Jan. 14, 1973 Los Angeles
Dolphins Finish Super Season
By George Solomon
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 14 The Miami Dolphins topped Washington's super season today. They defeated the Redskins, 14-7, to win Super Bowl VII and complete the only undefeated season in the 53-year history of the National Football League.
A record Super Bowl crowd of 85,462 in the steamy Los Angeles Coliseum watched the Dolphins triumph for the 17th time_this time over a team that for an entire season had been graced by the fates.
On this day, however, fate was not with the Redskins, although in the waning moments it appeared there might be still one more miracle left in George Allen's mystic arsenal.
Miami had a commanding 14-0 lead with 2:10 left when Garo Yepremian attempted a cake-frosting field goal from the Redskin 42. But Bill Brundige blocked the kick. The slight Yepremian picked it up and tried to pass. Brundige tipped it and Mike Bass plucked the ball out of the air and dashed 49 yards for the Redskins' only touchdown.
When Curt Knight added the extra point to slice Miami's lead to 14-7, there was still 2:07 left to play. A miracle was still possible, particularly after the Redskins forced a Miami punt and got the ball back with 1:14 left on their own 30.
But Bill Kilmer, enduring one of his most frustrating days as a Redskin, could generate nothing on his final four plays of the game.
Twice he threw incompletions; a swing pass to Larry Brown lost four yards; then on the last play of the season, Vern Den Herder and Bill Stanfill overwhelmed Kilmer, crushing him to the turf for a nine-yard loss.
It was perhaps fitting that the game should end with two Miami linemen sitting on top of the Washington quarterback. The Dolphins had similarly flattened the Redskins much of the game.
The Dolphins, although only seven years old, were clearly the dominant team as they reversed the 24-3 thrashing they suffered at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
It was the fourth time a previous Super Bowl loser has come back to win professional football's ultimate game. The Dolphins' coach, Don Shula, had lost two Super Bowls previously, one with Baltimore and last year with the Dolphins.
Allen, making his first Super Bowl appearance, was in no mood to console himself with next year's possibilities. "It doesn't do any good to play in the Super Bowl unless you win," he said afterward. Nevertheless, the Redskins collected $7,500 each for playing in the game. The Dolphins were each paid $15,000.
The Dolphins earned their money the hard way, beating the Redskins at their strengths. They ran on the Redskins. They beat the Redskin secondary. And they controlled Larry Brown.
Washington's only response was to try the Dolphins through the air. While Kilmer was willing, particularly in the third quarter when the Redskins were behind 14-0, he simply was not good enough today.
The Redskins' offense could not produce a single point, although twice in the third period it moved to Miami's 17 and 44-yard lines. In the fourth period the Redskins reached the Dolphin 10. But they could not cash in against a Miami defense that lacks notoriety but not skills.
The Dolphins intercepted Kilmer three times, returning his passes for 95 yards. The crusher was Jake Scott's theft in the end zone late in the game and his 55-yard return. Scott also had another interception, and Nick Buoniconti had one late in the second period to set up Miami's second touchdown.
Brown, the Most Valuable Player in the NFL this year, gained 72 yards in 22 carries, an average of 3.3 yards a try. His longest gain was 11 yards. Much of the game he was surrounded and pounded by middle linebacker Buoniconti, tackle Manny Fernandez and Stanfill, among others.
The Dolphins, who gained more yards rushing this season than any team in history, did not alter their attack much despite Washington's tremendous defensive accomplishments against Green Bay and Dallas in postseason competition.
Miami outrushed Washington, 184-141, with Larry Csonka, the 235-pound hammer, cracking for 112 yards on 15 carries. The Redskins handled Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris fairly well, but Csonka was overpowering.
Bob Griese, making his first start since breaking a bone in his leg four months ago, adroitly controlled the tempo of the game, mixing runs with some classic passes, one of which traveled 28 yards to Howard Twilley for the first Miami touchdown late in the first quarter.
Griese completed 8 of 11 for 88 yards. Kilmer was forced to throw 28 times, completing 14 for 104 yards. Kilmer's luck was such that a fourth quarter pass to Jerry Smith, open in the end zone, hit the goal post.
