Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
1973: Super Bowl VIII - Miami Dolphins vs Minnesota Vikings: Pregame

This series covers the history of the NFL through the prism of its yearly championship games.
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped
without losing the continuity of the article.

Marlin Briscoe

Wayne Moore

Jim Langer

Fran Tarkenton

Chuck Foreman

Bob Kuechenberg

Marv Fleming

Roy Winston

Don Shula and Dolphins arrive in Houston

Dolphins defensive line bottom to top: Vern DenHerder, Manny Fernandez, Bob Heinz, Bill Stanfill

Gary Larsen

Monte Clark

Bud Grant on field pregame

Noxzema ad

Charley Pride

The 1973 Miami Dolphins earned their third straight trip to the Super Bowl.
  • Their 12-2 record was disappointing only in comparison to their perfect 17-0 the previous season.
  • Many writers, fans, and the Dolphins players themselves felt the '73 club was better than the undefeated team. Whereas the '72 team didn't play any team in the regular season that had a record better than 8-6, the next year's squad played the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dallas Cowboys - all playoff teams - plus two games against a Buffalo Bills outfit that featured 2,000y rusher O.J. Simpson.
  • And why wouldn't the '73 team be better than their predecessor? In that era before free agency, Don Shula's lineup showed very few changes from the Super Bowl VII champs.
    --Offense: WR Marlin Briscoe replaced Howard Twilley, who suffered from injuries; LT Wayne Moore took over for Doug Crusan.
    --Defense: All eleven starters remained the same.
  • The efficient Dolphin offense finished 9th in the NFL (4th in the AFL) in yardage but 5th in the league and third in the AFC in points scored. But the bend-but-don't-break defense was even better, ranking third in yards allowed and first in the most important statistic - points allowed.
  • FB Larry Csonka, coming off his third straight 1,000y season, WR Paul Warfield, C Jim Langer, and RG Larry Little made first team All-Pro on offense while SS Jake Scott and FS Dick Anderson were the only members of the aptly-named No Name Defense who earned first team honors.
  • The Dolphins had a smooth ride through the playoffs. They beat the Bengals 34-16 and got revenge on the Raiders, who had broken Miami's 18-game winning streak in Game Two of the season, 27-10.

The Dolphins would face their third different NFC opponent in the Super Bowl.

  • The Minnesota Vikings began the season with nine consecutive wins. Then, after losing two of the next three games, they finished with two more wins to match Miami's 12-2 regular season tally. This was an improvement of five games over Bud Grant's '72 club, which missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
  • The Vikes ranked 7th in the league in total offense and 9th in points scored. On the other side of the ball, they were 12th in yards allowed but 2nd right behind the Dolphins in points allowed - again proving that defense wins championships.
  • Minnesota's offense was much different from that of the Super Bowl IV participants.
    --QB Fran Tarkenton had returned to the Vikings in '72 after five seasons with the New York Giants. The 33-year-old recorded the NFL's lowest INT % of 2.6. Not The Scrambler that he was for the expansion Vikings when he regularly ran for over 300y in a season, Fran gained only 202y on the ground in '73. But it was good enough to get him in the playoffs for the first time in his 13-year career.
    --GM Jim Finks hit the jackpot with his first round choice in the 1973 draft. Chuck Foreman out of the University of Miami led the club in rushing with 777 while dependable FB Dave Osborn contributed 514. Foreman also led the team in receptions with 53 for 586y. WR Jim Lash gained 631y on 32 catches, and deep-threat John Gilliam added 578 on 26 catches for an average of 22.2 ypc.
    Finks wanted to draft FB Sam Cunningham of USC with the 12th pick in the first round, but New England took Sam at #11. So Jim took Foreman instead. Chuck would gain almost 1,800 more all-purpose yards than Cunningham in his career.
    resigned in May 1974 in order to take a position as GM and executive vice-president of the Chicago Bears.
    --The anchor of the O-line was 1st-team All-Pro Ron Yary at RT. LT Grady Alderman, C Mick Tingelhoff, and RG Milt Sunde had started on the Super Bowl IV team.

