I would like to invite you to follow along as I embark on the 182-game regular season and post-season of the 1972 NFL season. I will be using the latest revision of the card set recently released by the game company. It’s hard to believe its been 50 years since the undefeated Miami Dolphins and Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception”.
The Miami Dolphins became the first (and to date the only) NFL team to finish a championship season undefeated and untied when they beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. The Dolphins not only led the NFL in points scored, while their defense led the league in fewest points allowed, the roster also featured two running backs who gained 1,000 rushing yards in the same season. I’m curious if they will repeat this feat on my tabletop because on several previous replays accomplished by others they usually have fallen short.
The decade of the 1970s is considered the “dead ball” era of professional football. On offense, it was the time of 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE, and 2 WRs) or as it was referred to as the Pro-Set formation. It relied heavily on the power run game that featured ten running backs who surpassed 1,000 yards rushing. This was a milestone because the back had to average 71.5 yards per game to eclipse this mark. O.J. Simpson won his first rushing title with 1,251 yards. Rookie sensation, Franco Harris, led the AFC with 5.6 yards per carry average. In the NFC, Bobby Douglass averaged 6.9 yards per carry for 968 yards, the most by a quarterback in NFL history at the time.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was the age of the zone defense. This style of coverage proved to be difficult for most quarterbacks not named Joe Namath who led the league in passing yards with 2,816 in 13 games played. The Baltimore Colts had a reputation for an outstanding zone coverage team, however, Joe Namath passed for 496 yards and six touchdowns on only 15 completions in his week 2 matchup at Memorial Stadium. In addition, offenses emphasized their tight ends more to counter the zone defense resulting in stellar seasons by Bob Tucker (NYG), Ted Kwalick (SFO), and Jim Mitchell (ATL).