Super Bowl VII was an
American football game played on
January 14, 1973, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los
Angeles, California, to decide the National Football League (NFL)
champion following the 1972 regular
The American Football Conference
(AFC) champion Miami Dolphins
defeated the National
(NFC) champion Washington Redskins
(13-4), 14–7, and
became the first, and presently the only team in the NFL to
complete a perfect, undefeated season.
As the lowest scoring Super Bowl
with a total of only 21 points (3 TDs, 3 PATs and no Field Goals),
the score indicates a much closer game than it actually was as the
Dolphins' "No-Name Defense" dominated the game, allowing Washington
to cross midfield only once in the first half and only four times
overall. But Super Bowl VII is most memorable for the final two
minutes of the game: Miami's quest for a perfect season
was jeopardized when Dolphins
kicker Garo Yepremian
picked up a
blocked field goal, batted it in the air, and Redskins' cornerback
caught it and returned it 49
yards for a touchdown. Indeed, it was the longest period in a Super
Bowl to date for one team to be shut out, as Washington was held
scoreless until 2:07 remained in the fourth quarter.
Dolphins safety Jake Scott
was named Most Valuable Player
. He recorded two
interceptions for 63 return yards, including a 55-yard return from
the end zone during the 4th quarter. Scott became the second
defensive player in Super Bowl history (after linebacker Chuck
in Super Bowl V
) to earn a
Super Bowl MVP.
The Dolphins went undefeated during the season, despite losing
their starting quarterback. In the fifth game of the regular
season, starter Bob Griese
fractured right leg and dislocated ankle. In his place, 38-year-old
led Miami to victory in
their nine remaining regular season games, and was the 1972
NFL Comeback Player of
. Morrall had previously played for Dolphins head coach
when they were both with the
where Morrall backed up quarterback Johnny
and started in Super Bowl
But Miami also had the same core group of young players who helped
the team advance to the previous year's Super Bowl VI
. (The only Dolphins starter in
Super Bowl VII over the age of 30 was 32-year-old Nick Buoniconti
.) The Dolphins still had a
powerful running attack, spearheaded by running backs Larry Csonka
, and Eugene "Mercury"
. (Morris, who in previous seasons had been used
primarily as a kick returner, took over the starting halfback
position from Kiick, who had been the starter the previous four
years. The more-experienced Kiick, however, would start in Super
Bowl VII.) Csonka led the team with 1,117 yards and six touchdowns.
Kiick contributed 521 yards and five touchdowns, and also caught 21
passes for 147 yards and another touchdown. Morris, a breakaway
runner, rushed for 1,000 yards, caught 15 passes for 168 yards,
added another 334 yards returning kickoffs, and scored a
league-leading 12 rushing touchdowns. Overall, Miami set a record
with 2,960 total rushing yards during the regular season, and
became the first team ever to have two players rush for 1,000 yards
in one season. Miami led the NFL in points scored (385).
Receiver Paul Warfield
provided the run-based Dolphins with an effective deep threat
option, catching 29 passes for 606 yards, an average of 20.9 yards
per catch. Miami's offensive line, led by future
famers Jim Langer and Larry Little was also a key factor for the
Dolphins' offensive production. And Miami's "No-Name
Defense" (a nickname inspired by Dallas
Cowboys head coach Tom Landry when he
could not recall the names of any Dolphins defenders just before
Super Bowl VI), led by future hall of fame linebacker Nick
Buoniconti, allowed the fewest points in the league during the
regular season (171).
Safety Jake Scott
interceptions. Because of injuries to defensive linemen (at the
beginning of the season the Dolphins were down to four healthy
defensive linemen) defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger
created what he called the
"53" defense, in which versatile Bob
(number 53) would be used as either a defensive end in
the standard 4-3 defense
or as a fourth linebacker in a 3-4 defense
, with Manny Fernandez
. As a linebacker, Matheson
would either rush or drop back into coverage. Said Nick Buoniconti,
"Teams would be totally confused."