    Vikings Offensive Line L-R: Ron Yary, Milt Sunde, Mick Tinglehoff,
    Ed White, Grady Alderman
  • The defense featured eight starters from the 1969 NFC Champions. Included was the entire front four, the Purple People Eaters: LE Carl Eller, LT Gary Larsen, RT Alan Page, and RE Jim Marshall. They averaged 32 years of age, 6'5", and close to 250 lbs. Opponents gained only 4.4y per carry on the ground against them - an important statistic heading into the Super Bowl matchup with the run-dominant Miami offense.
  • OLBs Roy Winston and Wally Hilgenberg along with DBs Bobby Bryant and Paul Krause were also SB IV veterans. Minnesota allowed only six TDs through the air all year and sparked the title game victory over the Cowboys by intercepting Roger Staubach four times.
  • The Vikings scored 27 points in each of their playoff games to top the defending NFC champion Redskins by seven at home and Dallas by 17 in Texas.

The two Super Bowl coaches held similar philosophies.

  • Both Shula and Grant preferred a conservative ball-control offense that favored running the ball and short passing.
  • Miami G Bob Kuechenberg famously said about Shula, "He was a tyrant," when he took over the Dolphins in 1970. TE Marv Fleming, who played for Green Bay seven years before coming to Miami with Shula, compared the leaders of the two teams. "Lombardi and Shula are the same type of coach. Each is a disciplinarian; each demands a lot. The difference is that Shula is more personable. You can walk up to Shula after a practice and say, 'Coach, can I see you a minute?' and he'll stop and talk to you. With Lombardi, you had to make an appointment."
  • Carroll Dale had also played for Lombardi's Super Bowl champions before moving to Minnesota in 1973. "Grant is similar to Lombardi on the little things, the basics. They both stress the importance of every man doing his job ... and the oneness or esprit de corps that has to exist on championship teams." Dale said he personally identifies more with Grant. "He likes the simple things. So do I. He likes the outdoors and hunting and fishing. So do I." One Minnesota writer who covered the Vikings for many years said, "I guess we've overdone the bit about Grant being a hard-nosed colorless spartan. Actually, he's tough and stern, but he can also be warm, and he has quite a dry humor."
  • One major difference between Shula and Grant was that Bud didn't believe in weightlifting. He bucked the tide by never installing such a program in his 18-year career with the Vikings that would end with an 0-4 record in Super Bowls.
    After the Vikings beat the Cowboys in the 1973 NFC title game, the Cowboys' strength coach called Bud. "I'm trying to find out who your weight coach is. I'd like to talk to him. Frankly, you kicked us pretty good, and I want to find out what you're doing," the Dallas coach said.
    "We don't have a weight coach," Grant replied.
    "You don't have a weight coach? Who runs your program? One of your assistant coaches?"
    "No, we don't have a weight coach. We don't have any weights."
    "You don't have any weights?"
    After a pause, the strength coach said, "Coach, will you do me a favor? Don't tell Tom Landry I called."
  • In contrast to the Cowboys, whom he had just beaten in the NFC championship game, Bud also eschewed computers. "You can't make mistakes on personnel. I'll decide who makes the team, who starts, who plays. I could look at film and get as much out of it as a guy who sits down for four hours and documents everything, puts it in a computer, and spits out tendencies. I relied more on what I saw and what I felt. It was not 100 percent accurate, but it was in my gut. I knew who the best players were, and I didn't need three weeks of training camp with a bunch of rookies to tell who the players were. That's what I was getting paid for."
  • If Grant appeared emotionless or quiet on the sidelines, it was for a purpose. "If the head coach panics or loses his poise, then his team follows. I've seen head coaches running up and down the sidelines yelling at officials or their players. They can't possibly know what is going on. ... Some people accused me of not saying a lot. I never wanted to say something that wasn't meaningful. I learned by having (assistant) coaches who weren't the best coaches that they had a tendency to repeat themselves. If you don't have anything constructive to say, you're better off not to say it because they'll tune you out."

Grant took a different approach preparing for his second Super Bowl compared to what he did before the 23-7 rout at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs when they were a 14-point favorite four years earlier.

  • The "Old Gray Fox" gave his veteran team a week off after the championship game against Dallas.
  • The team met Saturday, eight days before the game, to begin study of the game plan but did not work out because of icy weather conditions. They met again Sunday before flying to Houston Sunday night.
  • The Vikings reported they should be 100% healthy with the return to action of Jim Marshall, who had a back problem, and G Milt Sunde, hobbled by a strained knee. LB Roy Winston would play with a sore back.

