The Super Bowl is just 46 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 46 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Super Bowl VI was played in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium on January 16, 1972. The game pitted the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys against the Miami Dolphins of the American Football Conference. By now, the Cowboys were a perennial powerhouse but had yet to win the big one. In ’66 and ’67, they lost heart breakers to Green Bay. In ’68 and ’69, they were whipped by the Browns. And in Super Bowl V, they choked away a tight one losing to the Colts, 16-13 on a last-second field goal. Thus, their reputation coming into the 1971 season was firmly established. Their nickname was “Next Year’s Champion.”
The Cowboys started this season with a 4-3 record which included bad losses to the Saints and Bears. Coach Landry tried to use both Craig Morton and Roger Staubach as co-starting quarterbacks. That did not seem to work well for anybody. Unlike 1970, Landry eventually chose Staubach. There was too much upside with his gun-slinging and scrambling abilities. Once Landry made his choice, Dallas put together a nine-game winning streak. Staubach was absolutely fantastic en route to solidifying his place as possibly the best quarterback of the decade.
In addition to Staubach, the Cowboys had a three-headed monster at running back and some dynamic wide receivers. One of those wide outs was Chargers’ legend, Lance Alworth. Alworth, along with veterans Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg added some great depth and leadership to an already loaded squad. On defense, “Doomsday” was as good as ever.
In the NFC divisional round, the Cowboys scored an extremely impressive win at Minnesota. The Vikings had finished 1971 with the #1-ranked defense in football and league-MVP Alan Page (yes, a defensive player won MVP). However, it was Dallas’ defense that knocked out the home team. They won 20-12. In the NFC championship game, Dallas played host to San Francisco in the first ever playoff game in the history of Texas Stadium. “Doomsday” was awesome. The Niners were shut down completely and Duane Thomas added a 4th quarter score giving the Cowboys their second straight NFC championship by a score of 14-3.
Their opponent was in their sixth year of existence – the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were an expansion team in name only as they were loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and were expertly coached by Don Shula. Shula came into the 1971 season with a chip on his shoulder. His Colts were embarrassed in Super Bowl III and his stint in Baltimore came to an inglorious conclusion. His 1970 team in Miami improved as the season went on. But, they were dismissed by Oakland in the divisional round.
In 1971, Miami was clearly the best team in the AFC. On offense, they possessed a unique ground attack. Fullback Larry Csonka was a punishing runner, a precursor to backs like Christian Okoye or Jerome Bettis. Mercury Morris was all-speed and elusiveness in the vein of a Barry Sanders. Bob Griese was a terrific football player out of Purdue at quarterback. And, maybe the best of them all was wide receiver Paul Warfield. What a great offense!
They were very good on defense as well but without the name recognition of the Cowboys and Vikings. Their defense finished third in football and helped them earn their first ever division championship.
Their Christmas Day game at Kansas City in the playoffs is simply one of the greatest games in NFL history. The momentum swung back and forth several times throughout the long afternoon. Miami could not stop Chiefs’ running back Ed Podolak who contributed over 300 yards of total offense. For the first time in NFL history, a ball game went into double overtime. Finally, Garo Yepremien kicked the winner for Miami and they advanced to the AFC championship game.
In the title game, Shula was very gratified by a 21-0 destruction of his former team. The Colts’ Johnny Unitas was picked off three times and Warfield scored on an electrifying touchdown. The win catapulted the Dolphins to their first Super Bowl – this in the infant stages of their franchise.
Admittedly, the Dolphins played like they were just happy to be there. Dallas was much more focus, much more aggressive all day. To the day, the Dolphins are the only team to not a score a touchdown in a Super Bowl. Here are a few highlights:
Duane Thomas rushed 19 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. Staubach, however, was named MVP of the Super Bowl, due to his TD passes to veterans Alworth and Ditka. Bob Lilly registered a ridiculous 29-yard sack of Bob Griese. And, Larry Csonka fumbled during the first quarter. He had not fumbled the entire season, over 300 touches.
And that is about it. This was not a great game by any standards. In fact, it was boring. But, for Coach Landry and his Cowboys, it ranks as one of the sweet days in franchise history. Dallas was just getting started in the decade in which they became “America’s Team.”
For Miami, it served as a catalyst for the greatest team in NFL history – the 1972 17-0 Miami Dolphins. We’ll focus more on that team and their incredible achievement tomorrow!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills