1972 NFL season

The 1972 NFL season was the 53rd regular season of the National Football League. 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.

1972 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 17 – December 17, 1972
Start dateDecember 23, 1972
AFC ChampionsMiami Dolphins
NFC ChampionsWashington Redskins
Super Bowl VII
DateJanuary 14, 1973
SiteLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
ChampionsMiami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 21, 1973
SiteTexas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Major rule changes

  • The inbounds lines or hashmarks were moved 10¾ feet closer to the center of the field, to 23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches from the sidelines. Since the 1945 season, they had been 20 yards from the sideline (40 feet apart).[1] The hashmarks are now 18½ feet apart (the same width as the goalposts), cutting down on severe angles for short field goal attempts, and nearly eliminating the short-side fields for the offense.
    • With the hashmarks now the same width as the goalposts, a team punting from inside its 15-yard line could snap the ball from a spot even with the marked field numbers instead of the hashmarks to avoid the punt hitting the goalpost.
  • If a legal receiver goes out of bounds, either accidentally or forced out, and returns to touch or catch the pass in bounds, the penalty is a loss of down (but no penalty yardage will be assessed).
  • If a punt or missed field goal crosses the receivers' goal line, a member of the receiving team may advance the ball into the field of play. Previously, the ball was dead when a scrimmage kick crossed the goal line and the receivers were awarded an automatic touchback.
  • All fouls committed by the offensive team behind the line of scrimmage will be assessed from the previous spot.
  • Tie games, previously ignored in computing of winning percentage, were made equal to a half-game win and a half-game loss.

New officials

Referee Jack Vest, the referee for Super Bowl II, the 1969 AFL championship game and 1971 AFC championship game, was killed in a June motorcycle accident. Chuck Heberling was promoted from line judge to fill the vacancy and kept Vest's crew intact. Heberling's line judge vacancy was filled by Red Cashion, who was promoted to referee in 1976 and worked in the league through 1996, earning assignment to Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX.

Stadium changes

Division races

Starting in 1970, and until 2002, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Dallas, St. Louis, Washington 1–0–0 Detroit, Green Bay 1–0–0 Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles 1–0–0 St.L, Wash., Atl., San Fran., Green Bay 1–0–0
2 Dallas, Washington 2–0–0 Minnesota 1–1–0 Los Angeles 1–0–1 Dallas, Washington 2–0–0
3 Washington 2–1–0 Detroit, Green Bay 2–1–0 Atlanta, San Francisco 2–1–0 3 teams 2–1–0
4 Washington 3–1–0 Detroit* 3–1–0 Los Angeles 2–1–1 2 teams 3–1–0
5 Washington 4–1–0 Green Bay 4–1–0 Los Angeles 3–1–1 Dallas 4–1–0
6 Washington 5–1–0 Green Bay* 4–2–0 Los Angeles 4–1–1 4 teams 4–2–0
7 Washington 6–1–0 Green Bay* 4–3–0 Los Angeles 4–2–1 Dallas 5–2–0
8 Washington 7–1–0 Green Bay* 5–3–0 Los Angeles 5–2–1 Dallas 6–2–0
9 Washington 8–1–0 Green Bay 6–3–0 Los Angeles 5–3–1 Dallas 7–2–0
10 Washington 9–1–0 Green Bay 7–3–0 Los Angeles* 5–4–1 Dallas 8–2–0
11 Washington 10–1–0 Green Bay* 7–4–0 San Francisco 6–4–1 Dallas 8–3–0
12 Washington 11–1–0 Green Bay 8–4–0 Atlanta 7–5–0 Dallas 9–3–0
13 Washington 11–2–0 Green Bay 9–4–0 San Francisco 7–5–1 Dallas 10–3–0
14 Washington 11–3–0 Green Bay 10–4–0 San Francisco 8–5–1 Dallas 10–4–0

