Historical Perspective 10 - 1977

Kirby Lee-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 1977 season. This was originally published as a Fan Post April 12, 2010.

1977

The Miami Dolphins were fresh off handing coach Don Shula his first ever losing season, having finished 1976 with a 6&8 record. The team would look to rebound, and rebound they would.

The 1977 Miami Dolphins season began on January 21st with the Dolphins sending the rights to linebacker Ray Nettles to Tampa Bay for 5th and 6th round picks in the upcoming draft. On February 7th, Miami returned the 6th round pick to the Buccaneers for wide receiver Barry Smith and tackle Randy Young.

Miami then turned their focus to the 1977 NFL Draft, scheduled for May 2-3. After the team had spent the last three years with sub-par performances, the Dolphins again focused on finding the young talent to help rebuild the team.

Rnd

Overall Pick

Name

Position

School

Games Played

Season Starter

All Pro 1st Team

Pro Bowl

HOF

Remarks

1

13

A.J. Duhe

DE/LB

Louisiana St.

108

7

0

1

No

2

40

Bob Baumhower

DT

Alabama

130

9

1

5

No

3a

70

To Houston for CB Ken Ellis (9/21/76)

Drafted TE Jimmie Giles

3b

71

Mike Watson

T

Miami (Ohio)

0

0

0

0

No

From Chicago for WR Bo Rather (9/10/74)

4

97

To Washington for S Bryant Salter (also sent S Jake Scott - 8/24/76)

Drafted DE Duncan McColl

5a

113

Mike Michel

P/K

Stanford

23

2

0

0

No

From Tampa Bay for LB Ray Nettles

5b

123

Leroy Harris

RB

Arkansas St.

63

3

0

0

No

6

153

To New York Giants for LB Andy Selfridge (9/2/76)

Drafted WR Emery Moorehead

7

180

Bruce Herron

LB

New Mexico

71

0

0

0

No

8

207

Horace Perkins

CB

Colorado

16

0

0

0

No

9

237

Robert Turner

RB

Oklahoma St.

4

0

0

0

No

10

264

Mark Carter

T

Eastern Michigan

0

0

0

0

No

11

291

John Alexander

DE

Rutgers

12

0

0

0

No

12

321

Terry Anderson

WR

Bethune-Cookman

29

0

0

0

No

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

As the franchise prepared for the upcoming season, the front office once again began making trades in July, and continued all the way into September, with the final trade coming just 13 days prior to the season opener. The first trade sent an 11th round pick in the 1978 draft to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive tackle Carl Barisich on the 20th of July. On August 8th, the Dolphins sent tackle Darryl Carlton to Tampa Bay for tackle Mike Current and a 1978 5th round pick.

The final two trades of the year continued with the Dolphins' new found favorite trading partner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On August 30th, Miami sent the 5th round pick obtained from Tampa 22 days earlier back to the Bucs for tackle Steve Young. Finally, the Dolphins completed their trading spree on the 5th of September, sending cornerback Jeris White to Tampa for the same 5th round pick the two teams had already traded twice.

Interestingly, all six of the Dolphins 1977 trades were completed with the two expansion franchises from the previous season (five with Tampa Bay, one with Seattle).

The season opened on September 18th, with Miami traveling to Buffalo to face their division rival - the second straight season Miami opened in Buffalo. The game started slowly, with Miami taking a 3-0 lead into the half. Miami continued to score in the second half, winning the game 13-0, even though they only gained 148 total yards, compared to the Bills' 324 yards. However, Miami held on to the ball throughout the game, while forcing 4 turnovers by Buffalo.

The Dolphins continued their road trip, visiting the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2. Looking to increase their offensive production after the lackluster showing in Buffalo, Miami found themselves down 6-0 early, after a 4-yard rush from the 49ers' Jim Plunkett and a missed extra point. However, it did not take long for Miami to respond, as wide receiver Nat Moore caught a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bob Griese. The scoring continued in the second period, with the 49ers kicking a field goal, while Moore found the end zone for the second time, this time on a 19-yard run, but kicker Garo Yepremian missed on the extra point. Coming out of the half with a 13-9 lead, Miami looked to solidify their lead, only to see 49ers linebacker Mike Baldassin pounce on a fumble in the end zone, giving San Francisco a 15-13 lead - after missing another extra point attempt. Miami would finish the game's scoring immediately following, however, when Griese and Moore connected again, this time on a 73-yard pass. Yepremian again missed the extra point, but, with no scoring in the fourth quarter, Miami held on for a 19-15 victory.

Miami's home-opener came in Week 3, as the Dolphins hosted the Houston oilers. The Dolphins would prove to be rude hosts, however, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, and then holding on for the 27-7 win.

October 9th saw Miami again traveling, this time to Division rival Baltimore. The Colts were able to take an early lead when running back Lydell Mitchell ran for a 64-yard score. Miami immediately answered, when Freddie Solomon returned the kick-off 90 yards to pay dirt. The first quarter scoring barrage continued, when the Dolphins running back Benny Malone went 52-yards for the touchdown. Baltimore scored as the first period ended, kicking a 41-yard field goal. The second quarter continued much as the first, with both teams scoring 14 points, including a Malone rush for 66 yards for Miami. As the third quarter began, Miami lead 28-24. Baltimore quickly established themselves as the dominant team, scoring all of the second half points to win the game 45-28.

In Week 5, Miami returned home to face the New York Jets. The Dolphins dominated the first half of the game, leading 21-3 at the half. However, Miami had to hold on as the Jets scraped their way back into contention in the second half, coming up just short as the final went to Miami 21-17.

