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On This Date in Sports September 16, 1973: 14-0 (50 Years of Following Up Perfection Week 1)

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Dolphins.

How do you follow up on perfection? The Miami Dolphins started the 1973 season at the Orange Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers, coached by Dick Nolan, were coming off three straight playoff appearances, losing to the Dallas Cowboys each season, including two NFC Championship Game heartbreaks. It was a scorching 96-degree day in Miami. The Polyturf field felt more like a flat top grill under the South Florida sun. 

The 49ers defense gave the defending champion fits for most of the game, as Frank Nunely picked off Bob Griese to set up an early scoring opportunity for the visitors. The Niners would settle for a 47-yard field goal by Bruce Gossett to take an early 3-0 lead. The Dolphins answered with a 31-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian. 

In the second quarter, Miami took the lead with a 53-yard field goal by Yepremian but remained stymied by the San Francisco defense, which forced four turnovers. The 49ers again grabbed the lead as Vic Washington scored the game's first touchdown on a three-yard run. The play was set up by a 15-yard pass from John Brodie to Ted Kwalick. The Niners had a chance to add to their lead, but the Dolphins blocked a Bruce Gossett field goal. 

Trailing 10-6 at the half, the Dolphins' frustrations continued in the second half as the Niners remained in command even after losing John Brodie to an injury. With Steve Spurrier at quarterback, the Niners increased their lead to seven points with a 30-yard boot by Gossett following a fumble by Mercury Morris. 

However, losing their quarterback and the Miami heat would wear down the 49ers in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins tied the game at 13 apiece on a ten-yard touchdown catch by Paul Warfield as Bob Griese began to shake off his early game struggles that saw him throw a pair of interceptions. The touchdown was set up by a pair of long runs by Larry Csonka, who rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries. 

With the Niners' defense now worn down by the sun, the Dolphins took the lead on a 43-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian. Spurrier, meanwhile, could not do anything as Miami's defense, after a quick three-and-out, a missed snap over the head of punter Tom Wittum led to a safety. The Dolphins would increase their lead on Yepremian's fourth field goal of the game from 22 yards to close the scoring as Miami extended their winning streak to 18 games with a 21-15 win.