After becoming the first team to ever finish an NFL season undefeated, winning Super Bowl VII 14-7 over the Washington Redskins, the Miami Dolphins came back the next season to become the first team to appear in three straight Super Bowls. The 1973 team would not match the perfect season of the year before, but back-to-back championships and a regular season in which they dropped just two contests, was not a bad year.
Super Bowl VIII was played on January 13, 1974 at Rice University in Houston, Texas (which was the first time a Super Bowl was played in a Stadium that no NFL team called its home), with the AFC Champion Dolphins looking to defend their title against the new NFC Champs, the Minnesota Vikings in front of 71,882 fans. The Dolphins, having been 2 point underdogs in Super Bowl VII despite being undefeated going into the game, played the role of the favorite this year, being favored by 6-1/2 points. The Dolphins were so highly regarded that New York Jets QB, Joe Namath, said "If Miami gets the kickoff and scores on the opening drive, the game is over."
Prior to the game, reports of dissension amongst the Dolphins surfaced, due to owner Joe Robbie's decision to allow wives to accompany players at the team's expense. The reports stated that several of the single players were upset with the owner's policy, because it barred them from bringing their girlfriends or mothers and showed favoritism towards married players.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings had their own pre-game complaints. The Vikings were given a local high school to utilize as their training complex, but they found the facility unacceptable due to the lack of carpets, lack of lockers, and shower heads that didn't work. Head Coach Bud Grant stated that he didn't think his "players had seen anything like this since junior high school."
Pre-game injuries for the Dolphins included WR Paul Warfield who had an injured hamstring in his left leg and G Bob Kuechenberg played the game with a cast on an arm he broke during a game played back in the regular season.
Super Bowl VIII was hosted by the AFC, making Miami the home team. Although Miami traditionally wore white when at home, the NFL's policy at the time stated that the Super Bowl home team would wear their color jerseys, leading to Miami to play the game in their aqua jerseys. The game also featured two different Miami Dolphins logos. The majority of the players wore the 1969-1973 Miami Dolphins logo on their helmet. However, several players, particularly the lineman, had already changed to the new logo that would go into effect for the Dolphins' 1974 campaign.
The Super Bowl began with Miami remaining perfect in Super Bowl coin tosses, again winning and electing to receive the opening kickoff. Jake Scott returned the kick 31-yards to the Dolphins' 38-yard line. The Dolphins immediately turned to their running attack, eating up yards with runs by both Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. Quarterback Bob Griese completed two passes during the drive, which was capped off by a Csonka five-yard touchdown run. The Dolphins became the first team in Super Bowl history to score on the opening drive. The team never looked back, proving once again, Jets QB Joe Namath could predict the outcomes of Super Bowls.
The Vikings went three-and-out on their opening drive, punting the ball back to the Dolphins. Miami immediately drove down the field, 56-yards in 10-plays, and scored on Jim Kiick's first and only touchdown of the 1973 season.
The first quarter ended with Miami leading 14-0 on 20 plays and 118 yards of offense. The No-Name Defense had dominated the Vikings during the quarter, giving up only 25-yards on 6 plays, with the Vikings never making it to their own 24-yard line.
Miami scored again on their second drive of the second period, a seven play drive capped with a 28-yard field goal from Garo Yepremian. During the drive, Csonka was cut above the eye when Vikings LB Wally Hilgenberg threw an elbow, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The Vikings attempted to respond on their next drive. The successfully drove the ball against the Miami defense, making it all the way to the Dolphins' six-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-one, however, the Vikings chose to go for the first down, rather than kick a field goal. With less thana minute remaining in the half, the Vikings handed the ball off to RB Oscar Reed , but Dolphins' Buoniconti forced a fumble, which Scott recovered.
Miami led Minnesota 17-0 at the half, and would never look back.
The opening drive of the second half was once again a three-and-out by the Vikings. Scott returned the kick into Minnesota territory. The Dolphins immediately drove down the field and scored on a two-yard Csonka run. Due to his hamstring injury, Paul Warfield, primarily being used as a decoy, caught only his second pass of the game during the drive. He would remain at two receptions for the rest of the game, as the Dolphins did not attempt another pass during the last 24 minutes of the game.
Two possessions later, with only 13 minutes remaining in the game, Minnesota finally scored on a four-yard run by QB Fran Tarkenton.
During the ensuing kick-off, the Vikings received an offsides penalty, erasing the on-side kick they had just recoved. The team elected to kick deep following the penalty, and the Dolphins proceeded to go three-and-out.
Miami punted the ball away, and Minnesota immediately drove back down the field. Reaching the Dolphins' 32-yard line, Tarkenton dropped back to pass, only to thrown an interception to Dolphins' CB Curtis Johnson.
With just 6-1/2 minutes to play, Miami pounded the rock straight into the Vikings defense, using Csonka and Kiick to kill the clock. Future Hall of Famer, Dolphins' center Jim Langer later wrote that, "We hit the Vikings defense so hard and so fast that they didn't know what hit them. Alan Page [Vikings DT and former Notre Dame teammate of the Dolphins' Bob Kuechenberg - who was tasked with blocking Page throughout the game]later said he knew we would dominate them after only the first couple of plays."
The Dolphins' running game had once again dominated. QB Bob Griese only attempted 7 passes, completing 6 of them for just 73-yards - the fewest passes attempted ever in a Super Bowl. Miami's rushing attack gained 196 yards. The team had no turnovers and received their first penalty with just eight minutes remaining in the game - an offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when Kuechenberg and Page scuffled follwing a late hit by page on QB Griese the play before . Vikings's QB Tarkenton set the then record for completions in a Super Bowl by going 18 for 28 for 182 yards and one interception. He also ran for 17 yards and the Vikings' lone touchdown.
Larry Csonka was named the game's MVP for his 145 yards rushing on 33-attempts with two touchdowns. He was asked after the game about the elbow thrown by the Vikings LB Wally Hilgenberg. He replied, "It was a cheap shot, but an honest cheap shot. He came right at me and threw an elbow right through my mask. I could see the game meant something to him."
Unfortunately, the dynasty that seemed to be on the verge of dominating the NFL for years to come began to fall apart in 1974. The franchise would not see another shot at the Lombardi Trophy until after the 1982 season.