Greetings from Columbia, a place I haven’t passed through in 18 months and haven’t stayed in 27 months.
I’m at the Springhill Suites, the hotel I lodged at when I was in Columbia in October 2020 for Missouri’s football game vs. LSU, one which wasn’t supposed to be played at all in 2020, and certainly not at Faurot Field.
In a nutshell, LSU and Missouri were paired when the Southeastern Conference scrapped all non-conference football games in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To make up the lost games, the SEC added two conference games per team. Not all would be played.
Missouri was originally scheduled to make the trip to Baton Rouge, but the approach of Hurricane Delta to the Louisiana coast prompted SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey to move the game to CoMo 72 hours before the scheduled kickoff.
Mizzou won 45-41. This October, LSU is scheduled to make its return, a game which has been on both teams’ dockets since 2014.
I’m not staying in Columbia. By noon tomorrow, it’s eastbound and down to St. Louis, a place I have not been in far too long.
Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl VII, where the Dolphins completed their 17-0 season by defeating the Washington REDSKINS. The final was 14-7, but the game was never that close; the only reason the REDSKINS got on the board was because Garo Yepremian didn’t have the sense to fall on the ball after recovering a blocked field goal attempt.
Instead, Yepremian batted the pigskin in the air like a volleyball, and REDSKIN safety Mike Bass–a teammate of Yepremian’s during Garo’s brief time with the Lions–returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Miami probably wanted to play Dallas, which lost the NFC championship game to Washington, after the Cowboys emasculated the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. Instead, Don Shula’s club got to face the original paranoid coach himself, George Herbert Allen.
I don’t have enough space right now for all the bad things I have to say about George Herbert Allen. I wasn’t old enough to remember him coaching the REDSKINS (1971-77) and certainly not the Rams (1966-70), but from all I’ve seen on NFL Network, he was the blueprint for Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and every other coach who would be a perfect employee for the CIA.
Today is the 51st anniversary of Super Bowl VI, when the Cowboys, derisively called “Next Year’s Team” after playoff losses in each of the previous five seasons, destroyed the Dolphins in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. The final was 24-3, but it easily could have been 54-3.
Dallas began the 1971 season 4-3, including a loss to the Saints on the very same field. Following New Orleans’ 24-14 victory that October day, few could have believed the Cowboys would be back three months later.
Tom Landry finally saw the light after a 23-19 loss to the Bears at Solider Field which saw the Cowboys alternate quarterbacks Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on nearly every play.
A few days before going to St. Louis and facing a Cardinal team which defeated Dallas 20-7 and 38-0 the previous season, Landry named Staubach as his starter.
The Cardinals were in the midst of the first of three consecutive 4-9-1 seasons, but they gave Dallas all they could handle before a late field goal by Toni Fritsch pulled it out for the Cowboys 16-13.
Dallas’ Super Bowl express was revved up, and it gained steam by winning its next six games to close the regular season, followed by impressive wins over the Vikings and 49ers in the playoffs.
Yes, the Cowboys needed to defeat the Dolphins to officially win Super Bowl VI.
In reality, Dallas clinched the championship as its plane returning from the Christmas Day playoff at Minnesota was somewhere over Oklahoma.
At approximately 1835 that evening, the only team with a realistic chance of defeating the Cowboys, the Chiefs, were shocked 27-24 by the Dolphins in the longest game in professional football history, lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds of playing time.
Ironically, the Dolphins-Chiefs game of 1971 was SHORTER than the Dolphins’ loss to the Bills yesterday which ended in regulation. By 20 minutes.
The Chiefs, who went from Super Bowl IV champion in 1969 to 7-5-2 in 1970, bounced back nicely in 1971 despite an opening day loss to the Chargers. Their season gained momentum when they rallied from a 17-6 halftime deficit to defeat the 5-0 REDSKINS, and overcame November losses to the Jets and Lions to defeat the 49ers in San Francisco on Monday Night Football, followed by a scintillating 16-14 victory over the Raiders at Kansas City to win the AFC West and keep Oakland out of the playoffs for the only time between 1967 and 1977.
After the Chiefs lost, there was no way the Cowboys would lose to any of the five remaining teams.
They hammered the REDSKINS in Washington in November, and if Washington won at San Francisco, the NFC championship would be in the Cowboys’ new palace in Irving. The 49ers had a strong defense, but their offense was inconsistent, not to mention San Francisco spit the bit in the 1970 NFC championship game, losing 17-10 to Dallas in the last game in Kezar Stadium.
In the AFC, the Dolphins had a premier passer in Bob Griese, premier runners in Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, and a suffocating defense led by Nick Buoniconti, Manny Fernandez and Dick Anderson. However, Miami lacked big game experience.
The Colts defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, but Johnny Unitas (and backup Earl Morrall) were not getting younger. Also, there’s no telling what kind of revenge Dallas would have in store for Baltimore if there was a rematch.
