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Dolphins of 1972 Still Perfect

November 17, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ When the Dallas Cowboys knocked off the undefeated Washington Redskins in 1991, Dick Anderson grabbed a bottle of champagne and walked down the street to celebrate with his neighbors, Bob Griese and Nick Buoniconti.

The three didn’t care about the Cowboys win over the 11-0 Redskins. They were toasting the loss, and another year in which no NFL team would match their incredible 1972 season as members of the Miami Dolphins.

Anderson was a safety on that team, the only team ever to finish an NFL season undefeated _ 17-0. Griese was the quarterback. Buoniconti was a linebacker. Today, they live four doors apart.

Team members met last weekend in Miami to mark the 25th anniversary of the team that went 17-0 and beat the Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII. The players said the perfect season is unlikely to ever be duplicated.

Players said the team _ especially coach Don Shula _ wasn’t concerned about finishing the season undefeated. The Dolphins simply wanted to get back to the Super Bowl and win after being humiliated by Dallas in Super Bowl VI.

``If we had lost the Super Bowl, that would have been a disaster,″ Shula said. ``After losing the year before, getting to the Super Bowl and winning it was the only important thing.″

The Dolphins won them all, but not without a few scares.

In Week 3 against the Vikings, the team was down 10 points in the fourth quarter. Garo Yepremian kicked a 51-yard field goal, his longest ever, to start the comeback.

``I thought, if Shula has this much confidence in me, I must be something,″ Yepremian remembered. ``I could have hit a 60-yarder.″

In the fifth game, against San Diego, Griese broke his leg and dislocated his ankle. Earl Morrall, Griese’s 38-year-old backup, stepped in for the rest of the regular season.

``One game that stands out was when Griese got hurt because we just kind of grouped together even more,″ said running back Jim Kiick, who along with Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris made up one of the best backfields ever.

Griese returned for the second half of the AFC championship game at Pittsburgh. The Dolphins won 21-17, with Kiick running for two second half touchdowns.

With Griese starting in the Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins, the Dolphins took a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

Then what would become the most remembered play of the year almost cost Miami its perfect season.

The Dolphins tried a field goal to put the game out of reach. But Yepremian’s kick hit offensive lineman Bob Heinz in the back.

Yepremian, who saw his first football game when he was 22, (``I played in it,″ he said), picked up the ball and tried something he’d never done. He tried to pass, but he dropped the ball.

Washington’s Mike Bass scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown.

Fortunately for Yepremian, Miami held on for a 14-7 win.

The closest any team came to matching the perfect season came in 1985, when the Chicago Bears started 12-0.

But on a Monday night with many members of the perfect team in the stands, it was the ’85 Dolphins who preserved the ‘72 Dolphins’ special place in history. It was the only loss that year for the Super Bowl champion Bears.

Now, a team would have to go 19-0 to finish a perfect season. But Morrall points out that a team could tie an undefeated record, but it never can be broken.

``It’s not possible for them to break it,″ he said, ``because it’s not possible to beat perfection.″

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