The Dolphins had more than their share of walking wounded.

  • RB Charles Leigh underwent an operation for a shoulder separation and was lost for the big game.
  • G Bob Kuechenberg would play with his broken arm in a cast.
  • TE Jim Mandich declared himself ready despite a broken hand.
  • S Jake Scott and DT Manny Fernandez, defensive heroes of Miami's 14-7 triumph over Washington the previous year, were reported ready to go after minor injuries.
  • WR Paul Warfield arrived in Texas with a pulled hamstring he had suffered at practice the previous Wednesday. He was listed as questionable, but as game time neared, he said, "I feel fine."
  • Five players would have steel pins or screws in their arms, hands, or shoulders to help injuries heal: Kuechenberg, Mandich, Scott, LB Nick Buoniconti, and CB Tim Foley. "Our biggest worry is a lightning storm," quipped Scott.

Houston served as Super Bowl host for the first time - to decidedly mixed reviews.

  • It was the first time a Super Bowl was played in a stadium that was not the home of an NFL team. No pro team had called Rice Stadium home since the Houston Oilers moved into the Astrodome in 1968.
  • Grant used his first press conference on Monday to blast the NFL for the inadequate training facilities his team was assigned at Delmar District High School, a 20-minute bus ride from their hotel. "This is shabby treatment," complained the normally quiet-spoken coach. "This is the Super Bowl. It's not just another pickup game." Bud charged that the Dolphins were given much more luxurious quarters at the Oilers practice facility which was within walking distance of their hotel. Bud added, "The field is excellent, but the locker room is terrible. There is no place to hang clothes, and most of the shower heads don't work. ... There are no sleds or dummies on the field for our men. ... I don't think our players have seen anything like this since junior high school." Asked what he planned to do about the situation, Grant replied, "This is a National Football League problem. It is Pete Rozelle's problem. They have had a year to get ready for this game, and this is what we wind up with."
  • Jim Kensil, top assistant of Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who was still in New York, explained that the league policy was to give the city's pro facilities to the team representing the same conference, in this case Miami from the AFC.
  • Grant's remarks drew a reprimand and threat of a fine from Rozelle.
    The only gripes from the Miami players came from the single men, who complained that owner Joe Robbie paid for the married players to bring their wives but not for them to bring their girlfriends, mothers, or sisters.

Reporters noticed that the Vikings were "grim and intent" while the defending champions "appeared loose and confident" in their first onsite workouts Monday.

  • Minnesota DT Gary Larsen explained his club's attitude. "Four years ago, we came into the game with a carnival atmosphere, but it's different this time. We all have learned to comprehend what this game means." DE Alan Page observed, "I think we're more confident and relaxed this time. The first time, we were somewhat uptight. We got caught in the 'if we don't win this time, it's the end of the world' mentality. Well, once you've lost it, you know it isn't the end of the world if you lose." DE Alan Page didn't care for his unit's nickname. "I'm not purple, and I never ate any purple people."
  • Grant on his current squad compared to the Super Bowl III team: "This is a better team. We have about half of our 1970 personnel still playing, which gives us maturity, but I feel we are improved in several areas. The last few Super Bowl games have been conservative, close-to-the-vest affairs for various reasons. I think both teams will take a different approach this time. I know we will. And I expect Miami to come out zinging."
  • C Jim Langer spoke for the Dolphins. "We're not much of a whoop-and-holler team. We have all worked hard to get here. Now we all feel we have just one more job to do - and we can do it."
  • With his team being hailed as the Team of the 70s the way the Packers were the Team of the 60s, Buoniconti stated the goal succinctly: "We want to go down as the greatest team in NFL history."
Grant said his club's offensive approach would be similar to the one the Dolphins used in Super Bowl VII.
  • "Last year when Miami beat Washington 14-7, you saw Miami throw to open the game. They got ahead and held the lead. They had the confidence to do the things they wanted to. We feel the same way. We're not going to sit back and wait for things to happen. We're going to make things happen both offensive and defensively."
  • Bud continued: "The movies we've seen on the Dolphins make them look at times to be indefensible and unstoppable. Their running attack is awesome, especially Csonka. But we know they have been stopped. It's our business to do it. ... I think the Dolphins may have been a bit uptight last year because Shula had lost two Super Bowls and didn't want to be known as a three-time loser."
  • Tarkenton added, "Our approach to the game is to go in and try to win it, not to keep from losing it." Fran objected to being called a scrambler. "What do you mean 'scrambler'? You might as well call me a floater or a runner. I'm none of these things. I sipmly play. I buy time."
  • Two days before kickoff, Bud made a prediction. "This should be the best Super Bowl game of all because the teams are so good and so evenly matched."

