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Perfect '72 Dolphins, still 'competing,' hope 'scary' Eagles lose a game

Former Miami Dolphins guard Larry Little (66) and fullback Larry Csonka (39), shown in Super Bowl VIII on Jan. 13. 1974, in Houston, will be among those honored for their 1972 undefeated season Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins.
1 of 8 | Former Miami Dolphins guard Larry Little (66) and fullback Larry Csonka (39), shown in Super Bowl VIII on Jan. 13. 1974, in Houston, will be among those honored for their 1972 undefeated season Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo courtesy of the Miami Dolphins.

MIAMI, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Fifty years have passed since the 1972 Miami Dolphins' 17-0 season, but players from that roster say they still "compete" with today's squads, like the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles, vying to remain the only perfect NFL team.

Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka said Tuesday during a Zoom video conference that he often shares phone calls with the living members of that team during NFL games, especially when a squad like the Eagles (6-0) threatens to join them in pigskin immortality -- though that's a long way off.

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"There's a unity with the '72 team that's going on every year," Csonka said. "It's the most alive team I've ever been affiliated with, and I think anyone's ever been affiliated with, because it's still competing."

The 1972 team, which will be honored in the pregame and halftime of the Dolphins-Pittsburgh Steelers contest Sunday night in Miami Gardens, started their unblemished campaign on Sept. 17, 1972.

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The 1972 Dolphins went on to win 14 consecutive games in the span of 90 days -- with no bye weeks -- to complete an undefeated regular season. They then won three playoff games, including Super Bowl VII, to claim their spot in NFL lore.

The 2007 New England Patriots are the only other team in the Super Bowl era (since 1967) to complete an undefeated regular season. They went 16-0 and then won two playoff games, but lost the Super Bowl.

Csonka, 75, said he jumped out of his chair, nearly hitting his head on a ceiling fan after that loss. Csonka and his teammates say teams that start out perfect and threaten their record also give them a chance to bond and stay in touch.

"We don't have to listen to [former coach] Don Shula and we're not having two-a-days, but we're still competing at a very minor capacity," Csonka said.

"It reached a peak the year that New England went so far. ... That was a sweat and right down to the wire. I don't like that, but we were together and talked a lot. I like it when it ends midseason."

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Shula, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, died in 2020. The winningest coach in NFL history was known for his fiery personality, which trickled down to his players. Some of that intensity remains in the players and surfaces the closer modern teams come to matching their record.

Csonka said his teammates get jealous and are starting to "growl in their beards" about the Eagles. He said the Eagles' balance and ball-control offense is reminiscent of the 1972 team and what led Philadelphia's perfect start.

"They have things that are reminiscent of our old power running game when we when we went undefeated and it's gratifying, but it's a little scary," Czonka said.

He said he thinks the team that looks least likely to upset the Eagles will be the one to end that perfect season because of the parity and offense-friendly rules in today's NFL.

Larry Little, a Hall of Fame guard for the 1972 Dolphins, said he thinks the Dallas Cowboys can beat the Eagles later this season.

"We have gone 50 years, and we've been often imitated, but never duplicated," Little said. "I never thought our record would last this long."

Little said teammates' belief in each other was the key trait during the 1972 run. He also attributed the perfect season to great coaching, but said the team never thought about going undefeated.

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Several members of the team had died over the past decade. Little said Sunday's ceremony will be somewhat bittersweet because of their absences.

"It is gonna be a kind of sad occasion for us," Little said. "We lost our last one this year, one of my closest teammates, Marlin Briscoe. It's going to be sad not having Marlon there, just like for the other 15 guys who left us.

"Who knows? This is probably our last time being together as a group."

Csonka, Little, Griese, Paul Warfield are expected to be among the 1972 players who attend Sunday. The Dolphins-Steelers game will kick off at 8:20 p.m. EDT at Hard Rock Stadium.

"I think back then [people thought] somebody's gonna do it again in five years," Griese said of the 1972 team. "Nobody did it in 10 years, 15, 20 or 30.

"I think as as time has gone by, more people realize that that was something special. ... We didn't we didn't try to go undefeated. We just went out there and tried to win each game. I think I think we get more respect now than we did back then."

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