Historical Perspective 7 - 1974

Streeter Lecka

Continuing a re-publication of my Historical Perspective series, looking back at the history of the Miami Dolphins. Today, we go back to the 1973 season. This was originally published as a Fan Post July 7, 2009.

1974

The Miami Dolphins were flying high. It was 1974 and the team had been to three straight Super Bowls, wining the last two, having only lost 2 games in the last 34. The team was a dynasty in the making. And then it all started to fall apart.

The 1974 Dolphins entered the year looking to continue their hot streak. The team had just 16 days after Super Bowl VIII, before changing gears and preparing for the upcoming season with the NFL Draft taking place on January 29th and 30th.

Miami made the switch to offseason effortlessly, as on January 25th, the team made a trade that would change the face of a franchise. Miami, still holding the NFL rights to CFL QB Joe Theismann after selecting him in the 4th round of the 1971 draft, made a trade sending the QB to the Washington Redskins for a first round pick in the 1976 draft.

The 1974 draft was looked at as a chance to add some depth to an already dominating team. The Dolphins were a young team, on the verge of all-time greatness, and the thought was that the draft would only assist in keeping the team on top of the league.

The Dolphins, selecting last in each round for the second straight year, made the following picks:

Rnd

Overall Pick

Name

Position

School

Games Played

Season Starter

All-Pro 1st Team

Pro Bowl

HOF

Remarks

1

26

Don Reese

DE

Jackson St.

88

3

0

0

No

2a

38

Andre Tillman

TE

Texas Tech

58

4

0

0

No

From Green Bay for QB Jim Del Gaizo (22 August 1973)

2b

47

Benny Malone

RB

Arizona St.

82

3

0

0

No

From Dallas for WR Otto Stowe (10 May 1973)

2c

52

Jeris White

CB

Hawaii

129

5

0

0

No

3

78

Nat Moore

WR

Florida

183

9

1

1

No

4

104

Bill Stevenson

DT

Drake

0

0

0

0

No

5

130

Cleveland Vann

LB

Oklahoma St.

0

0

0

0

No

6a

136

Randy Crowder

DT

Penn State

71

3

0

0

No

From Baltimore for RB Hubert Ginn (02 October 1973)

6b

156

Bob Wolfe

T

Nebraska

0

0

0

0

No

7a

164

Carl Swierc

WR

Rice

0

0

0

0

No

From New Orleans for K Jeff White (29 August 1973)

7b

182

Joe Sullivan

T

Boston College

0

0

0

0

No

8

206

Mel Baker

WR

Texas Southern

21

0

0

0

No

9a

212

Tom Wickert

T

Washington St.

27

1

0

0

No

From Chicago for CB Dave McCurry (10 August 1973)

9b

234

Bob Lally

LB

Cornell

2

0

0

0

No

10

260

Gary Valbuena

QB

Tennessee

0

0

0

0

No

11

286

Gerry Roberts

DE

UCLA

0

0

0

0

No

12

312

Jim Revels

S

Florida

0

0

0

0

No

13

338

Clayton Heath

RB

Wake Forest

8

0

0

0

No

14

364

Sam Johnson

LB

Arizona St.

0

0

0

0

No

15

390

Larry Cates

CB

Western Mich.

0

0

0

0

No

16

416

Jesse Wolf

DT

Prairie View

0

0

0

0

No

17

442

Ken Dickerson

CB

Tuskegee

0

0

0

0

No

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

The Dolphins resumed their collection of future draft picks following the draft. The Dolphins made five trades throughout the month of August, starting with a trade on the 7th of the month with the New York Jets. The trade sent DT Larry Woods to the New York franchise, with the Dolphins acquiring the Jets' 6th round draft choice in 1975. Two days later, Miami sent WR Charley Wade to the Chicago Bears for a 10th round pick in 1975.

The August trading spree continued on August 17th, when the Dolphins again sent a player to New York - this time it was RB Ed Jenkins to the Giants. In return, the Dolphins received a 14th round selection in the 1975 draft. The Dolphins then sent G/C Howard Kindig to the Redskins for a 1975 10th round pick. Finishing up the spree, Miami send a 6th round pick to the New York and rescued T John Mooring from the Jets.