The Dolphins' undefeated, untied regular season was the third in
NFL history, and the first of the post-Merger
era. The previous two teams to do it,
and 1942 Chicago Bears
, both lost those years' NFL
Championship Games. The Cleveland
completed a perfect season in 1948
including a Championship victory, when they were part of the
After finishing the 1970 season with a 6–8 regular season record,
the Redskins hired George
as their head coach, hoping he could turn the team's
fortunes around. Allen's philosophy was that veteran players win
games, so immediately after taking over the team, he traded away
most of the younger team members and draft choices for older, more
established players. His motto was "The future is now." Washington
quickly became the oldest team in the NFL and earned the nickname
"The Over the Hill Gang." The average age of starters was 31 years
old. However, Allen's strategy turned the Redskins around as the
team improved to a 9–4–1 record in 1971, and finished the 1972
season with an NFC-best 11-3 record.
Washington was led by 33-year old quarterback Billy Kilmer
, who completed 120 out of 225
passes for 1,648 yards and a league leading 19 touchdowns during
the regular season, with only 11 interceptions, giving him an NFL
best 84.8 passer rating
. Kilmer had
started the first three games of the season, was replaced in game
four by 38-year-old Sonny Jurgensen
then replaced Jurgensen when he was lost for the season with an
Achilles tendon injury. Their powerful rushing attack featured two
running backs. Larry
gained 1,216 yards (first in the NFC and second in the
NFL) in 285 carries during the regular season, caught 32 passes for
473 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns, earning him both the NFL Most Valuable Player
and the NFL Offensive Player of
the Year Award
. Running back Charley Harraway
had 567 yards in 148
carries. Future hall of fame wide receiver Charley Taylor
and wide receiver Roy Jefferson
provided the team with a solid
deep threat, combining for 84 receptions, 1,223 receiving yards,
and 10 touchdowns.
Washington also had a solid defense led by linebacker Chris Hanburger
(four interceptions, 98
return yards, one touchdown), and cornerbacks Pat Fischer
(four interceptions, 61 return
yards) and Mike Bass
53 return yards)
Morrall led the Dolphins to a 20-14 playoff win over the Cleveland Browns
. However, Griese started
the second half of the AFC Championship Game to help rally the
Dolphins to a 21–17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers
, largely due to a
fake punt by Dolphin Larry Seiple.
Meanwhile, the Redskins advanced to the Super Bowl without allowing
a touchdown in either their 16-3 playoff win over the Green Bay Packers
or their 26-3 NFC
Championship Game victory over the Cowboys.
Super Bowl pregame news and notes
Much of the pregame hype surrounded the chances of the Dolphins
completing a perfect, undefeated season, as well as their
quarterback controversy between Griese and Morrall. Griese was
eventually picked to start the Super Bowl because Shula felt more
comfortable with Morrall as the backup just in case Griese was
ineffective due to his recent inactivity. Miami was also strongly
motivated to win the Super Bowl after having been humiliated by the
in Super Bowl VI
. Wrote Nick Buoniconti, "There
was no way we were going to lose the Super Bowl; there was no way."
Head coach Don Shula, loser of Super Bowls III
also determined to win. Although Shula was relaxed and charming
when dealing with the press, it was all an act; Dolphins players
described him as "neurotic" and "absolutely crazy." He was also
sick Super Bowl week with the flu, which he kept secret.
Still, many favored the Redskins to win the game because of their
group of "Over the Hill Gang" veterans, and because Miami had what
some considered an easy schedule (only two Dolphin opponents,
and the New York Giants
posted winning records, and
both of those teams were 8-6) and had struggled in the
Allen had a reputation for spying on opponents. A school overlooked
the Rams facility that the NFL designated the Dolphins practice
field, so the Dolphins found a more secure field at a local
community college. Dolphins employees inspected the trees every day
Miami cornerback Tim Foley
, a future
broadcaster who was injured and would not play in Super Bowl VII,
was writing daily stories for a Miami newspaper and interviewed
George Allen and Redskin players, provoking charges from Allen that
Foley was actually spying for Shula.
