|'72 Dolphins braced to make room for Patriots' perfection|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 December 2007 10:50|
Quarterback Earl Morrall recalls a teammate raising the subject just once - before the final regular-season game.
``We were going to play the Colts, and that's the only time I heard something about it in the locker room,'' Morrall said. ``It wasn't about going undefeated. It was, `Guys, if we're going to lose a game, this is the one to lose.'''
Miami beat the Colts, then won three postseason games to finish 17-0, still the NFL's only perfect season.
The New England Patriots are mounting the strongest bid in 35 years to match that achievement, and they conclude their regular season Saturday night against the New York Giants. With a win, the Patriots would improve to 16-0, eclipsing the 1972 Dolphins' 14-0 regular-season record.
If the Patriots are going to lose a game, this is the one to lose. It's understandable if the 1972 Dolphins wish they do.
``We're the only team that can say we went undefeated,'' '72 safety Charlie Babb said. ``We had that record a long time, and records are meant to be broken. But the older I get, the more it means to us. That's all we have left.
``But things don't look good for us.''
New England is already widely touted as the best team ever. Even Bill Parcells, Miami's new executive vice president of football operations, said the 2007 Patriots are better than the 1972 Dolphins.
``Overall, the Patriots have superior personnel,'' Parcells told ESPN last week. ``The Patriots have a little too much firepower.''
The 1972 Dolphins' claim as the best team ever has always inspired disagreement. They played a weak schedule and won six games by a touchdown or less.
But the boys of '72 argue it's impossible to be better than perfect. And they say their place in history is secure, even if the Patriots finish 19-0.
``We'll be 1A and they'll be 1B, because we did it first,'' 1972 guard Larry Little said.
``Their parking spot is behind us,'' '72 running back Mercury Morris said.
``They will be the second perfect season, and my hat's off to them,'' center Jim Langer said. ``But they won't claim the record - they will have joined us. You can't exceed a perfect season.''
With the Internet, talk radio and 24-hour cable, there's a lot more attention on the Patriots than the 1972 Dolphins ever received. That could work against the Pats as they strive for perfection.
``There's more pressure on them now than when we were there,'' 1972 guard Bob Kuechenberg said. ``Nobody even thought about going undefeated then.''
The Patriots are two-touchdown favorites Saturday. Tougher tests await if they face Indianapolis in the AFC championship game, or whoever represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.
``Even the Dallas Cowboys, who I never liked, I'm pulling for them,'' '72 kicker Garo Yepremian said.
Nick Buoniconti has a unique perspective on comparisons between the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots. A member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, he played middle linebacker for Miami's perfect-season team.
Buoniconti praises the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, but wonders why his 1972 Dolphins don't receive more support.
``People are jealous that we are the only team to have gone undefeated,'' Buoniconti said. ``The national media want another team to go undefeated. I really believe that.''
Critics contend the perfect-season Dolphins jealously protect their turf. It's true they savor the achievement as unique and lobby for their team as the best ever, but stories that they hold annual champagne celebrations when the last unbeaten team loses are a myth.
Many of the 1972 Dolphins say they'll salute the Patriots if they finish 19-0.
``We really aren't a bunch of angry old men,'' coach Don Shula said. ``It had been a great, meaningful record for us. But if somebody else does it, we're going to take our hats off to them.''
Buoniconti said he's not rooting against New England. Former Miami teammate Bob Griese said he'd like to see the Patriots lose Saturday but win the Super Bowl.
``Part of me is really rooting for them,'' Griese said. ``The thing I don't want them to do is go undefeated during the regular season and then lose in the playoffs. They're the best team, and I would like to see them win the championship.''
Regardless of how the season ends, the 2007 Patriots are the 1972 Dolphins' most formidable opponents yet.