Miami's final trade for the 1974 season happened the following month. On September 10th, the Dolphins received a 3rd round pick when they sent WR Bo Rather to Chicago.

The Dolphins season started on September 15th, with the Super Bowl Champs visiting Foxboro for an AFC East matchup with the Patriots. The Patriots scored the first touchdown of the game, and then never trailed. The Dolphins opened the 1974 season with a 34-24 loss.

A week later, Miami traveled to Buffalo, where they once again fell behind early. This time, however, Miami was able to respond, take a 7-3 lead before the half, and winning the game 24-16.

Week 3 saw Miami travel to San Diego. The two teams traded first half touchdowns, with the Chargers scoring an additional 14 points in the third period. Miami rallied with 21 points of their own in the fourth, and left San Diego with their second win, this time by a 28-21 final.

Miami finally had their home opener on Monday, October 7th when the New York Jets came to the Orange Bowl. Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half, held on when the Jets responded with 10 points in the third quarter, and then traded touchdowns in the fourth. Miami improved to 3&1 with the 21-17 victory.

The Dolphins were back on the road in Week 5, this time traveling to Washington, D.C to face the Redskins. The Dolphins held a 10-0 lead during the third quarter, only to see the Redskins put up the next 13 points. Trailing 13-10 in the fourth quarter, Miami seemed to put the game away with a fourth quarter touchdown, taking the lead 17-13. However, the Redskins would not go away, and put up the game's final points with a 6-yard touchdown pass. Washington won the game 20-17.

After entering the season with only 2 losses in the last 34 games, the Dolphins had lost 2 in the first 5 played in 1974.

Week 6 proved to be a defensive struggle, as the Kansas City Chiefs visited Miami. The Chiefs got on the board first with a 21-yard second quarter field goal. Miami got their first points of the game when CB Tim Foley blocked a Kansas City punt out the back of the end zone for a safety. The game remained at 3-2 Kansas City until Larry Csonka punched the ball into the endzone from the one yard line in the fourth quarter. The game ended with a 9-3 score, moving Miami to 4&2 on the year.

October 27, 1974 brought the Baltimore Colts to Miami, and another win for the Dolphins. The Colts, entering the game with only one win on the season, lost to the home franchise 17-7.

The following week, Miami returned to its high scoring highlight reel of the previous few years when the Atlanta Falcons visited the Dolphins. Miami was led by RB Benny Malone's 108-yards on 24 carries with 1 touchdown. Malone's backfield mate, RB Don Nottingham, had 25 carries for 87-yards, and 3 touchdowns. Wide receivers Paul Warfield and Jim Mandich each had a touchdown reception, with QB Bob Griese throwing for 158 yards on just 10 of 15 attempts, with one interception. Safeties Jake Scott and Dick Anderson stepped up for the defense, each picking off a pass. Miami defeated the Falcons 42-7.

In Week 9, Miami traveled to New Orleans and continued to dominate. Miami scored all 21 of the game's points in the first half, and then held on for the shutout. Six different players rushed at least once during the game (Malone 16 for 76 yards, Csonka 8 for 25 yards, Nat Moore, 1 for 15 yards, Kiick 7 for 12 yards, Hubert Ginn 4 for 13 yards, and Griese 1 for 0 yards), while Griese only threw for 93 yards, but accounted for all three Miami scores (2 to Mandich, 1 to Moore).

Miami played Buffalo in Miami during Week 10 on November 17th. The Dolphins threw the ensure offence at the Bills, who came into the game with a 7&2 record, identical to Miami's. Csonka got the scoring started in the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run. Griese added a 49-yard touchdown pass to Warfield before the half. Buffalo responded with 7 points of their own in the third quarter, which Miami answered with another Csonka touchdown run. The fourth quarter proved to have fast and furious scoring, as the two teams combined for 35 points in the period. Buffalo scored the first two touchdowns of the fourth quarter, off a 42-yard fumble recovery and a 44-yard touchdown pass. Miami's Nottingham scored next with an 11-yard touchdown run of his own. Buffalo countered with a 5-yard touchdown pass, tying the score at 28 apiece. Miami finally put the game away with a 23-yard run by Nottingham, winning the game 35-28, improving to 8&2 as the Bills fell to 7&3. The Dolphins had 160 yards rushing and 237 yards passing during the game, while holding the Buffalo Bill's 2,000 yard rusher from the prior season, O.J. Simpson, to just 60 yards.