Staying at home, Miami welcomed in the second-year franchise from Seattle on October 23rd. Finishing the game with exactly the same number of total yards (222), the difference in the game was the turnover battle, as Miami turned it over once to Seattle's three. Seattle made the return flight across the country while Miami celebrated a 31-13 victory.

Again in Miami, San Diego visited the Dolphins in Week 7. Garo Yepremian started the game's scoring, kicking 52- and a 45- yard field goals in the first quarter. San Diego answered with a touchdown in the second period. The Dolphins scored next, on a three-yard rush from Norm Bulaich, but failed to stop San Diego from answering, and lost the game 14-13.

The Dolphins had to travel to New York to face the Jets on November 6th, completing the season series against their division rival. The Jets scored first, kicking a 37-yard field goal in the opening period. Miami responded in the second and third quarters with 20- and 24-yard touchdown passes from Bob Griese to Duriel Harris. The Jets attempted to answer with a 16-yard touchdown pass of their own, but fell short. With the 14-10 win, Miami improved to 6&2 on the season, matching their win total from the previous season, with six games to play.

Looking to guarantee they did not repeat the 1976 losing season, Miami welcomed the New England Patriots into the Orange Bowl. Miami put the first points on the board, when Gary Davis scored on a one yard rush in the second quarter. After a scoreless third period, New England kicked a 35-yard field goal to start the fourth. Miami answered with a 33-yard field goal of their own, followed by a 26-yard pass from Griese to Moore. The final points of the game came when the Patriots tackled rookie punter Mike Michel in the end zone for a safety. Miami locked in a minimum .500 season record with the 17-5 win.

Week 10 saw Miami travel to Cincinnati. Miami turned the ball over five times during the game, but still managed to hold a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter. However, the turnovers would kill the team, as the Bengals scored on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Ken Anderson to Bob Trumpy, handing Miami their third loss of the year, 23-17.

Four days later, Miami traveled to St. Louis to play the Cardinals on Thanksgiving. Miami put the loss to the Bengals behind them, and they scored 28 first half points, including three Nat Moore touchdowns. Leading 28-7 to start the third quarter, Miami continued the onslaught, scoring 20 more points in the third period, before the Cardinals were able to answer with a touchdown of their own in the fourth. The Dolphins finished the game with an additional score, winning the game 55-14. The Dolphins racked up 503 yards of offense, including nearly 300 yards of rushing, and 34 first downs. After five turnovers in Cincinnati, the Dolphins only coughed up the ball once, on a Griese interception, while forcing three turnovers from the Cardinals. Griese overcame the interception, however, throwing for 6 touchdowns, while Leroy Harris and Benny Malone each rushed for a score.

Turning around from the Thanksgiving game, Miami hosted the Baltimore Colts for the Week 12 Monday Night Football game. Fighting for the AFC East lead, the Colts came into the matchup with a one game lead over the Dolphins. The first quarter proved to be a kicking battle, with the Dolphins scoring first on a 27-yard Yepremian field goal, and Baltimore responding with two field goals of their own. Miami finally found the endzone in the second period, with Griese hitting Andre Tillman on a 15-yard score. Leroy Harris found pay dirt to end the game on a 77-yard rush, with Miami tying up the AFC East division with the 17-6 victory.

Miami visited the Patriots for a December 11th matchup. The Patriots jumped out early with two first quarter 1-yard touchdown runs. The Dolphins settled for a 28-yard field goal to end the first half, trailing 14-3. Coming out to start the second half, Miami climbed back into the game, scoring on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Nat Moore. However, neither team would score again, and the game ended with the Patriots victorious, 14-10. Meanwhile, the Colts would lose to the Lions, so going into the final game of the season, the Dolphins, Colts, and Patriots would be tied atop the AFC East at 9&4.

Miami would finish the season much the way they started it, playing the Buffalo Bills. Coming in to the game with a 3&10 record, the Bills were perfectly placed for the Dolphins looking to win the Division one year after giving coach Don Shula his first ever losing season. Meanwhile, the Patriots were visiting the Colts, ensuring that by the end of the day, there would only be two teams tied for the AFC East division title. Miami upheld its end of the playoff scenario, jumping out to a 24-0 lead as the third quarter ended, then holding on to win the game 31-14.

However, tie breakers would give the AFC East title to the Baltimore Colts, who defeated the Patriots in Week 14. The Dolphins, for the third straight season, were on the outside looking in to the NFL's postseason tournament.

Game Date

Team

Score

Result

September 18, 1977

@ Buffalo Bills

13-0

Win

September 25, 1977

@ San Francisco 49ers

19-15

Win

October 2, 1977

Houston Oilers

27-7

Win

October 9, 1977

@ Baltimore Colts

28-45

Loss

October 16, 1977

New York Jets

21-17

Win

October 23, 1977

Seattle Seahawks

31-13

Win

October 30, 1977

San Diego Chargers

13-14

Loss

November 6, 1977

@ New York Jets

14-10

Win

November 13, 1977

New England Patriots

17-5

Win

November 20, 1977

@ Cincinnati Bengals

17-23

Loss

November 24, 1977

@ St. Louis Cardinals

55-14

Win

December 5, 1977

Baltimore Colts

17-6

Win

December 11, 1977

@ New England Patriots

10-14

Loss

December 17, 1977

Buffalo Bills

31-14

Win

The Miami Dolphins would not be held out of the playoffs much longer.

Miami Dolphins 1977 Pro Bowlers:

QB Bob Griese

WR Nat Moore

LG Bob Kuechenberg

C Jim Langer

Miami Dolphins 1977 AP 1st Team All Pros:

QB Bob Griese

WR Nat Moore

C Jim Langer

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

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