Super Bowl VII
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum - George Allen’s Over the Hill Gang was flying so high going into Super Bowl VII that they were actually installed as three-point favorites over an unbeaten Miami Dolphins team. Sure, Miami had rushed for nearly 3,000 yards that year, but Washington had shut down Green Bay’s high-powered rushing game in the first round of the playoffs to gain a 16-3 win. And, yes, star quarterback Bob Griese would be back at after missing much of the year with injury, but the return of Roger Staubach, who also was destined for Canton didn’t help the Cowboys much as Washington thrashed the defending champs 26-3 in the NFC Championship game.
It quickly became apparent that the Redskins status as favorites was unwarranted. The Miami defense, nicknamed the No-Name Defense due to its lack of well-know stars stuffed the running of Larry Brown by taking away his cutback lanes. Tackle Manny Fernandez was particularly effective; whenever Brown tried to find a hole up the middle, Fernandez was there to give him an inhospitable greeting. During the entire first half the Redskins took one snap in Miami territory, that at the 48. On that play, Billy Kilmer was rushed and his pass was intercepted by linebacker Nick Buoniconti and returned 32 yards to set up Miami’s second TD just before halftime. They had scored earlier on an 18-yard Griese pass to receiver Howard Twilley near the end of the first quarter.
Trailing 14-0, the Redskins tightened up defensively and made several unsuccessful efforts to get back into the game offensively. Taking possession after the second-half kickoff, Kilmer finally got a hot hand, hitting Charlie Taylor and Roy Jefferson and Jerry Smith to move smartly down the field to the Miami 17. A sack killed the drive and Curt Knight’s 32-yard field goal attempt flew wide right and a five-minute drive went for naught. Miami appeared to seize the momentum again when Larry Csonka created a highlight film clip demonstrating the futility of the Redskins defense as tackler after would-be tackler bounced off of the powerful Dolphins running back during a 49-yard run. Washington held on, though, as Brig Owens intercepted a pass in the end zone and then embarked on another drive deep into Miami territory.
If it wasn’t already clear that it just wasn’t the Redskins day, it became painfully obvious on a second-down play from the Miami 10. Smith broke wide open in the end zone on a second-down play from the Miami 10 and Kilmer spotted him and threw a pass that seemed destined to hit the tight end in the numbers. It struck the crossbar of the goal posts and fell harmlessly to the ground. On third down, game MVP Jake Scott intercepted Kilmer’s pass in the end zone and returned it to the Washington 48. The Redskins appeared to be dead until, in the words of Miami guard Bob Kuchenberg “Garo did his little thing.”
“Garo” was Dolphin kicker Garo Yepremian and the “little thing” was an attempted pass after his 42-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes left was blocked by tackle Bill Brundige. Nobody is quite sure who the diminutive kicker was trying to pass to after he scooped up the ball. The ball slipped out of his hands as he starting into his passing motion and it was so bad that when Mike Bass picked it out of the air and ran it in 49 yards for the TD, he was credited with a fumble recovery, not an interception. Instead of holding a 17-0 lead to build the team’s season record to a perfect 17-0, the Dolphins were suddenly sweating it out with 2:07 to play.
Allen eschewed the onside kick and kicked off deep. The defense held and Washington got the ball back with a chance to tie with 1:14 left. But the Miami defense swarmed all over Kilmer, the drive went nowhere, and Miami took over on downs.