American Football Conference

Week Eastern Central Western Wild Card
1 Miami, NY Jets 1–0–0 Cincinnati, Pittsburgh 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 Miami, NY Jets 1–0–0
2 Miami, NY Jets 2–0–0 Cincinnati 2–0–0 Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego 1–1–0 Miami, NY Jets 2–0–0
3 Miami 3–0–0 Cleveland 2–1–0 Kansas City 2–1–0 Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cincinnati, NY Jets 2–1–0
4 Miami 4–0–0 Cincinnati 3–1–0 Kansas City 3–1–0 San Diego* 2–1–1
5 Miami 5–0–0 Cincinnati 4–1–0 Oakland 3–1–1 NY Jets* 3–2–0
6 Miami 6–0–0 Cincinnati* 4–2–0 Oakland 3–2–1 Pittsburgh* 4–2–0
7 Miami 7–0–0 Cincinnati* 5–2–0 Oakland 4–2–1 Pittsburgh* 5–2–0
8 Miami 8–0–0 Pittsburgh 6–2–0 Kansas City 5–3–0 Cleveland* 5–3–0
9 Miami 9–0–0 Pittsburgh 7–2–0 Oakland 5–3–1 Cleveland* 6–3–0
10 Miami 10–0–0 Cleveland 7–3–0 Oakland 6–3–1 Pittsburgh 7–3–0
11 Miami 11–0–0 Cleveland 8–3–0 Oakland 7–3–1 Pittsburgh 8–3–0
12 Miami 12–0–0 Pittsburgh 9–3–0 Oakland 8–3–1 Cleveland 8–4–0
13 Miami 13–0–0 Pittsburgh 10–3–0 Oakland 9–3–1 Cleveland 9–4–0
14 Miami 14–0–0 Pittsburgh 11–3–0 Oakland 10–3–1 Cleveland 10–4–0

Final standings

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings

AFC East
Miami Dolphins 14 0 0 1.000 8–0 11–0 385 171 W14
New York Jets 7 7 0 .500 6–2 6–5 367 324 L2
Baltimore Colts 5 9 0 .357 4–4 5–6 235 252 L2
Buffalo Bills 4 9 1 .321 2–6 2–9 257 377 W1
New England Patriots 3 11 0 .214 0–8 0–11 192 446 L1
AFC Central
Pittsburgh Steelers 11 3 0 .786 4–2 9–2 343 175 W4
Cleveland Browns 10 4 0 .714 5–1 9–2 268 249 W2
Cincinnati Bengals 8 6 0 .571 3–3 6–5 299 229 W1
Houston Oilers 1 13 0 .071 0–6 1–10 164 380 L11
AFC West
Oakland Raiders 10 3 1 .750 3–2–1 7–3–1 365 285 W6
Kansas City Chiefs 8 6 0 .571 4–2 6–5 287 254 W3
Denver Broncos 5 9 0 .357 2–4 4–6 325 350 W2
San Diego Chargers 4 9 1 .321 2–3–1 4–6–1 264 344 L3
NFC East
Washington Redskins 11 3 0 .786 7–1 10–1 336 218 L2
Dallas Cowboys 10 4 0 .714 6–2 7–4 319 240 L1
New York Giants 8 6 0 .571 5–3 7–4 331 247 W1
St. Louis Cardinals 4 9 1 .321 1–6–1 3–7–1 193 303 W2
Philadelphia Eagles 2 11 1 .179 0–7–1 0–10–1 145 352 L5
NFC Central
Green Bay Packers 10 4 0 .714 5–1 8–3 304 226 W3
Detroit Lions 8 5 1 .607 2–4 6–5 339 290 W1
Minnesota Vikings 7 7 0 .500 4–2 6–5 301 252 L2
Chicago Bears 4 9 1 .321 1–5 3–7–1 225 275 L1
NFC West
San Francisco 49ers 8 5 1 .607 3–2–1 6–4–1 353 249 W2
Atlanta Falcons 7 7 0 .500 3–3 5–5 269 274 L2
Los Angeles Rams 6 7 1 .464 4–2 5–5–1 291 286 L2
New Orleans Saints 2 11 1 .179 1–4–1 2–8–1 215 361 L3


