1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season
1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season

The 1972 Dolphins' championship ring features one large diamond to represent their Super Bowl victory surrounded by 16 smaller diamonds -- symbolizing the 16 victories it took to get there and their perfect season

It is fitting that the only team to achieve perfection in NFL history has a keepsake from that special season. The 1972 MIAMI Dolphins' championship ring features one large diamond to represent their Super Bowl VII victory surrounded by 16 smaller diamonds -- symbolizing the 16 victories it took to get there. In addition, one side of the ring is inscribed "Perfect Season" in honor of the club's unprecedented 17-0 championship season.

"That season is special because nobody has ever done it," said the team's Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback BOB GRIESE, of the Dolphins' "Perfect Season," whose 40th anniversary will be celebrated this year.

"It was the ultimate victory," said DON SHULA, the Dolphins' head coach from 1970-95, the winningest coach in NFL history (347 victories) and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "It was so special because it was my first Super Bowl win and to have it come with a team that accomplished what that team accomplished made it all the more memorable."

The 1972 season began well with the Dolphins winning their first four games, including a close, hard-fought battle against the Minnesota Vikings in week three.

But the road to the Super Bowl was not always smooth.

In Week Five at home against the San Diego Chargers, starting quarterback Bob Griese went down with a broken ankle and was out for the season. Enter veteran quarterback Earl Morrall, who fit so perfectly into the offense that the Dolphins didn't miss a beat. They defeated the Chargers 24-10 and then reeled off nine more consecutive wins to finish with the first 14-0 regular season record in the history of the NFL. The 38-year-old Morrall started the next 11 games for the Dolphins.

"When I was coaching the Colts in 1968, Earl came on when JOHNNY UNITAS got hurt and did a great job to get us to the Super Bowl," Shula recalled. "When he became available, I didn't hesitate to bring him down to Miami as insurance for Griese. Earl just stepped in and gave us great confidence in the games that he started."

While Morrall's leadership was essential, it was the Dolphins' ground game which carried the offensive load. LARRY CSONKA (1,117) and MERCURY MORRIS (1,000) comprised the first teammate duo in NFL history to each reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the same season. The success of the running game epitomized the team's selflessness.

1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season
1972 Dolphins: Mercury Morris (Source: NFL)

After beating the Cleveland Browns in the division championship, the 15-0 Dolphins had to go on the road to face the 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. This was because home field advantage in 1972 rotated by division and not by record. At halftime of a close game, Shula made the decision to replace Morrall with a healthy Bob Griese. Aided by Larry Seiple's 37-yard first down run from a punt formation, the Dolphins went on to beat the Steelers 21-17 to go 16-0 and win another trip to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl VII matched the unbeaten Miami Dolphins -- a team that led the entire NFL in offense and defense, while boasting the league's first ever pair of 1,000 yard runners in the same backfield -- against the 13-3 Washington Redskins. Surprisingly, the Redskins were favored. Miami won 14-7, in a game that was not as close as the score would suggest. In doing so, they became the first and only undefeated champions in NFL history. Safety Jake Scott was the Super Bowl VII MVP with two interceptions, but many on the team also had a great game. Manny Fernandez had a terrific game with 17 tackles, 11 of them solo, because the Redskins made the mistake of trying to block him one-on-one for most of the game.

"We were a very unselfish team," said former Dolphins defensive tackle MANNY FERNANDEZ. "A lot of players sacrificed their personal ambitions for the good of the team. PAUL WARFIELD, for example, was playing for a team that threw him the ball three times per game. In today's game, he would be the 'go-to guy' with 10 passes a week going to him. He was more than willing to take that backseat to become a blocker in the running game."

1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season
1972 Dolphins: Head Coach Don Shula (Source: NFL)

Warfield, the Hall of Fame receiver who led the '72 Dolphins with 606 receiving yards -- a total lower than in any of his previous six seasons -- agreed with Fernandez' assessment. "The success of the team was paramount," he said. "Everyone's focus was to win and win at the highest level."

That desire to reach the highest level was fueled by failure one year earlier. "The drive for the whole season was the Super Bowl VI loss to Dallas," said Griese. "There was nothing that was going to stop us from going to the Super Bowl and winning it."

"Our 17-0 happened because the Miami Dolphins football team had something to prove," Warfield added. "We were humiliated in Super Bowl VI and when we came to training camp in 1972, our objective was to get back to the Super Bowl and to reinforce in our own minds -- as well as those of the fans across the country -- that we were a better football team."

