Monday, August 6, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #2

# 2: 1973 Week 13: Dolphins 3, Colts 16 (ρ=1.3806)
Dolphins' season: finished 12-2, won the AFC East, and defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII.
Colts' season: finished 4-10. Head coach Howard Schnellenberger was fired 3 games into the 1974 season.
Was this really an upset? On first glance, this game has the hallmarks of a contest where the better team isn't trying. The Dolphins had lost early in the season, and so didn't have a perfect season to play for. They had already clinched the AFC East, and didn't have anything else to play for in the pre-seeding playoff era. They also played back-up quarterback Earl Morrall in place of starter Bob Griese.
But Earl Morrall wasn't just any backup—he had 9 starts in relief of the injured Bob Griese during the Dolphins perfect season of 1972. He also lead the Colts' to the 1968 NFL championshp (in relief of the injured Johnny Unitas), ultimately losing to the Jets in Super Bowl III. The Dolphins had good reason to think that Morrall could handle a weak team like the Colts.
What happened: the Dolphins' defense did their job, holding the Colts to 16 points. It wasn't the shut-out they had against the Colts in week 9, but for an offense that scored at least 17 points in all but 3 games that season, it should've been enough.
The problem was definitely with the Dolphins' offense. Earl Morrall had a 47.8% completion rate, only managed 153 yards passing and threw two interceptions. The running game wasn't able to bail things out either; the Dolphins 93 yards rushing was their lowest production of the season.
Also of note: I was ready to leave this game off the list until I found that article in the St. Petersburg Times. It just didn't sound like comments of a team playing out the season.

Next week: APR's biggest upset since 1970.