The Super Bowl is just 44 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 44 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Super Bowl VIII was played in Houston’s Rice Stadium on January 13, 1974. The game pitted the NFC champion Minnesota Vikings against the Miami Dolphins of the American Football Conference. Miami was the first team of the Super Bowl era to win three consecutive conference championships. A feat so significant, it has only happened once since. Minnesota was playing in their second Super Bowl. They were handled by the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV as the favorite. This time, they were the underdogs.
The Vikings were only underdogs because Miami was so good, not due to any significant defiencies on their part. They exploded to a 9-0 start before finishing at 12-2. The team had a different look than the one that participated in the Super Bowl four years prior. They had the veteran scrambler, Fran Tarkenton at QB and the NFL Rookie of the Year, Chuck Foreman at running back. These Vikings were not as dominant as the 1969 team, but they were consistently good in all three phases of the game.
In the divisional round of the playoffs, Minnesota and the defending-NFC Champion Redskins went at it in a dogfight. With wind chill factors in the single digits, it was veteran Oscar Reed who stole the show with two 40+ yard plays from scrimmage. Tarkenton hit John Gilliam twice for second half scores and the Vikes outlasted Washington, 27-20.
In the NFC championship game at Dallas, the Vikings played an extraordinary defensive game holding the Cowboys to 150 yards and causing 6 turnovers. Gilliam scored again on a long one and Bobby Bryant had a pick six for Minnesota. Therefore, the Vikings clinched their date with Miami.
The Dolphins came into Super Bowl VIII as a very mature, battle-tested ball club. Unlike the 1972 team, the ’73 Dolphins lost. In fact, they lost twice. Between those losses, they had a 10-game winning streak which included two wins over OJ Simpson during his 2000-yard season.
Miami was a gigantic favorite over the young Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. And, they played like jumping out to a 21-3 lead. On the day, the Dolphins more than doubled the Bengals in points and in yards.
The following week, the Fins ruled the action again, this time over the silver and black. Oakland had been one of the teams to beat Miami earlier in the season and would be the team to take out the Dolphins in the 1974 playoffs. But, on this day, they were no match for the powerful Dolphins. Miami was so convincing in their control of the game, QB Bob Griese only threw six passes the entire game! Thus, the Dolphins were on to the Super Bowl yet again. Theirs was the first dynasty of the 1970’s.
Vegas loved the Dolphins’ chance at repeating making them a solid touchdown favorite. They also loved the defenses in this game as they posted an astounding 33.5 over/under. However, that total may have seemed like it was in jeopardy early. On their first drive, the Dolphins utilized a brand of smash-mouth football that left their smallish defensive linemen reeling. Two drives resulted in two touchdowns. Csonka got the first one, Kiick notched the second. Yepremien added a field goal and the Dolphins were in complete control.
There was nothing for a Vikings’ fan to enjoy from this first half. Even when they moved the ball into the red zone late in the half, they fumbled from the six-yard line on fourth down. Next, they got a huge run back on the second half kickoff from Gilliam. Of course, it was called back due to a hold.
The Dolphins won the game, 24-7. Larry Csonka on 33 carries rushed for 145 yards and won MVP. Griese was 6 for 7 throwing the ball. He tossed three total passes over the final three quarters. That is ball control football and that is what Shula wanted his squad to do.
Miami continued to be competitive throughout the ’70’s. But, they never won another Super Bowl. They lost twice in the ’80s. The Vikings made it back the following the season and ran into a steel curtain.
We’ll take more about that Super Bowl tomorrow when we’re 43 days from the big game!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills