On This Date in Sports October 22, 1972: Winning Ugly (50 Years of Perfection Week 6)

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

With Earl Morrall making his first start, the Miami Dolphins edge the Buffalo Bills 24-23 at the Orange Bowl. Morrall completes six-of-ten passes for 91 yards, overcoming an interception. Larry Csonka led the Dolphins' rushing attack with 107 yards on 18 carries, with one touchdown. Mercury Morris had a pair of touchdowns with 35 yards on five carries, and Jim Kiick had 81 yards on 25 carries. The Dolphins overcame four turnovers, including a pick-six, to improve to 6-0 on the season. 

With Bob Griese recovering from a broken leg suffered in Week 5, the Dolphins prepared to host the Buffalo Bills. The Bills had a record of 2-3 for Lou Saban, who returned as coach of the Bills, where he won two AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965. Saban had spent a year at the University of Maryland and five seasons with the Denver Broncos before returning to Buffalo. The Bills posted a record of 1-13 in 1971. Upon taking over in Buffalo, Lou Saban focused the offense around O.J. Simpson, who had struggled in his first three seasons in the NFL. Simpson had a breakout season in 1972, winning the first of four rushing titles in five years. 

The Dolphins got off to a fast start scoring on their first drive, as Mercury Morris capped a long drive with a five-yard touchdown run. Miami had a chance to make it 14-0, but after getting down to the Buffalo seven, turned the ball over on downs. In the second quarter, the game swung in favor of Buffalo when Jim Kiick fumbled, setting up a 35-yard field goal by John Leypoldt. On the ensuing drive, Ken Lee picked off Earl Morrall and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter, Buffalo extended their lead to 13-7 as Morrall fumbled attempting to make a lateral. Don Croft's recovery led to a 34-yard field goal by Leypoldt. 

After being outscored 13-0 in the second quarter, the Dolphins came out of the locker and regained control of the game as Manny Fernandez stripped quarterback Dennis Shaw deep in Buffalo territory. Larry Csonka made the Bills pay with a ten-yard touchdown to give Miami the lead. Later in the third quarter, Curtis Johnson blocked a punt by Spike Jones, giving the Dolphins the ball deep in Buffalo territory. Four penalties nearly pushed Miami out of field goal range, but Garo Yepremian hit a 54-yard field goal, the longest in franchise history for nearly 20 years before Pete Stoyanovich topped it in 1989. 

The Bills would not go away quietly, as John Leypoldt hit a 45-yard field goal as the fourth quarter began to cut Miami's lead to one point. The Dolphins responded with a touchdown drive that saw Mercury Morris score for the second time on a 15-yard run. The Bills would score with just over a minute left in the game, as Jim Braxton caught a six-yard pass from Mike Taliaferro, who quarterbacked the Bills in the second half. In an age before the two-point try, the Bills would not get the ball back as the Dolphins improved to 6-0 with a 24-23 win.