It’s been nearly 40 years since the Miami Dolphins appeared in a Super Bowl. It has been even longer since the team won the “Big Game.” All told, the team played in a total of five Super Bowls and walked away with a pair of Lombardi Trophies. Here’s a look at how each squad ranks.
5. 1971 (Lost to Cowboys in Super Bowl VI)
In his first season as Miami Dolphins head coach in 1970, Don Shula guided the club to a wild card berth that resulted in a loss to the Oakland Raiders. However, this team was just getting warmed up. The seeds would be planted and there would be a little history made down the road.
In 1971, Shula’s club finished 10-3-1 and won a division title for the first time in the team’s brief history. The AFC playoffs were indeed memorable for Shula’s club. The survived the Chiefs, 27-24, in double overtime at Kansas City in the divisional round. It remains the longest game in NFL history (82:40). A week later, the team dethroned the reigning Super Bowl champion Colts, 21-0, at the Orange Bowl.
The Dolphins would square off against Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans for all the marbles. Miami’s offense was completely stifled by a team that the previous season fell short to the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl.
Shula’s team was limited to 185 total yards and without a touchdown in a 24-3 loss. Arguably the game’s most memorable play was Dolphins’ quarterback Bob Griese being sacked by Dallas’ defensive tackle Bob Lilly for a 29-yard loss.
4. 1982 (Lost to Washington in Super Bowl XVII)
These days, the NFL regular season is a 17-game campaign for all 32 teams. Imagine that almost cut in half? That’s exactly what happened in 1982. After two weeks of play, the National Football League suffered through a players’ strike that would last basically two months.
The final seven weeks of the regular season were enhanced by a makeshift schedule in Week 9 and brought the game total for each club each of the 28 clubs to nine. A total of 16 teams would make the postseason, eight in each conference. It would take four victories to capture Super Bowl XVII.
The Miami Dolphins would finish 7-2 that year and wound up the “second seed” in their conference. Don Shula’s team was led by quarterback David Woodley, a rough running attack and a defensive unit dubbed the “Killer Bs.” The team would mow down the Patriots, Chargers and Jets, limiting their three foes to a combined 26 points on their way to Pasadena and a meeting with the then-Washington Redskins.
However, Miami’s defense had no answers when it came to Washington running back John Riggins, in the midst of a huge postseason. He carried 38 times for 166 yards and one score as Joe Gibbs’ team won Super Bowl XVII, 27-17.
3. 1984 (Lost to 49ers in Super Bowl XIX)
Off an outstanding rookie season by quarterback Dan Marino, the Dolphins headed into 1984 looking for bigger and better things. Don Shula’s team was hot heading into the 1983 playoffs but were stunned at home by the upstart Seattle Seahawks.
There was no carry over from that postseason setback. The Dolphins were dominant in a rousing 35-17 win over the defending NFC champions at Washington. Marino threw for 311 and five touchdowns. Shula’s team would roll through its first 11 opponents and eight of those victories were by double digits.
When it was all said and done, the Dolphins owned an AFC-best 14-2 record the best in the conference and scored an NFL-best 513 points. Miami would put a combined 76 points on the board in the playoffs vs. the Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers and reached the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.
However, standing in the Dolphins way was Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers. The team owned a 15-1 Mand and by the time Super Bowl XIX rolled around, the Niners showed why they were the best team in the league that year.
Marino’s magical season was derailed by a defense of unit that wasn’t up to the challenge late in the year and in the playoffs. San Francisco Miami to a season-low point total. The 49ers’ 38-16 victory featured 537 total yards by Joe Montana, Roger Craig and a talented attack that had its way with Shula’s club.
2. 1972 (Defeated Washington in Super Bowl VII)
How good was Don Shula’s team during its perfect season in 1972?
Obviously, the Miami Dolphins were able to achieve something that had not been achieved before or since. The 2007 New England Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season and then won their first two playoff games before being stunned by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
There are also other previous examples of teams going undefeated during the regular season and not closing the deal in the postseason. Hence, the Dolphins’ feat remains one of the most iconic campaigns in sports history.
While the 1972 club was far from spectacular, it obviously got the job done on a weekly basis. The ground attack featured a pair of 1,000-yard runners in Hall of Famer Larry Csonka and aptly-named Mercury Morris. It was under the command of veteran quarterback Earl Morrall for the majority of the season. He replaced an injured Bob Griese, who broke his leg in Week 5 vs. the Chargers.
Morrall would hold down the job until the third quarter of the AFC title game at Pittsburgh. Miami rallied for a 21-17 win and was off to Super Bowl VII. Defensive tackle Manny Fernandez and company and safety Jake Scott (Super Bowl VII MVP) kept the Washington offense out of the end zone in a 14-7 win.
The ’72 Dolphins scored the most points (385) and allowed the fewest points (171) in the NFL that season, but survived a tough postseason. Could bigger and better things lie ahead?
1. 1973 (Defeated Vikings in Super Bowl VIII)
Don Shula’s team was coming off a perfect season in 1972 and kicked off defense of its Super Bowl VII title with a 21-13 victory over the visiting San Francisco 40 niners. the Dolphins 18 game overall winning streak would come to an end a week later against the Oakland Raiders in a 12-7 loss in a game relocated to California Memorial Stadium.
Shula’s club would then embark on a 10-game winning streak that saw the Dolphins win seven of those games by 10 or more points. A Week 13 loss at Baltimore was merely a blip on the radar. Miami rolled the Detroit Lions, 34-7, to close the season with a 12-2 mark.
The Dolphins were very dominant in their three-game postseason. They made pretty easy work of the Cincinnati Bengals (34-16), Oakland Raiders (27-10) and Minnesota Vikings (24-7) by a combined score of 85-33. They shut out the Bengals in the second half in the divisional playoffs, outscored the Raiders, 14-0, in the first half of the AFC title game and blanked the Vikings, 17-0, in the first half of Super Bowl VIII.
Their 17-point victory over the Purple Gang saw the club run for 266 yards, 145 and two touchdowns by Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka. He earned game MVP honors and Miami became the second team to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles.