On This Date in Sports November 19, 1972: AFC East Champs (50 Years of Perfection Week 10)
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Dolphins, in collaboration with Sportsecyclopedia.com.
The Miami Dolphins clinched their second consecutive AFC East title while improving to 10-0 with a 28-24 win over the New York Jets at the Orange Bowl. The Dolphins overcame an early 17-7 deficit as Mercury Morris led the way with 107 yards on 23 carries while scoring a pair of touchdowns. Dick Anderson led the way on defense with an interception and fumble recovery, each leading to touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
At 9-0, the Dolphins were in a position to claim the division championship before Thanksgiving. The Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Colts, and New England Patriots were all 2-7 after nine games. The New York Jets were Miami's only challenge for the AFC East, though it was a tepid challenge the Jets, at 6-3, needed to run the table if they were going to overtake the Dolphins. The Dolphins won the earlier matchup at Shea Stadium 27-17 and would clinch the division with a win, having won both games against New York. The Jets were playing well in the weeks leading up to the game in Miami, winning four of five, since their loss to the Dolphins in Week 4. The loss was a 35-17 defeat at the hands of the Washington Redskins, who were the top team in the NFC.
The Dolphins got off to a fast start, as Joe Namath's first pass was picked off by Dick Anderson. The Dolphins would need nine plays to go down the field and take the lead as Howard Twilley caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Earl Morrall. The Jets would not roll over, as Namath led an 80-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge from John Riggins to tie the game. Riggins had a big day for the Jets, rushing for 83 yards on 18 carries. The Jets would take the lead in the second quarter, as Morrall's lateral to Mercury Morris was fumbled and recovered by Earlie Thomas. Two plays later, Joe Namath connected with Rich Caster on a 29-yard touchdown pass. The Jets were stopping the Dolphins, while Joe Namath, on the same field where he won Super Bowl III, was in control, helping the Jets extend their lead to 17-7 on a 33-yard field goal by Bobby Howfield.
Just before halftime, Miami found their footing and cut the Jets' lead to three points as Mercury Morris scored from the one. The Dolphins carried the momentum into the second half as Earl Morrall stunned the Jets and everyone watching by racing 31-yards into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. The Jets would answer and held a 24-21 lead at the end of three quarters as Wayne Stewart caught a four-yard pass from Joe Namath, who passed for 175 yards while completing 14 of 23 passes.
In the fourth quarter, Dick Anderson again made a big play, recovering a fumble by Cliff McClain, to give the ball back to Miami. Four plays later Mercury Morris found the end one on a 14-yard run that put Miami back in front. The Jets had their chance to end the Dolphins' streak, but Nick Buoniconti jumped and stole a pass intended for Emerson Boozer that would have been a touchdown. Miami was helped by an ill-timed running into the punter penalty when Joey Jackson crashed into Larry Seipel. Defense played a big role in the game as each side turned the ball over three times, with the Dolphins escaping with a 28-24 win.