Thousands of Washington fans arrived at the Coliseum early, wearing burgundy and gold hats, waving banners and cheering their heroes' every move. The suspense was tremendous during the pregame ceremonies, which featured the crew from Apollo 17_Capt. Eugene Cernan, Cmdr. Ronald Evans and geologist Dr. Harrison (Jack) Schmidtt.
But the festive mood of the Washington contingent began to decline shortly after the Redskins picked up their initial first down on a seven-yard swing pass from Kilmer to Brown.
The Redskins did little thereafter in the first half, even failing to recover Scott's fumble after a punt by Mike Bragg. Dick Anderson claimed the ball on the Miami 37, in the middle of three Redskins.
Kiick ripped off 11 yards on two carries before Griese threw an 18-yard pass to uncovered Paul Warfield on the Redskin 34. Two plays later, the allegedly slow-footed Twilley made it look easy as he beat Pat Fischer to catch a 28-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first quarter. Yepremian added the extra point, putting the Dolphins ahead to stay, 7-0.
The Dolphins would have added to their margin had it not been for two penalties. The first one wiped out a 20-yard pass from Griese to Marv Fleming that would have given the Dolphins a first down on the Redskin 27. The second penalty, an illegal motion foul, erased a perfect 47-yard touchdown pass from Griese to a wide open Warfield.
Late in the second quarter, the Redskins finally inspected the Miami side of the field, reaching the 48 with two minutes left. That's when Kilmer's pass over the middle to Brown was stolen by Buoniconti, who chugged 32 yards to the Redskins' 27.
The Redskin defense held for two rushes, so Griese tried a sideline pitch to tight end Jim Mandich, who made a desperate lunge and caught the ball on the Washington two. Kiick hit inside for one. Then with 18 seconds left before the halftime appearance of 2,000 doves, Kiick squirmed into the end zone behind a block by Larry Little.
Yepremian added the extra point for a 14-0 Miami lead. For the first half Griese was six for six for 75 yards.
Kilmer came out firing in the second half, enjoying success on passes to Smith, Charley Taylor and Roy Jefferson. The drive reached the Miami 17, but Kilmer overthrew Taylor, and Charley Harraway dropped a swing pass. Kilmer was dumped for a loss of eight, bringing on Knight, who was seven for seven in previous postseason field-goal efforts.
From the 32, Knight's kick floated to the right of the goal post, and the Redskins were still waiting for their first score.
The Redskins, however, appeared to have some life. When they next got the ball they moved into Dolphin territory again on some good running by Brown and Kilmer's 13-yard pass to Jefferson. But Kilmer tried to throw long against Miami's zone and failed.
A few plays later, Csonka trampled most of the Redskins en route to his longest run of the year_49 yards, to the Redskins' 16. After reaching the five, Griese on second down went for the jugular, but a lunging Brig Owens intercepted his pass in the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kilmer started a ball-control drive on the Redskin 11 with 12:31 left in the game. The drive was typically Redskin, with Brown and Harraway eating up yardage and time and Kilmer daring short passes.
There was only 5:08 left when Kilmer, after hitting the goal post with Smith open in the end zone, threw into a crowd from the Dolphin 10. Scott darted in front of Taylor, made the interception and ran it back 55 yards.
At that point, many people from Washington were ready to concede they had blown their money on a trip West. But when Yepremian tried his field goal from the 42, Brundige knocked the ball down, giving the kicker a chance to turn passer.
"My mind went blank," Yepremian explained afterward. Bass's didn't. He gathered in the deflected ball and ran 49 yards for Washington's touchdown with 2:07 left in the game.
The Redskins decided against the onside kick and when they got the ball back with 1:14 left, they had no time-outs and no field position (the ball was on their own 30). They only had hope.
Miami, though, had Fernandez and Buoniconti and Stanfill, and on this hot afternoon in Southern California, they were too much for the Redskins.
Washington, which was 11-3 in the regular season, won a playoff game over Green Bay, 16-3, and the NFC title over Dallas, 26-3. The Redskins were favored today by three points, although the Dolphins hadn't lost a game. They still haven't.