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the playoffs been seeded, the divisional matchups in the AFC would not have changed, but undefeated Miami would have had home field advantage for the AFC championship game. The NFC divisional matchups would have been #4 wild card Dallas, ineligible to play Washington, at #2 Green Bay and #3 San Francisco at #1 Washington.
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl VII
December 24 – Miami Orange Bowl
December 31 – Three Rivers Stadium
December 23 – Three Rivers Stadium
January 14 – L.A. Coliseum
December 23 – Candlestick Park
December 31 – RFK Stadium
San Francisco28
December 24 – RFK Stadium
Green Bay3


Most Valuable Player Larry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Coach of the Year Don Shula, Miami
Offensive Player of the Year Larry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Defensive Player of the Year Joe Greene, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the Year Franco Harris, Running Back, Pittsburgh
Defensive Rookie of the Year Willie Buchanon, Cornerback, Green Bay
Man of the Year Willie Lanier, Linebacker, Kansas
Comeback Player of the Year Earl Morrall, Quarterback, Miami
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Jake Scott, Safety, Miami


The 1972 NFL Draft was held from February 1 to 2, 1972 at New York City’s Essex House. With the first pick, the Buffalo Bills selected defensive end Walt Patulski from the University of Notre Dame.


American Football Conference

National Football Conference


  1. ^ "Owners give offense big seven-yard boost". Rome News-Tribune. Georgia. Associated Press. March 24, 1972. p. 6A.
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)

External links

Adrian Young (American football)

Matthew Adrian Young Jr. (born January 31, 1946) is a former American football linebacker who played six seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Young played college football for the University of Southern California (USC), and earned All-American honors. The Philadelphia Eagles chose him in the third round of the 1968 NFL Draft, and he played professionally for the Eagles, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.

Young was born in Dublin, Ireland. He attended Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, California, and played high school football for the Amat Lancers.Young enrolled in the University of Southern California, where he played for the USC Trojans football team from 1965 to 1967.

Following his 1967 senior season, he was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American.He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round, 68th overall pick, of the 1968 NFL Draft, and he played for the Eagles for five seasons from 1968 to 1972. He played part of the 1972 NFL season for the Detroit Lions, and played his last NFL season for the Chicago Bears in 1973. During his six NFL seasons, he appeared in 52 regular season games, and started 24 of them.

He was also a member of The Hawaiians of the World Football League (WFL) in 1974.

Bob Hollway

Robert "Bob" Hollway (January 29, 1926 – March 13, 1999) was an American football player and coach. He played college football for the University of Michigan and was a member of Michigan's undefeated 1947 and 1948 teams. He thereafter served as an assistant at the University of Maine (1951-1952), Eastern Michigan University (1953), Michigan (1954-1965) before joining the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings (1967-1970, 1978-1986), as the head coach of the National Football League's St. Louis Cardinals (1971-1972), and assistant coaching stints with the Detroit Lions (1973-1974), San Francisco 49ers (1975), and Seattle Seahawks (1976-1977).

Dick Blanchard

Dick Blanchard is a former linebacker in the National Football League. He played with the New England Patriots during the 1972 NFL season.

Guy Murdock

Guy Boyd Murdock (born June 27, 1950) is a former American football player. He played at the center position for the Houston Oilers during the 1972 NFL season and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team. He also played for the Chicago Fire and Chicago Winds of the World Football League in 1974 and 1975. He was selected as the Fire's most valuable player in 1974.

Murdock played college football at the University of Michigan from 1969 to 1971. He was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten Conference center in both 1969 and 1970 and was a co-captain of the 1971 Michigan Wolverines football team. The 1971 team with Murdock as co-captain finished the regular season undefeated before losing to Stanford by a 13–12 score in the 1972 Rose Bowl. During Murdock's three seasons as Michigan's starting center, the team compiled a record of 28–5.

