The Miami Dolphins sent shock waves through the National Football League today with an incredible 55-14 upset of the ST. Louis Cardinals that kept them in good position for a shot at the playoffs.
Quarterback Bob Griese capitalized on execellent protection and receivers with blazing speed and threw six touchdown passes, three to flanker Nat Moore.
"This is one of the finest football games plaed by any team with which I have been associated," said Miami coach Don Shula. "We did a great job both moving the ball on defense.
"They (Cardinals) have a good football team, but I was disappointed to see the fighting at the end," Shula said. "As far as I am concerned, that's not part of the game. We could have done without it."
Shula was referring to two late-game scuffles. Cardinal guard Conrad Dobler was a central figure. One of the skirmishes resulted in a serious knee injury to Miami defensive end Vern Den Herder.
The Cardinals went into the game leading the entire NFL in toal offense, but did not score their second touchdown until the fourth quarter.
St. Louis had won six straight games but was playing its fourth game in 19 days and was no match for the overall speed of the young Dolphins.
The defeat of the Cardinals left their record at 7-4, 1 1/2 games behind the Cowboys (8-2) and a half game ahead of the Redskins. Those teams play on Sunday in Washington.
The Dolphins have an 8-3 record, 1 1/2 games behind the 9-1 Baltimore Colts, who play another 9-1 team, the Broncos, leaders of the AFC West, on Sunday in Denver.
THe rebuilding Dolphins scored the most points ever against a St. Louis team.
The Dolphins struck for two touchdowns in the first quarter.
They went 62 yards for the first score on a four-yard touchdown pass form Bob Griese to wide receiver Nat Moore, who beat cornerback Carl Allen, filling in for injured Lee Nelson. Gray Davis ran for 16 yards in the drive and then 13 yards for a first down on the St. Louis four-yard line. Garo Yepremian converted.
The Dolphins got going again when quarterback Jim Hart of the Cardinals fumbled and defensive end A. J. Duhe of Miami recovered on the St. Louis yard line.
Davis ran for 12 yards and Griese passed 15 yards to tight end Jim Mandich on cornerback Allen, for a first down on the St. Louis 12-yard line. Griese passed seven yards to wide receiver Duriel Harris for the touchdown, on veteran cornerback Roger Wehrli.
The Cardinals scored in the same quater after safety Ken Reaves intercepted on Griese and ran 17 yards to the Dolphin 49-yard line before fumbling, with St. Louis retaining possession.
Hart passed 31 yards to tight end J. V. Cain and then 14 to wide receiver Ike Harris to the Miami one-yard line, from where Terry Metcalf scored with an extra effort after being slowed. Jim Bakken converted.
The Dolphins stretched their lead to 14 points again with 37 seconds gone in the second quater on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Moore, covered by Reaves. The Dolphins went 64 yards to score on that drive, which began in the first quarter.
Metcalf fumbled when hit and the ball was caught in the air by defensive back Charley Babb, who ran 22 yards to the 50.
After the Dolphins successfully gambled on fourth-and-one at the St. Louis 39-yard line, cornerback Allen broke up two passes to Harris, but on third-and-10, Griese passed for his fourth touchdown, 28 yards to Moore for his fourth reception and third score. Moore got far behind veteran safety Reaves and Ken Stone, a former Redskin.
Yepremian's conversion boosted the Dolphin advantage to 28-7.
Yepremian's 46-yard field-goal attempt hit the cross bar and bounced back into the playing field shortly before the end of the half.
The Dolphins ran the score to 48-7 with three touchdowns in the third quarter as Griese threw his fourth and fifth scoring passes, 17 yards to Davis and 37 yards to tight end Andre Tillman. Davis also scored on a four-yard run, at the end of a 45-yard march.