50-year Phiniversary: Miami Dolphins beat Washington in Super Bowl VII

Bill Stanfill Miami Dolphins (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Bill Stanfill Miami Dolphins (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Come Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will try to pick up their playoff win in 22 years. On this day 50 years ago, the Dolphins accomplished no other team had before or since.

In what would be its second straight trip to the Super Bowl, Miami claimed its first world championship. The Dolphins outlasted the Washington Redskins in a defensive struggle in Super Bowl VII, 14-7.

Despite being a perfect 16-0, the Dolphins were actually 3-point underdogs as they arrived at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Jan. 14, 1973. Washington lost its final two regular season games to finish 11-3, but kept both the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys out of the end zone in the playoffs.

Defense would be the story of Super Bowl VII, but Miami found the end zone late in each of the first two quarters. With just a second remaining in the first period, the Dolphins drew first blood on a 28-yard scoring strike from Bob Griese to Howard Twilley.

The second score would be set up by Miami’s vaunted “No Name Defense”. With Washington in Dolphins territory late in the first half, linebacker Nick Buoniconti intercepted Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer and returned it 32 yards to inside the Washington 30-yard-line. Four plays later, Jim Kiick scored from a yard out to give the Dolphins a 14-0 halftime lead.

The Miami defense intercepted Kilmer three times with 95 return yards. The other two picks belonged to safety Jake Scott, who would be named the game’s MVP.

Scott thwarted Washington’s best scoring opportunity of the day as his pick in the end zone with just over five minutes to go temporarily preserved the shutout. Chasing a perfect 17-0 season, kicker Garo Yepremian came on to try to give the Dolphins a 17-0 lead with a 42-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes remaining.

Yepremian’s kick, however, was blocked. The small kicker then made one of the most memorable gaffes in Super Bowl history.

Yepremian was able to recover the block before trying to throw a pass. His pass attempt went just inches, which prompted Yepremian to bat the ball into the air. Washington’s Mike Bass was able to pluck the miscue out of the air and return it 49 yards for a touchdown, giving the Redskins new life with 2:07 remaining.

After forcing a punt, Washington would get one last possession. It, however, lasted just four plays.

Kilmer began the drive with consecutive incompletions. Miami defensive end Bill Stanfill did the rest. After tackling Larry Brown for a loss on third down, Stanfill sacked Kilmer on fourth down to preserve the victory and perfect season.

Box score:
Pro Football Reference


While the story of the day was the stellar Miami defense, led by Buoniconti, Scott and Manny Fernandez, fullback Larry Csonka carried the offense. Csonka finished with 112 yards rushing on 15 carries, which included a long of 49 yards.

The Dolphins would become the first AFC team to repeat as Super Bowl champions when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings a year later. It was in 1972, however, that Miami completed the NFL’s first and only perfect season. The feat was accomplished on this day a half-century ago.