Joe Montana

Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. (born June 11, 1956), nicknamed Joe Cool and The Comeback Kid, is a former American football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 16 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs. After winning a national championship at Notre Dame, Montana started his NFL career in 1979 with San Francisco, where he played for the next 14 seasons. While a member of the 49ers, Montana started and won four Super Bowls and was the first player ever to have been named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player three times. He also holds Super Bowl career records for most passes without an interception (122 in 4 games) and the all-time highest passer rating of 127.8. In 1993, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs where he played his final two seasons, and led the franchise to its first AFC Championship Game in January 1994. Montana was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility.In 1989, and again in 1990, the Associated Press named Montana the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), and Sports Illustrated magazine named Montana the 1990 "Sportsman of the Year". Four years earlier, in 1986, Montana won the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Montana was elected to eight Pro Bowls, as well as being voted 1st team All-Pro by the AP in 1987, 1989, and 1990. Montana had the highest passer rating in the National Football Conference (NFC) five times (1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1989); and, in both 1987 and 1989, Montana had the highest passer rating in the NFL.Among his career highlights, "The Catch" (the game-winning touchdown pass vs. Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship Game) and a Super Bowl-winning 92-yard drive against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII are staples of NFL highlight films.

The 49ers retired the number 16, the jersey number Montana wore while with the team. In 1994, Montana earned a spot on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team; he is also a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. In 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Montana third on their list of Football's 100 Greatest Players. Also in 1999, ESPN named Montana the 25th greatest athlete of the 20th century. In 2006, Sports Illustrated rated him the number-one clutch quarterback of all time.

List of Monday Night Football results (1970–89)

Beginning in the 1970 NFL season, the National Football League began scheduling a weekly regular season game on Monday night before a national television audience. From 1970 to 2005, the ABC television network carried these games, with the ESPN cable television network taking over beginning in September 2006. Listed below are games played from 1970 to 1989.

Marty Huff

Ralph Martin Huff (born December 19, 1948) is a former American football linebacker. He played for the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1970. As a senior, he was selected as a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. After graduating from Michigan, Huff played professional football for the San Francisco 49ers (1972), Edmonton Eskimos (1973), and Charlotte Hornets (1974–1975).

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, often referred to simply as the Superdome, is a domed sports and exhibition venue located in the Central Business District of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. It primarily serves as the home venue for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL), the home stadium for the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Bowl in college football and the longtime rivalry football game of the SWAC Conference’s Southern University and Grambling State University, known as the Bayou Classic (held yearly, every Thanksgiving Weekend). It also houses their schools’ Battle of the Bands between The Southern University "The Human Jukebox" and Grambling State’s Tiger Marching Band. Plans were drawn up in 1967 by the New Orleans modernist architectural firm of Curtis and Davis and the building opened as the Louisiana Superdome in 1975. Its steel frame covers a 13-acre (5.3 ha) expanse and the 273-foot (83 m) dome is made of a lamellar multi-ringed frame and has a diameter of 680 feet (210 m), making it the largest fixed domed structure in the world. It is adjacent to the Smoothie King Center.

Because of the building's size and location in one of the major tourist destinations of the United States, the Superdome routinely hosts major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, College Football Championship Game, and the Final Four in college basketball. The stadium was also the long-time home of the Tulane Green Wave football team of Tulane University until 2014 (when they returned on-campus at Yulman Stadium) and was the home venue of the New Orleans Jazz of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1975 until 1979.

The Superdome gained international attention of a different type in 2005 when it housed thousands of people seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina. The building suffered extensive damage as a result of the storm, and was closed for many months afterward. It was eventually decided the building would be fully refurbished and reopened in time for the Saints' 2006 home opener on September 25.

On October 3, 2011, it was announced that German automaker Mercedes-Benz purchased naming rights to the stadium. The new name took effect on October 23, 2011.

Pat Peppler

Albert Patterson Peppler (April 16, 1922 – June 23, 2015) was an American football coach and executive who worked for teams that won five National Football League (NFL) titles. He may be best remembered for serving as head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons during the final nine games of the 1976 NFL season.

Paul Staroba

Paul Louis Staroba (born January 20, 1949) is a former American football wide receiver and punter. He played college football for the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1970. During the 1970 season, he caught 35 passes for 519 yards and led the Big Ten Conference, and finished fourth in the country, with a 41.5 yard punting average. He also played in the National Football League (NFL) for the Cleveland Browns in 1972 and the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers in 1973.

Ron Johnson (running back)

Ronald Adolphis Johnson (October 17, 1947 – November 10, 2018) was an American football running back.