Cleveland? Yes, Leroy Kelly, Bill Nelsen and many of the others who contributed to humiliating Cowboy defeats in the 1968 and ’69 NFL Eastern Conference championship games were still around. But Paul Warfield was in Miami. Not only that, but the Browns had an untested coach, Nick Skorich, and a lineup which was either too young (Jack Gregory, Doug Dieken, Clarence Scott) or too old (Kelly, Nelsen, Erich Barnes).
San Francisco got a second chance at Dallas with the Super Bowl on the line, defeating Allen’s REDSKINS 24-20 at under-construction Candlestick Park. The Colts won the rubber match of their three-game playoff series in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium (aka The Mistake by the Lake) by leaving the Browns stuck in the mud in a 20-3 win.
In their first playoff game in Irving, the Cowboys put the 49ers on ice early in the second quarter when defensive end George Andrie inserted himself between John Brodie and Ken Willard on a screen pass at the San Francisco 7-yard line. Andrie intercepted, and two plays later, Calvin Hill scored to make it 7-0.
San Francisco only mustered a field goal against Doomsday, and Duane Thomas swept into the end zone in the fourth period to finalize the score at 14-3.
In the Orange Bowl, Griese’s 75-yard bomb to Warfield in the first quarter was a body blow to the Colts’ hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champion.
In the third, Anderson’s 62-yard interception return was the death knell for the Colts, who did not play for another AFC championship until 1995, and did not return to the Super Bowl until 2006.
Miami’s 21-0 win was sweet for the Dolphins and their fans, but they would have been better off not getting on the plane to New Orleans.
In the 28 years between Super Bowl VI and his death at age 75, Tom Landry said time and again he never saw the Cowboys more confident of victory than they were the week in New Orleans. Landry and his staff were also loose and relaxed. They knew they had the better team, and it would take Miami playing a near-flawless and game and Dallas playing a C-minus game for the Dolphins to have a shot.
Instead, Dallas played the near-flawless game. Miami played something much less.
Larry Csonka’s fumble on Miami’s second drive was an omen. Dallas fell just short of the end zone, but the time-consuming drive which ended in Mike Clark’s 9-yard field goal (the goalposts were on the goal line until 1974) was the blueprint the Cowboys would use to bludgeon Buoniconti and his mates, who were gifted the “No-Name” sobriquet by Landry the week leading up to the game.
With just over a minute remaining before halftime, Staubach fired a bullet to Lance Alworth, the Chargers legend who was deemed expendable by Sid Gillman only a few months prior. Alworth hauled in the pass just inside the flag and in front of Dolphins cornerback Curtis Johnson for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Miami drove downfield to a 31-yard field goal by Yepremian following Alworth’s TD, but all it did was allow the Dolphins to avoid being shut out.
Dallas came out in the second half and made Miami look silly, driving 71 yards on eight plays to a 3-yard sweep around left end by Thomas for the touchdown which put the game away once and for all.
Even though it was 17-3 at that point still more than a quarter and a half remained, the Dolphins knew they were doomed.
Chuck Howley, the veteran Cowboy linebacker who became the first–and to date, only–player from a losing team to be named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player the previous year in Miami, added an exclamation point early in the fourth quarter by stepping in front of Kiick on a screen pass and returning it 41 yards to the Dolphins’ 9.
Staubach threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Mike Ditka three plays later.
Ditka nearly scored on a tight end reverse just prior to the two-minute warning. When Hill attempted to go up and over for another touchdown, the ball was popped loose, and Fernandez recovered. Mercifully, the clock soon ran out.
Most Dolphins ignored Landry’s gadget play near the end, but one did not.
Mercury Morris, the speedy running back who had yet to escape Shula’s doghouse due to injury and lackadaisical effort, blasted Ditka’s run as “bush league”.
It should be noted in 1971, the victory formation was still years away. Sure, most teams ran simple plays when trying to kill the clock and protect a lead, but the concept of the quarterback kneeling immediately after taking the snap did not come into vogue until the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” in 1978.
Morris also harshly criticized Shula in the locker room at Tulane Stadium for not using him during the game. The next morning, Shula ordered Morris to meet him in his hotel suite so the two could clear the air.
That meeting was part of the foundation for the undefeated season, as Morris beat out Kiick for the starting position next to Csonka in the Dolphin backfield in 1972. Morris’ speed and Csonka’s power have rarely been matched in an NFL backfield since.
I watched the first three plays of the Cowboys-Buccaneers playoff game. Dallas went three-and-out. The announcers are kissing Tom Brady’s ass so much that all the Chapstick in the world won’t help them. GOAT this, GOAT that, GOAT this, GOAT that.
Yes, Brady has won more Super Bowls than any other quarterback. That is a fact which cannot be refuted.
The greatest of all-time? If the rules giving the offense every advantage had been in place when Unitas played, Landry and other defensive-minded coaches would have been out of jobs. Conversely, if Brady played under the rules Unitas did, the whiny baby would have no tears left because he would have cried them all out after two seasons.
I dread another Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl. San Francisco and Buffalo, it’s up to YOU to prevent this.