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On This Date in Sports November 12, 1972: Pummeling the Patriots (50 Years of Perfection Week 9)

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

The Miami Dolphins hand the New England Patriots a 52-0 defeat at the Orange Bowl. It is the worst loss in franchise history for the Patriots. Miami dominated the game from the start as Dick Anderson picked off Jim Plunkett, setting up a four-yard touchdown run by Mercury Morris. The Dolphins had a 31-0 lead at the half as they moved the ball at will against the Patriots. In the fourth quarter, Jim Del Gazio, a rookie from Boston, took over for Earl Morrall at quarterback and had the first two touchdown passes of his career. A day following the blowout, Patriots coach John Mazur was fired. 

The 1972 season was one of great expectations for the New England Patriots. After posting a record of 2-12 in 1970, the Patriots went 6-8 in their first season in Foxboro. The excitement centered around quarterback Jim Plunkett, who won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford in 1970 and was the first overall pick in 1971. The Patriots also signed Plunkett's top receiver Randy Vataha, and the two combined to stun the Oakland Raiders in their first game and the first game at Schaffer Stadium. Plunkett had a solid rookie season, as the Patriots appeared to be a team on the rise. The Patriots started the 1972 season by winning two of their first three games but went into a tailspin, losing their next five games to go into Miami at 2-6. 

On the game's third play, Dick Anderson picked off Jim Plunkett and returned the ball to the New England four-yard line. Anderson had fumbled the ball, but New England could not recover, setting up a quick touchdown by Mercury Morris. While the Patriots could not move the ball, the Dolphins scored on every possession in the first half. Morris had a second touchdown from the four, while Garo Yepremian hit a 16-yard field goal to build a 17-0 lead after the first 15 minutes. In the second quarter, Larry Csonka had a three-yard run, while Mercury Morris got a third touchdown run of six yards. Morris rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries, while Csonka seeing limited action, had 32 yards on five rushes. 

In the third quarter, Miami continued to annihilate the Patriots, as Marlin Briscoe reeled in a 16-yard pass from Earl Morrall to make it 38-0 in favor of the Dolphins. Morrall completed 7-of-13 passes for 162 yards before being sat in the fourth quarter. In the middle of a nightmare season, Jim Plunkett had two interceptions and four sacks while completing 7-of-19 passes for 66 yards. In every aspect of the game, it was a Dolphins' domination. Miami had 482 yards on offense compared to New England's 169, as the Patriots turned the ball over three times, with Brian Dowling passing for 51 yards on four of nine completions after Plunkett was benched. 

In the fourth quarter, Jim Del Gaizo got his first significant action in the NFL. Sitting on the Dolphins' practice squad in 1971 after playing at the University of Tampa, Del Gaizo was activated to back up Earl Morrall when Bob Griese was injured. He played briefly in Week 7 but did not throw a pass. Jim Del Gaizo, raised in Revere, a suburb of Boston, had a 51-yard touchdown strike to Marlin Briscoe to extend Miami's lead to 45-0. Later he tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jim Mandich to complete the 52-0 beatdown of the Patriots. Jim Gaizo finished the game by completing four of six passes for 145 yards. Del Gaizo would spend the 1973 season with the Packers and 1974 with the Giants, throwing four career touchdown passes. The win was the 100th of Don Shula's career. 

One day after their 52-0 shellacking, the Patriots fired coach Jim Mazur, who had been there since 1970. Phil Bengstrom, who had replaced Vince Lombardi at Green Bay in 1968, took over for Mazur for the remainder of the 1972 season. The Patriots losing streak would reach nine games before a win over the New Orleans Saints in the Patriots' penultimate game. The Patriots finished the season at 3-11, as Jim Plunkett appeared to be a bust, as he had eight touchdowns and 25 interceptions.