Who would win?

Matt Gubbels

The 1972 Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to stay undefeated throughout the regular season and playoffs, don’t seem happy about the Patriots’ run at their record. The coach of that Dolphins team, Hall-of-Famer Don Shula, criticized the Patriots for running up the score in early-season games and, after Spygate, Shula publicly wondered whether any of the Patriots’ wins were legitimate. Former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris recently performed a rap about the Patriots on ESPN – the rap is largely indecipherable, but Morris seems to think his team was better.

The barbs traded by the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots raise an interesting question: Who would win in a battle of undefeated teams?

When the Patriots have the ball:

Could the Miami defense, called the “No-Name Defense” because it consisted of 11 guys who played together and did not really have a superstar, slow down what might be the greatest offensive juggernaut in the history of pro football?

The Patriots set a record in 2007 for the most points in a season, averaging 37 points per game. Quarterback Tom Brady set a record for touchdown passes, and wide receiver Randy Moss set a record for touchdown catches.

The strength of the Dolphins defense was its in stopping the pass, with 26 interceptions, which helped it allow only 12 points per game. The Dolphins also had more than 40 sacks, but the Patriots have only allowed Brady to be sacked once per game. The Patriots throw to set up their running game, and that would play into the Dolphins’ hands a little bit, because the Dolphins only ever really struggled when they were trying to stop the run.

The Patriots have scored at least 30 points in 13 of their 18 games. It doesn’t look like Hall-of-Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, and his teammates would be able to keep them from that either.

EDGE: Patriots

When the Dolphins have the ball:

The teams that have played the Patriots tough have done one thing well – run the ball and keep the ball away from their vaunted offense. Most of that running has been done between the tackles, and that is what the Dolphins offense was based on.

With their “thunder and lightning” combination of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, the Dolphins ran for over 200 yards per game. That set up an occasional play-action pass from the either Earl Morrall or Bob Griese to Hall-of-Famer Paul Warfield. His supporting cast was not particularly strong, however, and that is why the Dolphins were near the bottom of the league in passing.

The Dolphins would be able to slow the game down and possess the ball, but would have trouble cracking the Patriots’ staunch red-zone defense, which is allowing only 17 points per game. In the end, the Patriots would be able to stack the box against the run, put All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel on Warfield, and make the Dolphins’ other receivers beat them. That isn’t likely to happen.

EDGE: Patriots, but barely

Special Teams:

This is where the game is most even. Both kickers kicked mainly extra points and neither punter got much work. The Patriots may have an advantage in the return game, which was shown with former Cyclone Ellis Hobbs’ record-breaking 108-yard kickoff return.

EDGE: Even

Schedule Analysis:

These two teams are among the best one-season teams ever, but they did, at times, take advantage of a weak schedule, as their combined opponents’ winning percentages are under 40 percent.

The Patriots may appear more impressive when looking at scores, though – while both teams had three games decided by seven points or fewer, the Patriots won 10 games by 21 points or more, compared to only three by the Dolphins – this may be the source of the former Dolphins’ accusations of the Patriots running up scores.

Also, the Dolphins only played 14 regular season games compared to New England’s 16.

EDGE: Patriots

Playoff Analysis:

Both teams had to fight through rough-and-tumble affairs in the playoffs, but the Patriots took advantage of the home-field rule that was enacted in the 1980’s to play both their games at home. The Dolphins had to go on the road to Pittsburgh to reach the Super Bowl.

Both teams had to play division winners and-top four seeds to reach the big game, but the Patriots’ chief rival, the Indianapolis Colts, were upset by the San Diego Chargers.

EDGE: Dolphins


This game would be closer than people think, but the Patriots’ speed advantage on offense would prove to be too much, and their defense would get enough stops to put the game away. New England would win and prove is the best one-season team of all-time – provided they defeat the New York Giants on Sunday.

Final Score:

Patriots 38, Dolphins 21