super Bowl champ of the last 20 years not to get invited to the White House," claims their kicker, Garo Yepremian.
The '71 Dolphins had flopped in their first title try—Super Bowl VI—losing 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys. Seven months later Miami had something to prove, and it launched the '72 campaign with an offense that was heavy on the run and a defense that was young and unknown. These Dolphins ultimately won consecutive championships (Supes VII and VIII) and became the only team ever to play in three straight Super Bowls. Then the WFL took away three of their greatest stars—Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick—and the run was over.
But 20 years later the memories flow. This is the story, in 17 abbreviated chapters, of the unbeaten season of 1972.
GAME 1, AT KANSAS CITY, 20-10
Sept. 17: It was the Chiefs' first game in brand-new Arrowhead Stadium. Their last one in old Municipal Stadium had been the Christmas Day playoff loss to the Dolphins in double overtime, the longest pro game ever. "We closed out their old one," quarterback Bob Griese says now, "and we ruined their opener in the new one."
The temperature on the field was 120°. "I was dying," recalls Miami guard Larry Little, "but at the end of the third quarter I sprinted to the other end of the field—to prove something, I guess. Their guys just looked at me. One of them said, 'Look at that fool.' "
"Hottest game I ever coached in," Don Shula says. "One man in the stadium had a jacket on—Hank Strain on the other sideline, breaking in his new red blazer."
GAME 2, vs. HOUSTON, 34-13
Sept. 24: The new Poly-Turf in the Orange Bowl was a disaster. After the game, fullback Csonka said, "Technology has advanced to the point where it's capable of finishing every player before his time. Every time I tried to cut, my toes were driven to the point of my shoe. I feel like my ribs are coming out of my throat. Look at this turf. It's slimy. I swear, there's some kind of fumes coming off the rug."
"Dan Dowe, our equipment man, gave us sneakers to wear," Little remembers. "I got two big blisters and never wore 'em again." No matter. Miami rushed for 274 yards.