After two Super Bowls as underdogs, the Dolphins finally won the respect of the oddsmakers.

  • The consensus of the betting lines pegged Miami as 6.5-point favorites.
  • Finally, a former AFL team was favored in the Super Bowl.
    Before the game, a panel of spiritualists and mediums unanimously predicted the Vikings would win because all the planets in Bud Grant's birth line were in a favorable position.

Shula had to counter the notion that his club's AFC championship win over the Raiders was the real NFL title game.

  • Don insisted his team would not suffer from overconfidence. "The odds don't mean a damn thing. We have won one Super Bowl, and we want to win two. Personally, I want to bring my record up to 3-2. We will have the motivation."
  • Shula continued: "Tarkenton is our big problem. We will have to close up those lanes. He is a very dangerous man if not contained. He will beat you with the pass or the run."
  • As the week went on, some Dolphin veterans of three straight Super Bowls chafed at meeting with the media. Manny Fernandez complained, "It's like going to the dentist three or four days in a row and getting the same tooth filled each time." Part of Manny's irritation came from fighting the flu for a few days, as did Larry Csonka. The big FB complained, "This gets to be a long week, and I'm ready to play right now."
  • Larry praised the People Eaters. "I welcome the challenge. I like hard contact, but you have to get butterflies in your stomach going against a line like Minnesota's."
  • Shula was blessed with two of the best assistant coaches in the league. Bill Arnsparger directed the smallish but quick and smart defense that allowed just 150 points, least in the league and 18 fewer than the second place Vikings. Monte Clark coached the smallish but quick and strong offensive line that most observers considered the best in the NFL, as evidenced by their 5.0y per rush, just 0.1 less than the league-leading Bills.

Super Bowl enthusiasm continued to grow.

  • All tickets for the 71,882-seat Rice Stadium cost $15, but scalpers reported getting as much as $250 per ducat.
  • All across the land, football aficianados gathered at parties to watch the game.
  • The number of celebrities in attendance at the game continued to grow.
    One group of celebrities, if you want to call them that, who had to miss the game were the Skylab 3 astronauts, all avid football fans orbiting the earth. Commander Gerald P. Carr told Mission Control, "Pleaes keep us posted on how it's going." NASA officials said the game was recorded on video tape for viewing after the crew splashed down at the end of their 84-day flight.

It was CBS's turn to televise the Super Bowl.

  • Ray Scott handled the play-by-play in what would turn out to be his last game for CBS. Pat Summerall and Bart Starr provided commentary. Summerall would take Scott's place as CBS's lead announcer during the 1974 season.
  • The cost of a 30-second commercial had gone up $3,000 since 1972 to $103,000.
    One Super Bowl IV ad stood out from the rest. The Noxzema ad featured Joe Namath. The New York Jets QB grinned into the camera and said, "I'm so excited. I'm going to get creamed." Then Charlie's Angels star Farrah Fawcett spread shaving lotion across his face.
  • The telecast would draw a Nielsen rating of 41.6, which translates to 51.7 million viewers.
  • Andy Musser and Bob Tucker did the broadcast for CBS Radio.

The pregame show was not as spectacular as the previous ones in Los Angeles, Miami, and New Orleans.

  • The Longhorn Band of the University of Texas performed before the game.
  • Country singer Charley Pride sang "America the Beautiful" and the National Anthem, the latter accompanied by the band on the field.