Allen was extremely uptight and prickly dealing with the press
Super Bowl week, and accused the press of ruining his team's
preparation. Allen pushed the team so hard in practices that the
players joked among themselves that they should have left Allen in
During practice the day before Super Bowl VII, the Dolphins' five
foot seven, 150 pound kicker, Garo
, relaxed by throwing 30-yard passes to David Shula
, Don Shula's son. During the
pre-game warmups, he consistently kicked low line drives and
couldn't figure out why.
Television and entertainment
was broadcast in the United States by NBC with play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and color
This was the first Super Bowl to be televised live in the city in
which it was being played. Despite unconditional blackout
rules in the NFL that
normally would have prohibited the live telecast from being shown
locally, the NFL allowed the game to be telecast in the Los Angeles
area on an experimental basis when all tickets for the game were
The league then changed its blackout
rules the following season to allow games sold out at least 72
hours in advance to be televised in the host market. No subsequent
Super Bowl has ever been blacked out under this rule, as all have
been sold out.
The pregame show was a tribute to Apollo
, the sixth and last mission to date to land on the Moon
and the final one of Project Apollo
. The show featured the crew of
Apollo 17 and the Michigan
Williams accompanied by the Little Angels of Chicago's Angels
Church from Chicago performed
the national anthem.
The halftime show, featuring Woody
and the Michigan
, was titled "Happiness Is" along with The Citrus
College Singers and Andy
The game aired on NFL Network the day
before Super Bowl XLII
the then-undefeated New England Patriots faced the New York
According to Buoniconti, the Dolphins' priority on defense was to
stop Larry Brown and force Kilmer to pass. Buoniconti looked at
Washington's offensive formation on each play and shifted the
defense so it was strongest where he felt Brown would run. This
strategy proved successful. Washington's offensive line also had
trouble handling Dolphins' defensive tackle/nose tackle Manny Fernandez
, who was
very quick. "He beat their center Len
like a drum," wrote Buoniconti. Miami's defenders had
also drilled in maintaining precise pursuit angles on sweeps to
prevent the cut-back running that Duane
had used to destroy the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI
Washington's priority on defense was to disrupt Miami's
ball-control offense by stopping Larry Csonka. They also intended
to shut down Paul Warfield by double-covering
As they had in Super Bowl VI, Miami won the toss and elected to
receive. Most of the first quarter was a defensive battle with each
team punting on their first two possessions. Then Miami got the
ball on their own 37-yard line with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
Running back Jim Kiick
started out the
drive with two carries for eleven yards. Then quarterback Bob Griese
completed an 18-yard pass to wide
receiver Paul Warfield
to reach the
Washington 34-yard line. After two more running plays, on third and
four Griese threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to receiver Howard Twilley
(his only catch of the game).
Twilley fooled Fischer by faking a route to the inside, then broke
to the outside and caught the ball at the five-yard line, dragging
Fischer into the end zone. "Griese read us real good all day," said
Fischer. Yepremian's extra point gave the Dolphins a 7-0 lead with
one second remaining in the period. (Yepremian noticed that the
kick was too low, just like his practice kicks).
On the third play of the Redskins' ensuing drive, Miami safety
quarterback Billy Kilmer
's pass down
the middle intended for Taylor and returned it eight yards to the
Washington 47-yard line. However a 15-yard illegal man downfield
penalty on left guard Bob
nullified a 20-yard pass completion to tight end
on the first play after
the turnover, and the Dolphins were forced to punt after three more
After the Redskins were forced to punt again, Miami reached the
47-yard line with a 13-yard run by Larry
and an 8-yard run by Kiick. But on the next play,
Griese's 47-yard touchdown pass to Warfield was nullified by an
illegal procedure penalty on receiver Marlin Briscoe
(Briscoe's first, and only,
play of the game). Then on third down, Redskins defensive tackle
sacked Griese for a
6-yard loss and the Dolphins had to punt.