Johnson played college football at the halfback position for the University of Michigan from 1966 to 1968. He set a Michigan school record in 1967 by rushing for 270 yards in a game. In 1968, he became the first African-American to serve as the captain of a Michigan football team. He set an NCAA record by rushing for 347 yards in a game and set Big Ten Conference records with 92 points scored and 1,017 rushing yards in seven conference games. He also set Michigan records with 2,524 career rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns in a season, and 139.1 rushing yards per game in 1968.

He played seven seasons in the National Football League (NFL) from 1969 to 1975 and became the first player in New York Giants history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, accomplishing the feat in both 1970 and 1972. He also led the NFL in rushing attempts in both 1970 and 1972. Johnson retired as a player in 1976, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992, and became chairman of the National Football Foundation in 2006. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008, and died in 2018. He is the brother of 1970 American League batting champion Alex Johnson.

Super Bowl VI

Super Bowl VI was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Miami Dolphins to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1971 season. The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins by the score of 24–3, to win their first Super Bowl. The game was played on January 16, 1972, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, the second time the Super Bowl was played in that city. Despite the southerly location, it was unseasonably cold at the time, with the kickoff air temperature of 39 °F (4 °C) making this the coldest Super Bowl ever played.Dallas, in its second Super Bowl appearance, entered the game with a reputation of not being able to win big playoff games such as Super Bowl V and the 1966 and 1967 NFL Championship Games prior to the 1970 AFL–NFL merger. They posted an 11–3 record during the 1971 regular season before defeating the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. The Dolphins were making their first Super Bowl appearance after building a 10–3–1 regular season record, including eight consecutive wins, and posting postseason victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Colts.

The Cowboys dominated Super Bowl VI, setting Super Bowl records for the most rushing yards (252), the most first downs (23), and the fewest points allowed (3). For the next 47 years, they would be the only team ever to prevent their opponent from scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl, a feat matched by the 2018 New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. The game was close in the first half, with the Cowboys only leading 10–3 at halftime. But Dallas opened the third quarter with a 71-yard, 8-play touchdown drive, and then Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley's 41-yard interception return in the fourth quarter set up another score. Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who completed 12 out of 18 passes for 119 yards, threw 2 touchdown passes, and rushed 5 times for 18 yards, was named the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.

This was the last Super Bowl to be blacked out in the TV market in which the game was played. Under the NFL's unconditional blackout rules at the time, the Super Bowl could not be broadcast locally even if the local team did not advance to the Super Bowl, and it was a sellout. The following year, the league changed their rules to allow games to be broadcast in the local market if sold out 72 hours in advance. It was the last Super Bowl played with the hashmarks (also called the inbound lines) set at 40 feet apart (20 yards from the sidelines, and the last NFL game overall); the next season, they were brought in to 18​1⁄2 feet, the width of the goalposts, where they remain.

The National Football Lottery

The National Football Lottery is a book written by Larry Merchant, who is a sportswriter. In this book, Merchant attempts to discover what would happen if he were to bet on National Football League games for an entire season. He is given $30,000 by his publisher to do so.

The book was written in 1973, and the season in question is the 1972 NFL season, special in which the 1972 Miami Dolphins were the only team in NFL history to go undefeated with an unblemished 17-0 mark. At this time in some states, including New York, where Merchant lives, have a ban on gambling, which is also discussed some in the book. In the end, after his ups and downs, Merchant comes out up over $17,000. This is very good considering he bet fewer than $1,000 on most games.

Tom Beckman

Thomas Clare Beckman (born September 21, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan) is a former American football player. He played college football for the University of Michigan from 1969 to 1971 under head coach Bo Schembechler. He played professional football for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 and for the Memphis Grizzlies of the World Football League from 1974 to 1975.

Tom Fears

Thomas Jesse Fears (December 3, 1922 – January 4, 2000) was an American football split end for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (NFL), playing nine seasons from 1948 to 1956. He was later an NFL assistant coach and head coach of the New Orleans Saints, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played college football for the UCLA Bruins football team and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Ward Walsh

Ward Walsh is a former running back in the National Football League. He played with the Houston Oilers during the 1972 NFL season before splitting the following season between the Oilers and the Green Bay Packers.

1972 NFL season
Early era
Modern era

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