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On This Date in Sports October 1, 1972: Closest Call (50 Years of Perfection Week 3)

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Dolphins, in collaboration with Sportsecyclopedia.com.

The Miami Dolphins rally to beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-14 at Metropolitan Stadium to improve to 3-0, becoming the last of the unbeaten teams in the 1972 season. Miami trailed 14-6 late in the fourth quarter. Following a 51-yard field goal and a quick possession, the Dolphins drove down the field and took their first lead of the game with 88 seconds left as Jim Mandich caught a three-yard pass from Bob Griese. The Dolphins sealed the victory with an interception by Lloyd Mumphord. 

It was the first meeting between the Dolphins and Vikings. The Dolphins came in with wins in their first two games, while the Vikings led by Bud Grant split their first two games against the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. It was a year of great expectations for the Vikings, as Fran Tarkenton returned after five seasons with the New York Giants. Tarkenton had been a star with the Vikings over their first six seasons before being traded to New York. The Vikings would play in Super Bowl IV with Joe Kapp but lost in the Divisional Playoffs the next two seasons. 

Fran Tarkenton gave the Vikings an early lead, connecting with Jim Gilliam for a 56-yard touchdown pass. It was the first time in the 1972 season that the Dolphins had trailed. The first quarter touchdown would be the only score in the first half as both defense were locked in. The Dolphins had an especially difficult time handling the Vikings' "Purple People Eaters," as they were shut out for the first 30 minutes, with Larry Csonka being held to 66 yards on ten carries. 

In the third quarter, the game began to swing in the Dolphins' favor as Tim Foley picked off Tarkenton and returned the ball to the Minnesota 37. The Dolphins would settle for a 51-yard field goal by Garo Yerpremian as their drive quickly stalled. Yepremian added a 42-yard field goal to cut the deficit to one. However, the Vikings went on a 13-play drive and scored on a one-yard touchdown by Bill Brown to take a 14-6 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Leading 14-6, the Vikings had a chance to put the game away after Bob Griese tossed his second interception to Roy Winston. The "No Name Defense" kept the Dolphins in the game with a pair of sacks that knocked Minnesota out of field goal range. Looking to open the game up, Marlin Briscoe, off a double-reverse, completed a 22-yard pass to Jim Mandich to set up a third field goal by Garo Yerpremian, who once again was good from 51 yards. 

The Dolphins' defense quickly forced a punt as the Vikings could not move the ball and the clock, as their possession with a 14-9 quickly stalled. Making matters worse for Minnesota was a shanked punt by Mike Eischeid that put the Dolphins in good field position to begin their final drive near midfield. The Dolphins quickly marched down the field, taking 39 seconds, as they were helped by a roughing the passer penalty. With 1:28 on the clock, Bob Griese connected with Jim Mandich on a three-yard touchdown pass.

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With the Dolphins holding a 16-14, the Vikings looked to get down the field and into field goal position. Fran Tarkenton who was sacked five times, tossed his third interception with Lloyd Mumphord sealing the win for Miami as their quest for perfection continued. 

The game against the Vikings was the only game that the Dolphins trailed by more than a touchdown in the fourth quarter during the 17-0 season. The Vikings would have a disappointing 7-7 season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 1967. They would rebound in 1973 and posted a record of 12-2 on the way to an appearance in Super Bowl VIII, where they were beaten by the Dolphins 24-3.