The Redskins then advanced from their own 17-yard line to the Miami
48-yard line (their first incursion into Miami territory) with less
than two minutes left in the half. But on third down and three
yards to go, Dolphins linebacker Nick
intercepted Kilmer's pass to tight end Jerry Smith
at the Miami 41-yard line and returned it 32 yards to the
Washington 27-yard line. From there, Kiick and Csonka each ran once
for three yards, and then Griese completed a 19-yard pass (his
sixth completion in six attempts) to tight end Jim Mandich
, who made a diving catch at the
2-yard line. Two plays later, Kiick scored on a 1-yard blast behind
Little and Csonka with just 18 seconds left in the half, and
Yepremian's extra point gave the Dolphins a lead of 14–0 before
halftime (once again, Yepremian noticed the kick was too
Miami's defense dominated the Redskins in the first half, limiting
Washington to 49 yards rushing, 23 yards passing, and four first
The Redskins had more success moving the ball in the second half.
They took the second half kickoff and advanced across midfield for
only the second time in the game, driving from their own 30-yard
line to Miami's 17-yard line in a seven-play drive that featured
just two runs. On first down at Miami's 17-yard line, Kilmer threw
to Charlie Taylor, who was open at the 2-yard line, but Taylor
stumbled right before the ball arrived and the ball glanced off his
fingertips. After a second-down screen pass to Harraway fell
incomplete, left tackle Manny Fernandez
Kilmer on third down for a loss of eight yards, and Washington's
drive ended with no points after kicker Curt
's ensuing 32-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
"That was an obvious turning point," said Allen. Later in the
period, the Dolphins drove 78 yards to Washington's 5-yard line,
featuring a 49-yard run by Csonka, the second-longest run in Super
Bowl history at the time. However, Redskins defensive back Brig Owens
intercepted a pass intended for
Fleming in the end zone for a touchback.
Early in the fourth quarter, Washington threatened to score by
mounting its most impressive drive of the game, driving 79 yards
from its own 11 to Miami's 10-yard line in twelve plays. On second
down at the Miami 10-yard line, Kilmer threw to tight end Jerry Smith
in the end zone. Smith was wide
open, but the ball hit the crossbar of the goalpost and fell
incomplete. Then on third down, Scott intercepted Kilmer's pass to
Taylor in the end zone and returned it 55 yards to the Redskins
After Miami moved the ball to the 34-yard line on their ensuing
drive, kicker Garo Yepremian
attempted a 42-yard field goal in what is now remembered as one of
the most famous blunders in NFL lore
: "Garo's Gaffe
". As had been the case all day,
Yepremian's kick was too low, and it was blocked by Washington
defensive tackle Bill Brundige
ball bounced to Yepremian's right and he reached it before holder
Earl Morrall. But instead of falling on the ball, Yepremian picked
it up and, with Brundige bearing down on him, made a frantic
attempt to pass the ball to Csonka, who blocked on field goals.
Unfortunately for Miami, the ball slipped out of his hands and went
straight up in the air. Yepremian attempted to bat the ball out of
bounds, but instead batted it back up into the air, and it went
right into the arms of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass
, who easily avoided Yepremian's feeble
attempt at a tackle and returned the fumble 49 yards for a
touchdown to make the score 14-7 with 2:07 left in the game.
To the surprise of some, the Redskins did not try an onside kick,
but instead kicked deep. The Redskins were forced to use up all of
their timeouts on the Dolphins' ensuing five-play possession, but
forced Miami to punt (nearly blocking the punt) from its own
36-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the game, giving themselves a
chance to drive for the tying touchdown. However, Miami's defense
forced two incompletions and a 4-yard loss on a swing pass, and
then defensive end Vern Den Herder
9-yard sack on fourth down as time expired in the game.
Griese finished the game having completed 8 out of 11 pass
completions for 88 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.
Csonka was the game's leading rusher with 15 carries for 112 yards.
Kiick had 38 rushing yards, two receptions for six yards, and a
touchdown. Morris had 34 rushing yards. Manny Fernandez had 11 solo
tackles and six assists. Kilmer completed six more passes then
Griese, but finished the game with just 16 more total passing yards
and was intercepted three times. Said Kilmer, "I wasn't sharp at
all. Good as their defense is, I still should have thrown better."