"It was a very well-balanced team," said Fernandez, who posted 10 tackles and one sack in the Super Bowl while playing for the team's unsung defense, aptly called the "No-Name" defense.

"The 'No-Name' defense took pride in the 11-man concept," said Shula of a unit which allowed an NFL season-low 171 points.

It was a concept embraced by the entire team. "The group was the essence of the word 'team'," said Warfield. "That is why we accomplished something that no one else has ever accomplished, and perhaps, something that no other team will ever accomplish in the history of this game."

"To me," said Shula, "every team is separate and distinct. I have always felt that the reason you keep scores and the reason you keep records is to make determinations. Nobody has done what this team has done."

1972 Dolphins "Did You Know?"

The 1972 Miami Dolphins played the AFC Championship Game on the road at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh due to a rotating playoff site system. "We were a team that had more wins than anyone else and we had to take our show on the road," said Warfield.

"The game I remember most," recalled Shula, "is the (October 1) Minnesota game." The Dolphins trailed the Vikings 14-6 in the fourth quarter. "We needed 10 points to win it," Shula said. "I chose to go for the field goal first and GARO YEPREMIAN kicked a 51-yarder. Then we had to get the ball back, which we did, and we drove down for the touchdown. We needed those points and we got them."

1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season
1972 Dolphins: Team Photo (Source: NFL)


1972 Dolphins Regular Season Results

Week Date Opponent Result Record Attendance
Source: NFL
1September 17, 1972at Kansas City ChiefsW 20 -- 101 -- 079,829
2September 24, 1972Houston OilersW 34 -- 132 -- 077,821
3October 1, 1972at Minnesota VikingsW 16 -- 143 -- 047,900
4October 8, 1972at New York JetsW 27 -- 174 -- 063,841
5October 15, 1972San Diego ChargersW 24 -- 105 -- 080,010
6October 22, 1972Buffalo BillsW 24 -- 236 -- 080,010
7October 29, 1972at Baltimore ColtsW 23 -- 07 -- 060,000
8November 5, 1972at Buffalo BillsW 30 -- 168 -- 046,206
9November 12, 1972New England PatriotsW 52 -- 09 -- 080,010
10November 19, 1972New York JetsW 28 -- 2410 -- 080,010
11November 27, 1972St. Louis CardinalsW 31 -- 1011 -- 080,010
12December 3, 1972at New England PatriotsW 37 -- 2112 -- 060,999
13December 10, 1972at New York GiantsW 23 -- 1313 -- 062,728
14December 16, 1972Baltimore ColtsW 16 -- 014 -- 080,010


1972 Dolphins Playoff Results

Game Date Opponent Result Record Attendance
Source: NFL
DivisionalDecember 24, 1972Cleveland BrownsW 20 -- 1415 -- 080,010
AFC ChampionshipDecember 31, 1972at Pittsburgh SteelersW 21 -- 1716 -- 050,350
Super Bowl VIIJanuary 14, 1973Washington RedskinsW 14 -- 717 -- 090,182


Other Teams Occasionally Cited as Undefeated

Akron Pros, 8 -- 0 -- 3 (originally 8 -- 0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team's standings in 1972)

Canton Bulldogs, 10 -- 0 -- 2 (originally 10 -- 0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team's standings in 1972)

Canton Bulldogs, 11 -- 0 -- 1 (originally 11 -- 0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team's standings in 1972)

Green Bay Packers, 12 -- 0 -- 1 (previously 12 -- 0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team's standings in 1972)

Chicago Bears, 13 -- 0 in regular season, lost NFL Championship Game

Chicago Bears, 11 -- 0 in regular season, lost NFL Championship Game

Cleveland Browns, 14 -- 0, as members of All-America Football Conference prior to joining NFL

New England Patriots, 16 -- 0 in regular season, lost Super Bowl XLII

Teams Since 1961 Which Have Come Close

Green Bay Packers, 14 -- 1, won NFL Championship Game

Oakland Raiders, 16 -- 1, won Super Bowl XI

San Francisco 49ers, 18 -- 1, won Super Bowl XIX

Chicago Bears, 18 -- 1, won Super Bowl XX

New England Patriots, 18 -- 1, lost Super Bowl XLII


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NFL Football History: "1972 Dolphins: The Perfect Season"