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Dolphins cap NFL's lone perfect season

Miami defeats Washington 14-7 to win the Super Bowl and finish 17-0.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 15, 1999

It was an almost perfect game the Miami Dolphins played against Washington in Super Bowl VII. Their 17th victory climaxed a perfect season, the first in the 53-year history of the National Football League.

Perfection can be boring. And the Dolphins' 14-7 victory before 81,706 spectators in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 14, 1973 (there were 8,476 no-shows), was a workmanlike performance.

For Miami coach Don Shula, the victory went a long way toward dimming the memories of Super Bowl losses to the New York Jets when he coached the Baltimore Colts, and to the Dallas Cowboys a year before in the Dolphins' first Super Bowl.

"There is no empty feeling this year," Shula said. "This is the ultimate. ... This team is the greatest I have ever been associated with. It went undefeated and won at the end and they have to be given credit for their achievement."

For 'Skins coach George Allen, whose motto was, "The future is now," the future would have to wait. "I can't get out of here fast enough," he said. "There will be a lot of hours of agony tonight. ... I want to emphasize this most of all. We'll be back."

It would take a decade -- five years after Allen's dismissal -- for them to get back and beat Miami 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII.

Bob Griese completed an economical 8 of 11 passes for 88 yards. One of the passes was caught by Howard Twilley, who turned Pat Fischer completely around. Twilley cut inside and then out, shook loose from the Washington defensive back, caught the ball on the 5-yard line and scored to complete the 28-yard play with one second remaining in the first quarter.

For the most part, though, the Dolphins ground it out, preventing the Redskins from crossing midfield until the third quarter, and that drive ended with a missed 33-yard field-goal attempt by Curt Knight.

Defense gave Miami good field position the entire game.

The drive that ended with Twilley's score began at the Dolphins 37. And with two minutes left in the first half, Miami linebacker Nick Buoniconti intercepted a Billy Kilmer pass at the Dolphins 41-yard line and returned it to the Washington 27. In five plays, the last a 1-yard plunge by Larry Csonka 18 seconds from halftime, Miami built its lead to 14-0.

Only Miami placekicker Garo Yepremian's ill-conceived attempt at a pass enlivened the second half and short-circuited what might have been the first Super Bowl shutout.

In the fourth quarter, the Redskins drove to the Miami 10-yard line, then Kilmer threw to an open Jerry Smith in the end zone, only to have the ball ricochet off an upright. On the next play, Jake Scott intercepted Kilmer in the end zone.

Later, Yepremian, the left-footed kicker from Cyprus, lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal. It was blocked and the ball bounced to Yepremian. His attempt at a pass sailed straight up -- and straight down -- into the arms of cornerback Mike Bass.

Bass ran 49 yards for the Redskins' only score, with 2:07 to play. More than one observer noted that the game's touchdowns were scored by two Dolphins and one Bass.

-- Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

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