Washington's Larry Brown rushed for 72 yards on 22 carries and also
had five receptions for 26 yards. Redskins receiver Roy Jefferson
was the top receiver of the
game, with five catches for 50 yards. Washington amassed almost as
many total yards (228) as Miami (253), and actually more first
downs (16 to Miami's 12).
- MIA - TD: Howard Twilley 28 yard pass from Bob Griese (Garo
Yepremian kick) 7-0 MIA
- MIA - TD: Jim Kiick 1 yard run (Garo Yepremian kick)
- WAS - TD: Mike Bass 49 yard fumble return (Curt Knight kick)
Source:The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional
, (1973), p.153, Macmillan Publishing Co. New York,
NY, LCCN 73-3862
|First downs rushing
|First downs passing
|First downs penalty
|Net yards rushing
|Net yards passing
Note: A seven-official system was not used until
- Referee: Tom Bell
- Umpire: Lou
- Head Linesman: Tony Veteri
- Line Judge: Bruce Alford
- Field Judge: Tony Skover
- Back Judge: Tom Kelleher
Game time and weather conditions
- 3:30 p.m. EST/12:30 p.m.
- , sunny, hazy
- --Dolphins reserve guard Al Jenkins, as Garo
Yepremian's fumble was returned for a touchdown by the
Super Bowl postgame news and notes
As Shula was being carried off the field after the end of the game,
a kid who shook his hand stripped off his watch. Shula got down,
chased after the kid, and retrieved his watch.
was a strong contender for MVP. Wrote Nick Buoniconti, "It was the
game of his life–in fact, it was the most dominant game by a
defensive lineman in the history of the game, and he would never be
given much credit for it. They should have given out two game balls
and made Manny Fernandez the co-MVP with Jake Scott." Larry Csonka
also said he thought Fernandez should have been the MVP. The MVP
was selected by Dick Schaap
, the editor
of SPORT magazine. Schaap admitted later that he had been out late
the previous night, struggled to watch the defense-dominated game,
and was not aware that Fernandez had 17 tackles.
When Garo Yepremian went back to the Dolphins' sideline after his
botched field goal attempt, Manny Fernandez said to him, "You son
of a bitch, we lose this game, I'm gonna fucking kill you." Nick
Buoniconti told him that if they lost he would "Hang you up by one
of your ties." Yepremian was so traumatized by his botched field
goal attempt that he had to be helped from the post-game party by
his brother because of a stress-induced stabbing pain down his
right side. Depressed, he spent two weeks in seclusion until he was
cheered up by a letter, apparently from Shula, praising him for his
contributions to the team and urging him to ignore criticism.
Yepremian kept the letter and mentioned it to Shula in 2000, but
Shula had no knowledge of it. They concluded the letter was
actually written by Shula's wife Dorothy, who died from breast
cancer in 1991. She had signed her husband's name to it.
Nevertheless, "Garo's Gaffe" made Yepremian famous and led to a
lucrative windfall of speaking engagements and endorsements. "It's
been a blessing," says Yepremian.
- Nick Buoniconti, "Super Bowl VII," Super Bowl: The Game of
Their Lives, Danny Peary, editor. Macmillan, 1997. ISBN
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! The Untold Story of the 1972
Miami Dolphins, p239. Dolphins/Curtis Publishing, 2002 ISBN
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p248.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p239.
- Shelby Strother, "The Perfect Season," NFL Top 40.
Viking, 1988. ISBN 0-670-82490-9
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p247.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p264.
- Shelby Strother, "Playing to Perfection," The Super Bowl:
Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America's Greatest Game.
Simon and Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0-671-72798-2
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p256.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p264.
- Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, with Dave Anderson, Always on
the Run, p.218. Random House, 1973
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p264.
- As recorded by NFL
Films and shown on their Super Bowl VII official
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! p.268.
- Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, with Dave Anderson, Always on
the Run, p.220.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, pp.260-261.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p264.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! p.283.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! p.268.