Historical Perspective Part 4 - 1971

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing a re-publication of my Historical Perspective series, looking back at the history of the Miami Dolphins. Today, we go back to the 1971 seasons. This was originally published as a Fan Post April 28, 2009.

I bring to you the 1971 Miami Dolphins - the first 'Phins to make the Super Bowl.

As always, thank you to all of the websites from which I gathered this information. These include. www.pro-football-reference.com, www.miamidolphins.com,www.nfl.com, and www.wikipedia.org. Any that I forgot, I apologize.

1971

If the 1970 season turned the Miami Dolphins franchise around, the 1971 season put the world on notice. This team was bound for greatness, and 1971 would mark the first flirtation with immortality.

The season began with the NFL Draft on January 28th and 29th. The Dolphins draft continued to search for talent to build a dominant team.

Rnd

Overall Pick

Name

Position

School

Games Played

Season Stater

All-Pro 1st Team

Pro Bowl

HOF

Remarks

1

22

Conceded to Baltimore for Coach Don Shula

2

47

Otto Stowe

WR

Iowa State

36

1

0

0

No

3

74

Dale Farley

LB

West Virginia

13

0

0

0

No

4

99

Joe Theismann

QB

Notre Dame

167

8

1

2

No

Signed with Toronto in CFL - Never played for Miami

5

126

To Pittsburgh for WR Willie Richardson (1970 Season)

6

151

Dennis Coleman

LB

Mississippi

9

0

0

0

No

7

178

Ron Dickerson

DB

Kansas State

0

0

0

0

No

8

9

230

Vern Den Herder

DE

Central College (IA)

166

10

0

0

No

10

255

Ron Maree

DT

Purdue

0

0

0

0

No

11

282

Vic Surma

T

Penn State

0

0

0

0

No

12

307

Leroy Byars

RB

Alcorn State

0

0

0

0

No

13

333

Lonnie Hepburn

DB

Texas Southern

31

1

0

0

No

14

359

David Vaughn

TE

Memphis

0

0

0

0

No

15

386

Bob Richards

G

California

0

0

0

0

No

16

410

Chris Myers

WR

Kenyon

0

0

0

0

No

17

437

Curt Mark

LB

Mayville St

0

0

0

0

No

(Bold players on Miami active roster at some point in career)

During the offseason, Don Shula and the Dolphins remained busy. After trading with the Browns the previous year for WR Paul Warfield, Shula again traded with the Cleveland franchise, obtaining LB Bob Matheson for the team's 1972 second round draft choice on September 1st.

The Dolphins continued to make moves a week later when they traded Center Carl Mauck to the San Diego Chargers for Defensive Tackle Tony Liscio and a 1972 4th Round Pick.

One change made in the NFL prior to the 1971 season was a name change. The Boston Patriots moved into Schaefer Stadium (which changed its name to Sullivan Stadium in 1983 and again to Foxboro Stadium in 1990) in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Even though Foxboro is a suburb of Boston, and the move of 22 miles resulted in the team changing its own name from the Boston Patriots to the New England Patriots.

The season began on September 19th, with Miami traveling to Denver. The game ended in a 10-10 tie, in an era before overtime was implemented.

The Dolphins also made two in season trades during the 1971 campaign. On November 23rd, the Dolphins traded Quarterback John Stofa to Denver for a 1972 7th Round Draft Pick. That same day, they traded their 10th Round Draft Pick in 1972 to the Houston Oilers for Defensive End Russell Price.

The rest of the season continued with the Dolphins again reaching double digit wins:

Date

Team

Score

Result

19 September

@ Denver

10-10

Tie

26 September

@ Buffalo

29-14

Win

03 October

New York Jets

14-10

Loss

10 October

@ Cincinnati

23-13

Win

17 October

New England

41-3

Win

24 October

@ New York Jets

30-14

Win

31 October

@ Los Angeles Rams

20-14

Win

07 November

Buffalo Bills

34-0

Win

14 November

Pittsburgh

24-21

Win

21 November

Baltimore

17-14

Win

29 November

Chicago

34-3

Win

05 December

@New England

34-13

Loss

11 December

@Baltimore

14-3

Loss

19 December

Green Bay

27-6

Win

The Dolphins season truly announced the arrival of the Miami franchise. Running back Larry Csonka finished the season as the Dolphins' first 1,000 yard rusher (1,051 yards on 195 carries) while fellow runners Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris combined for another 1,053 yards. The Dolphins offense finished the year ranked #4 overall, with the #1 ranked rushing offense and the #19 ranked passing offense.