Week 11 saw Miami travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Jets. The Jets defense stifled the Dolphins running attack, holding Csonka and Morris to identical statistics, 11 caries for 39 yards each. Bob Griese ran twice for 28 yards and a touchdown, and Jim Kiick had 3 carries for 10 yards. Meanwhile, Griese went 8 for 19 for 116 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Nat Moore threw in one completion for 31 yards. The Jets defsne held the high power Dolphins to 270 total yards and just 14 points. The Jets handed the Dolphins theuir third loss of the year, 17-14.

Miami hosted Cincinnati in Week 12 during the showcase Monday night game. The Dolphins completed the rebound from the previous week's disappointment by dominating Bengals. Csonka ran the ball 24 times for 123 yards. Morris added 12 carries for 34 yards, with Jim Kiick gaining 27 yards on 8 carries of his own. Benny Malone scored the Dolphins lone rushing touchdown on a fourth quarter 2-yard run. Griese threw for 118 yards on 11 for 13 passing, along with 2 touchdowns. The Dolphins defense held the Bengals to a lone field goal in the second period. Miami won the game easily 24-3.

With just two weeks to go in the season, Miami once again looked like a team ready for the playoffs.

The Dolphins traveled to Baltimore for the December 8th, Week 13 game against the Colts. The Dolphins took a 14-3 lead into the half, and then watched as Baltimore made a furious fourth quarter comeback, only to fall one point short. Miami escaped with a 17-16 victory.

In the Week 14 season finale, Miami was seeking retribution for their Week 1 loss to the Patriots. The game started off with furious scoring, as the visiting Patriots found the Orange Bowl end zone three times in the first quarter - a fumble recovery in the end zone, a 23-yard interception return, and a 4-yard touchdown pass. New Englad scored first in the second period as well, adding three points and going up 24-0; but the Dolphins were not out of the game yet. Miami quickly scored 17 points before the half - a one-yard Nottingham rush, a 37 yard pass from Earl Morrall to Melvin Baker, and a 28-yard field goal from Garo Yepremian. Miami tied the score at 24 with a third quarter 46-yard touchdown pass from Morrall to Baker. New England opened the fourth quarter by taking a 3point lead after a 34-yard field goal. However, Miami scored the next 10 points, and won the game 34-27.

Game Date

Team

Score

Result

September 15, 1974

@New England

34-24

Loss

September 22, 1974

@ Buffalo

24-16

Win

September 29, 1974

@ San Diego

28-21

Win

October 7, 1974

New York Jets

21-17

Win

October 13, 1974

@ Washington

20-17

Loss

October 20, 1974

Kansas City

9-3

Win

October 27, 1974

Baltimore

17-7

Win

November 3, 1974

Atlanta Falcons

42-7

Win

November 10, 1974

@ New Orleans

21-0

Win

November 17, 1974

Buffalo Bills

35-28

Win

November 24, 1974

@ New York Jets

17-14

Loss

December 2, 1974

Cincinnati

24-3

Win

December 8, 1974

@ Baltimore

17-16

Win

December 15, 1974

New England

34-27

Win

Miami had three players named to the 1st Team All-Pro with G/T Larry Little (4th time), C/G Jim Langer (2nd time), and S Jake Scott (2nd time). The Dolphins also had 10 Pro-Bowlers in 1974: Little (5th time), Langer (2nd time), QB Bob Griese (6th time), WR Paul Warfield (5th time), Scott (4th time), RB Larry CSonka (5th time), G/T/C Bob Kuechenberg (1st time), S Dick Anderson (3rd time), DE Bill Stanfill (5th time), and T Norm Evans (2nd time).

The two-time defending Super Bowl Champs were once agin in the playoffs, and staring a third straight championship in the face. However, the football gods had other ideas.

