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On This Date in Sports October 15, 1972

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The unbeaten Miami Dolphins suffer a major setback as Quarterback Bob Griese suffers a broken ankle when he is sacked Ron East and Deacon Jones in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at the Orange Bowl. Fortunately, they had veteran backup Earl Morrall in the wings. Morrall would come to complete eight-of-ten passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns as the Dolphins improved to 5-0 with a 24-10 win. The Dolphins would on to finish the regular season 14-0.

The year had begun with bitter disappointment for the Miami Dolphins, as they lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys 24-3. Looking to not feel that sting again, the Dolphins came to training camp with a renewed determination. When the season began on September 17th, Miami came out strong beating the Kansas City Chiefs 20-10 to spoil the opening of Arrowhead Stadium. A week later they throttled the Houston Oilers 34-13 in their home opener. The Dolphins then went on to edge the Minnesota Vikings 16-14 and beat the New York Jets 27-17 to enter their game against the Chargers as the last unbeaten team in the NFL at 4-0.

Earl Morrall the Dolphins backup quarterback was the oldest player on the team. Signed in the off-season, Morrall had been playing in the NFL since 1956. After stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and New York Giants, Earl Morrall had his greatest success with the Baltimore Colts. Playing in place of an injured Johnny Unitas, Morrall won the NFL MVP with the Colts in 1968, leading them to Super Bowl III. However, the game would end in disappointment for the Colts and Morrall as they were stunned by the Joe Namath led New York Jets. Two years later, Morrall came on relief for Unitas in Super Bowl V and came away a winner as the Colts edged the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in a sloppy game full of turnovers. Following the 1971 season, the Colts released the 38-year-old journeyman which cleared the way for him to be reunited with Don Shula who had coached the Colts in 1968.

As Bob Griese recovered from his broken ankle, Earl Morrall became the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. In Morrall’s first start in Week 6, the Dolphins edged the Buffalo Bills 24-23 in the closest game of the season. The next few weeks would not be close, as the Dolphins blanked the Colts 23-0 before earning a 30-16 win in Buffalo. Returning home, the Dolphins crushed the New England Patriots 52-0 to reach 9-0. The Dolphins followed it up with a 28-24 win over the Jets and 31-10 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in their lone Monday Night Game of the season. Starting December at 11-0, the Dolphins beat the Patriots 37-21 in Foxboro and the New York Giants 23-13 in one of the final NFL Games at Yankee Stadium to hit the final week of the season 13-0. In the final game of the season at the Orange Bowl, the Dolphins again shutout the Colts 16-0 as Griese played late in the second half to get ready for the playoffs. The game would be notable for Baltimore as it was Johnny Unitas’ final game in a Colts uniform.

While the Dolphins finished 14-0 with Earl Morrall leading the way under center, Miami’s offense rarely went through the passing game. In nine starts, Morrall completed just 83 of 150 passes for 1,360 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Meanwhile, the Dolphins had three running backs that did a bulk of the heavy lifting, combining for 2,638 yards on the ground. Larry Csonka was Miami’s leading rusher with 1,117 yards and six touchdowns, Mercury Morris meanwhile, finished with exactly 1,000 yards with a team-best 12 touchdowns, while Jim Kiick ran for 521 yards with five touchdowns.

Earl Morrall would continue to start in the playoffs, as they beat the Cleveland Browns 20-14 in the Divisional Round. Despite finishing 14-0, the Dolphins were forced to play the AFC Championship Game on the road at Three Rivers Stadium. Morrall got the start but was replaced in the second half, as Bob Griese helped the Dolphins rally to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 to reach Super Bowl VII. Griese would get the start in the Super Bowl at the Los Angeles Coliseum as the Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins 14-7 to become the first NFL team to finish undefeated for the regular season and playoffs, finishing 17-0.