Super Bowl VIII had all the excitement and suspense of a master butcher quartering a steer. The slaughterhouse was Houston's Rice Stadium and the butcher was Miami Quarterback Bob Griese, whose deft dismemberment of the Minnesota Vikings may have had a certain esthetic appeal for serious students of the science of football, but left devotees of drama more than a little bored.
The suspense in the game, which Miami won 24-7, lasted for five minutes and 27 seconds, which was the time it took Griese to march his Dolphins 62 yards in 10 plays after the opening kickoff. Most of the drive was predicated on the ability of the Miami offensive line to shunt aside the Minnesota defenders, especially Middle Linebacker Jeff Siemon, who was attacked by a bewildering variety of blockers.
Griese wound up his opening salvo by turning a Minnesota ploy against the Vikings. With a first and goal on the Minnesota five-yard line, he forsook power for finesse. The two excellent Dolphin guards—Bob Kuechenberg and Larry Little—pulled and took off in tandem to their right. The Viking line, keying on the guards and reading sweep, went with them and Griese handed the ball to Larry Csonka (see cover), who ambled through the hole created by the absence of Minnesota's left tackle, Gary Larsen. It was a clever call and a cleanly performed play and it was archetypical of the way the Dolphins executed their appointed tasks—and their opponents—throughout the chill, foggy afternoon.
When the Vikings took over following the Miami touchdown, they ran three ineffectual plays, had to punt and the Dolphins sliced them up again, using 10 plays to go 56 yards at an expenditure of five minutes and 46 seconds. This time Jim Kiick thrust over from the one.
Griese threw two passes in each of the drives. The Miami game plan was not based on throwing the ball; it was founded primarily on clearing out the middle of the Minnesota defensive line and handing the ball to Csonka. Given a Csonka to lug the ball 33 times and rumble for 145 yards, it made a lot of sense.
Griese threw only seven passes, completing six, all but one of them in the first half. With the Dolphins holding a 17-0 halftime lead—Garo Yepremian kicked a 28-yard field goal, to boot—they didn't need to pass. But the one time Griese put the ball in the air in the second half doomed any chance the Vikings had of winning. This came early in the third period, on third and five from the Viking 38, when Minnesota seemed to be stiffening a bit. The pass went to Paul War-field as the Dolphins' All-Pro wide receiver fled down the left sideline, kicking past Bobby Bryant to make a diving fingertip catch. The play covered 27 yards, put Miami on the Viking 11 and set up the touchdown that took the game out of reach. Csonka—who else?—scored it by running over some Minnesota people from the two.
Although the Vikings were thoroughly outperformed by a team that on this day deserved to rank among the top two or three clubs ever to play the game, there are a few things to be said in mitigation of Minnesota's showing.
Before the game a panel of spiritualists and mediums had unanimously predicted the Vikings would win because all the planets in Coach Bud Grant's birth line were in a favorable position. The mediums certainly did not get the message. Each time Minnesota showed signs of making a game of it, the planets evidently careened out of alignment. Late in the first half, with a yard to go for a first down and six for a touchdown, Oscar Reed was stopped for no gain, fumbled and the Dolphins recovered. Viking John Gilliam returned the second-half kickoff 65 yards to the Miami 34, but a clipping penalty on Tight End Stu Voigt brought the ball all the way back to the Minnesota 11-yard line.
On the third-period drive that put Miami ahead by 24 points, the Vikings, on a third and four, surged through the Dolphin line, dropping Mercury Morris for an eight-yard loss and apparently setting up a field-goal attempt. But Minnesota was assessed with a rare defensive holding penalty, giving Miami a first down on the Minnesota eight. Csonka scored two plays later.
Then in the fourth period, when the Vikings for the first time generated a drive on Tarkenton's nifty passing and scored a touchdown on Tarkenton's nifty four-yard run to make it 24-7 with nearly 12 minutes to play, they ran into more bad planetary confluence. They recovered an onside kick that would have put them in position for another score but Reserve Linebacker Ron Porter was offside and Minnesota had to kick off again from its 35. This time the ball was run back to the Miami 34. The Vikings held, but Larry Seiple's long punt bounced straight up and died on the Viking three-yard line, where it was downed. At this lugubrious point a Minneapolis sportswriter threw his pencil on the floor and tore up his notebook.