As the 11&3 Dolphins took the field in Oakland to face their nemesis, the 12&2 Raiders (6-1-1 all time against the Dolphins), two future Hall of Fame coaches took their places along the sidelines. Dolphins' coach Don Shula was 1&1 against the Raiders' John Madden.

The Dolphins struck first, when WR Nat Moore returned the opening kick-off 89 yards for a touchdown. Miami had a 7-0 lead, 15 seconds into the game. Over 52,000 Raiders fans, dressed completely in black, went from stadium shaking to silent instantly.

The two teams slugged back and forth through the rest of the first quarter and into the second before the Raiders found the end zone. Raiders Quarterback Ken Stabler found WR Charlie Smith, a college sprinter, on a 31-yard touchdown pass when he blew past the LB locked on him in man-to-man coverage.

Miami responded with a 33-yard Yepremian field goal with just over a minute before the half. The Dolphins led 10-7 at the half.

Midway through the third quarter, the Raiders again struck, this time with WR Fred Biletnikoff making an acrobatic, one handed catch over Dolphins CB Tim Foley for a 13-yard touchdown. The Raiders took the 14-10 lead, only to see Miami respond with their own touchdown pass - a 16 yard pass to WR Paul Warfield. However, Yepremian's extra point was blocked, and the Dolphins settled for the 16-14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins extended the lead to 5, with a 46-yard field goal to open the fourth. With just under six-minutes remaining in the game, the Raiders took possession at their own 17-yard line. After an 11-yard completion the Raiders struck deep. Stabler threw a pass to WR Cliff Branch at the Miami 27-yard line. Branch caught the ball falling to the ground, but was never touched. Surprising the Miami defense, Branch immediately jumped back up and completed the 72-yard touchdown. The Raiders covered over 80-yards in just 17 seconds, taking the lead 21-19.

Miami immediately responded, scoring just before the 2:00 mark on a 23-yard run from Benny Malone. The Dolphins' touchdown gave Miami the 26-21 lead. The Raiders were not going to be outdone, however. With exactly 2:00 to play and the Raiders down by 5, coach John Madden began to design a drive to cover 68-yards.

The Raiders, still in possession of all three time outs, began the series with short passes and runs. Nickel and diming the Dolphins, the Raiders were suddenly on the Miami 14-yard line with 1:00 on the clock - and used their final time out.

Ken Stabler dropped back on first down, looking for WR Blietnikoff in the end zone. The Dolphins defense had Biletnikoff locked down, so Stabler began scanning for another option. With Miami DE Vern Den Herder wrapped around his legs, Stabler threw the ball up for grabs, aimed toward the well covered RB Clarence Davis. Somehow, through a "Sea of Hands" Davis came down with the ball, fighting off several Dolphins players, falling to the ground with the ball clutched safely to his chest. Suddenly, with less than half-a-minute to play, Oakland again had the lead, now 28-26.

Miami regained possession at the Oakland 45, looking to somehow pull out the last minute win. On the second play of the drive, Griese threw a desperation pass, only to have it picked off by Raiders LB Phil Vilapiano. The Raiders held on to win one of the greatest games in NFL history 28-26.

Following the game, coach Don Shula stated, "This has to be the toughest loss I've ever suffered. The Raiders are a great credit to professional football. They needed touchdowns to win, and they got them."

The Dolphins were shocked. With 213 rushing yards and 101 passing yards, the Dolphins had lost. The defense had allowed 411 total yards to the Raiders offense, and could not hold on to a lead during the game.

The Sea of Hands game further feel into NFL lore, as the game film disappeared. Known also as the "Lost Game," no known English version of the film was found for years. It was recently re-discovered and aired on NFL Network.

The Miami Dolphins, after three straight Super Bowl visits, and two straight Super Bowl wins, were kicked out of the playoffs in the first round. The Dolphins were still poised to rebound and make another run at a championship in the 1975 season. However, the off-season would prove disastrous to the franchise.

References: www.pro-football-reference.com, www.wikipedia.org, www.miamidolphins.com, www.profootballhof.com, www.sportsencyclopedia.com, www.raiders.com

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