On This Date in Sports October 29, 1972: The Connected Colts and the Dolphins (50 Years of Perfection Week 7)
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Dolphins, in collaboration with Sportsecyclopedia.com.
The Miami Dolphins shut out the Baltimore Colts 21-0 at Memorial Stadium in a rematch of the 1971 AFC Championship Game. The Colts, who won Super Bowl V, were a team in transition in 1972. They had new owners, and coach Don McCaffery was fired after a 1-4 start. At the same time, longtime quarterback Johnny Unitas was benched. Earl Morrall, who had backed up Unitas before joining the Dolphins, completed 9-of-15 passes for 86 yards. Larry Csonka had a pair of touchdowns while rushing for 93 yards on 19 carries, while Mercury Morris had 71 yards with a touchdown on 11 carries. The Dolphins rushed for 286 yards, improving to 7-0.
As the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts became entwined in the AFC East. Don Shula was coach of the Baltimore Colts for seven seasons, taking Baltimore to the NFL Championship Game in 1964 and Super Bowl III in 1968. After the Colts were upset by the Jets 16-7, Shula and Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom had a falling out. The Colts had a disappointing 8-5-1 record in 1969; before moving to the AFC, Shula informed the Colts that he would leave to take over as coach of the fledgling Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were charged with tampering and lost their first-round pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, as Don McCaffery took over the coaching reins in Baltimore.
In 1970, the Colts and Dolphins began a rivalry in the AFC East, as both teams made the playoffs. The Dolphins, in their fifth season, went 10-4 to get the AFC's Wild Card spot, while the Colts posted a record of 11-2-1 and won Super Bowl V. In 1971, the Dolphins edged out the Colts to win the AFC East with a record of 10-3-1. In the playoffs, the Dolphins beat the Chiefs in the longest game in NFL history 27-24, while the Colts beat the Browns 20-3. The Dolphins would host the Colts in the first playoff game at the Orange Bowl, winning 21-0 to advance to Super Bowl VI.
After the 1971 season, the Colts underwent a myriad of changes as Carrol Rosenbloom swapped teams with Robert Irsay. Irsay had recently purchased the Los Angeles Rams but desired to buy the Colts, while Rosenbloom, who was behind the Colts' success for two decades, sought a move to a warmer climate. The franchise swap was done to avoid tax laws, as Irsay purchased the Rams for $19 million from the estate of Dan Reeves, outbidding future Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse.
The change was felt immediately in Baltimore as GM Don Klosterman followed Rosenbloom to Los Angeles. Joe Thomas, who had worked as Director of Player Personnel for the Dolphins, was named the Colts' new General Manager. He began reshaping the roster by releasing Earl Morrall, who had started nine games at quarterback in 1971. As the Colts got off to a slow start in 1972, he ordered Don McCaffery to bench Johnny Unitas. When he refused, McCaffery was fired, and John Sandusky was named interim coach, with Marty Domes taking over for Unitas.
The Dolphins quickly took the lead in the first quarter with an 80-yard scoring drive that included a 20-yard pass caught by Howard Twilley and a 39-yard run by Larry Csonka. Zonk completed the drive by powering into the end zone from the one-yard line. In the second quarter, Curtis Johnson blocked David Lee's punt to set up the Dolphins' next score. A drive that again ended with a one-yard plunge by Csonka, following a swing pass from Marlin Briscoe to Paul Warfield. Garo Yepremian's PAT was blocked as Miami held a 13-0 lead.
Later in the second quarter, Lloyd Mumphord blocked a field goal by Boris Shlapak to preserve the shutout. Miami would add to their lead before halftime as Yepremian hit a 24-yard field goal. In the third quarter, the Dolphins extended the lead to 23-0 as Mercury Morris had a seven-yard touchdown run after the Dolphins recovered a fumble by Bruce Laird on a punt return.
The Dolphins' 23-0 win saw the "No Name Defense" smother the Colts, limiting Marty Domes to 102 passing yards, as the Colts had 192 yards in offense compared to Miami's 375 yards. The Dolphins also doubled Baltimore's first down output 24-12.