The Dolphins defense also established itself. The addition of Bob Matheson before the season gave the Dolphins the anchor for their 53 Defense. Nicknamed the "No Name Defense" the squad finished the year ranked third in total defense, sixth against the pass and eighth against the run.

With their season record of 10-3-1, the Miami Dolphins clinched their first AFC East Division Championship and another trip into the playoffs. However, the Dolphins were not finished winning.

In the opening round of the 1971 Playoffs, the Dolphins visited Kansas City. Played on Christmas Day, 1971, the game would prove t be an epic, still standing as the longest game ever played. The first quarter of the game saw Kansas City, led by future Hall of Fame Quarterback Len Dawson, jump out to a 10-0 lead. However, Bob Griese led the Dolphins back in the second half, drawing even at the half with a 10-10 tie.

The third quarter also ended in a tie, as both teams scored touchdowns during the period. The Chiefs again took control of the game in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown and leading 24-17. Miami wasn't done, though.

With 1:25 left in the game, Miami again put the ball in the end zone, drawing even once more. However, Kansas City responded on the following kick off.

Returning the ball 78-yards to the Miami 22-yard line, Chiefs return man Ed Podolak set up the Chiefs to win the game in regulation. The Dolphins defense, however, held strong, only allowing the Chiefs to advance seven yards on three plays. With 0:35 remaining, Chiefs kicker, Jan Stenerud, missed a game-winning field goal.

Overtime saw both teams fail on scoring attempts, with the Chiefs missing a 42-yard field goal when the Dolphins blocked the attempt and the Dolphins' Garo Yepremian missing a 52-yard try. The game headed into a second overtime period.

Mid-way into the second overtime, and sixth "quarter," Yepremian again trotted onto the field. Lining up for a 37-yard field goal attempt, the Dolphins' finally ended the game when the try proved true.

After 82-minutes, 42-seconds of football, the game finally ended. With eleven future Hall of Famers on the field (Miami: Nick Buoniconti (LB), Larry Csonka (RB), Bob Griese, (QB), Jim Langer (C), Larry Little (RG), Don Shula (coach), Paul Warfield (WR); Kansas City: Bobby Bell (LOLB), Buck Buchanan (RDT), Len Dawson (QB), Lamar Hunt (owner), Willie Lanier (MLB), Jan Stenerud (K), Hank Stram (coach)), the game's star was the Chiefs Running Back and Kick Returner Podolak. Counting the 78-yard return at the end of regulation, Podolak had three returns for 153 yards, 17 carries for 85 yards, eight receptions for 110 yards, and two punt returns for 2 yards. In all, Podolak raked up 350 total yards during the game.

A week later, the Dolphins made their first trip to the AFC Championship game, facing the Baltimore Colts in front of 78,629 fans at the Orange Bowl. The Dolphins would easily win the game 21-0, highlighted by a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown by Safety Dick Anderson.

In only their sixth year of existence, the Miami Dolphins were headed to the Super Bowl. Traveling to Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the Miami Dolphins faced the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, their first Super Bowl visit would soon turn ugly.

Dallas scored first with a 9-yard field goal by kicker Mike Clark in the first quarter. The Cowboys would extend their lead in the second quarter with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Lance Alworth. The Dolphins would finally get on the board in the second quarter with a 31-yard Yepremian field goal. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, this would prove to be their only points in the contest.

In the third and fourth quarters, the Cowboys stretched their lead with a 3-yard Duane Thomas rushing touchdown and a 7-yard pass from Staubach to TE Mike Ditka.

The total domination of the Dolphins by the Cowboys ended in a 24-3 score. The Cowboys racked up 23 first downs and 352-yards of total offense, as compared to Miami's 10 first downs and 185-yards of offense.

The experience, however, would prove beneficial for the next few years as the Dolphins continued to march towards immortality.

With so much accomplished during the 1971 season, Miami saw its share of First Team All Pros and Pro Bowlers suddenly increase. The First Team All Pros included Larry Little (1st), Bob Griese (2nd), Paul Warfield (1st), Larry Csonka (1st), and Garo Yepremian (1st). The Pro Bowlers were Larry Little (2nd), Paul Warfield (2nd), Jake Scott (1st), Larry Csonka (2nd), Bill Stanfill (2nd), Mercury Morris (1st), Bob Griese (4th). Quarterback Bob Griese would also be name the league's Most Valuable Player by the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

[Author's Note: I am simply running out of pictures that either show the Miami skyline or tie into the year being discussed. As such, I am going to just start using random Dolphins pictures. Hope you don't mind.]

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