Forty Super Bowls ago, the Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins, 14-7, and accomplished something pretty special: On January 14, 1973, Miami capped a 17-0 season, thus becoming the first and, so far, only NFL team ever to post a perfect campaign. Former Dolphins running back and Hall of Famer Larry Csonka joined Bill Littlefield to remember that achievement.
BL: Larry, welcome to Only A Game.
LC: Yeah, it seems like it was yesterday. When you say 40 years, it really … it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago [laughs].
BL: Well, tell me if you have a favorite memory or memories from that game 40 years ago.
LC: Just in the final moments, when Jake Scott, our safety, intercepted Washington and it, you know, it locked it up, because we had a pretty close call with Garo Yepremian, our field goal kicker. You know, we had it in the bag, and all we had to do was kick a field goal and we would have had a 17-0 victory and a 17-0 season – it was just like it was meant to be. And instead, a guy that had kicked perfectly all season long kicked a low shank.
BL: Now, of course, the laughter that we heard [in the original broadcast of the game] is the result of the pass – I don’t even want to call it a pass – that Garo Yepremian tried to throw.
LC: No, matter of fact, Garo’s, I think, left-handed, and he threw that right-handed. And it was something my kid sister, I would have slapped if she threw a football like that. But [Washington defensive back] Mike Bass didn’t care – he caught it and took off, and now we’re in a game with guys like [Redskins QB Sonny] Jurgensen and [Redskins QB Billy] Kilmer, and when you feed those two sharks some flesh right at the end, they’re going to eat it all.
BL: Well, tell me – if you can, in radio-friendly language – what went through your head when you saw that ball wobble up into the air for an interception and suddenly, your lead was half as big as it had been a minute before.
LC: Murder. Murder crossed my mind. You know, Garo had come through for us many, many times during the season, but he muffed that one and then compounded the sin.
BL: Well it must be a bit hard to go on after you’ve done something so perfectly. I wonder, in your time as host of the outdoor program “North to Alaska,” have you ever experienced anything quite as perfect as that 1972 Dolphins season?LC: I don’t think I’ve ever been affiliated with anything where we had as many winners put together on a team. It was someone else’s turn to ring the bell each week. One week was Jim Kiick, the next week was Mercury Morris, maybe I had a shot at it, then Jake Scott stepped forward, Dick Anderson on occasion, Nick Buoniconti — every week there was someone that snatched it out of the jaws in the closing moments in four or five different close games. That was the real strength of that team was the depth that we had.
BL: Five years ago the New England Patriots came as close as a team can come to posting a perfect season but they narrowly pulled defeat from the jaws of victory against the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Pats went 18-1 that year. Are you glad the Dolphins still stand as the only NFL team with a perfect season?
LC: I’m not glad about the other people’s expense. I’m happy that we’ve achieved that. People get tired of hearing about the fact that we’re undefeated when it’s at someone else’s expense all the time. But it’s just a fact that it’s so hard to do. The Bears, the ’85 Bears, were one game away, and they lost to the Dolphins halfway through the season, but other than that posted perfect. Of course, New England was a little more dramatic – it came right down to the wire – but there’s been several teams that got to the 10-0 or better mark and faded away then.
BL: Well you speak of the difficulty. Do you think a team ever will do that?
Yes, I think it’s possible, just as it was possible when we did it. At the time we did it we didn’t realize what a mark it was. We assumed because we did it someone else would do it fairly soon, but no one has.