Pregame Warmups and Texas Band
1973 Miami Dolphins
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
1 Garo Yepremian K 5-8 175 None 8
12 Bob Griese QB 6-1 190 Purdue 7
13 Jake Scott FS 6-0 188 Georgia 4
15 Earl Morrall QB 6-1 205 Michigan State 18
20 Larry Seiple P 6-0 215 Kentucky 7
21 Jim Kiick RB 5-11 215 Wyoming 6
22 Mercury Morris RB 5-10 190 West Texas A&M 5
23 Charlie Leigh PR 5-11 206 None 6
25 Tim Foley CB 6-0 194 Purdue 4
26 Lloyd Mumphord CB 5-10 175 Texas Southern 5
34 Ron Sellers WR 6-4 205 Florida State 5
36 Don Nottingham RB 5-10 210 Kent State 3
39 Larry Csonka FB 6-3 235 Syracuse 6
40 Dick Anderson SS 6-2 195 Colorado 6
42 Paul Warfield WR 6-0 190 Ohio State 10
45 Curtis Johnson CB 6-1 195 Toledo 4
48 Henry Stuckey CB 6-1 180 Missouri 2
49 Charlie Babb DB 6-0 190 Memphis 2
51 Larry Ball LB 6-6 230 Louisville 2
53 Bob Matheson LB 6-4 240 Duke 7
55 Irv Goode C 6-5 255 Kentucky 12
57 Mike Kolen LB 6-2 220 Auburn 4
58 Bruce Bannon LB 6-3 225 Penn State 1
59 Doug Swift LB 6-3 225 Amherst 4
62 Jim Langer OL 6-2 250 South Dakota State 4
64 Ed Newman G 6-2 245 Florida Atlantic, Duke 1
65 Maulty Moore DT 6-5 265 Bethune-Cookman 2
66 Larry Little G 6-1 265 Bethune-Cookman 7
67 Bob Kuechenberg G 6-2 255 Notre Dame 4
72 Bob Heinz DT 6-6 265 Pacific 5
73 Norm Evans T 6-5 250 TCU 9
75 Manny Fernandez DT 6-2 250 Utah 6
77 Doug Crusan T 6-5 250 Indiana 6
79 Wayne Moore T 6-6 265 Lamar 4
80 Marv Fleming TE 6-4 230 Utah 11
81 Howard Twilley WR 5-10 185 Tulsa 8
83 Vern Den Herder DE 6-6 250 Central College (IA) 3
84 Bill Stanfill DE 6-5 250 Georgia 5
85 Nick Buoniconti LB 5-11 220 Notre Dame 12
86 Marlin Briscoe WR 5-11 180 Nebraska-Omaha 6
88 Jim Mandich TE 6-2 225 Michigan 4
1973 Minnesota Vikings
# Player Pos. Hgt. Wgt. College Exp.
10 Fran Tarkenton QB 6-0 190 Georgia 13
11 Mike Eischeid P 6-0 190 Upper Iowa 8
14 Fred Cox K 5-11 200 Pittsburgh 11
17 Bob Berry QB 5-11 185 Oregon 9
20 Bobby Bryant CB 6-1 170 South Carolina 6
22 Paul Krause S 6-3 200 Iowa 10
23 Jeff Wright S 5-11 190 Minnesota 3
24 Terry Brown S 6-0 205 Oklahoma State 5
30 Bill Brown FB 5-11 230 Illinois 13
32 Oscar Reed RB 6-0 220 Colorado State 6
40 Charlie West CB 6-1 195 Angelo St., UTEP 6
41 Dave Osborn HB 6-0 210 North Dakota 9
42 John Gilliam WR 6-1 195 South Carolina State 7
43 Nate Wright CB 5-11 180 San Diego State 5
44 Chuck Foreman FB 6-2 210 Miami (FL) 1
49 Ed Marinaro RB 6-2 210 Cornell 2
50 Jeff Siemon LB 6-2 235 Stanford 2
51 Godfrey Zaunbrecher C 6-2 240 LSU 3
52 Ron Porter LB 6-3 230 Idaho 7
53 Mike Tingelhoff C 6-2 235 Nebraska 12
55 Amos Martin LB 6-3 230 Louisville 2
58 Wally Hilgenberg LB 6-3 230 Iowa 10
60 Roy Winston LB 5-11 220 LSU 12
62 Ed White G 6-1 270 California 5
64 Milt Sunde G 6-2 250 Minnesota 10
65 Steve Lawson G 6-3 265 Kansas 3
66 Frank Gallagher G 6-2 245 North Carolina 7
67 Grady Alderman T 6-2 245 Detroit 14
68 Charles Goodrum G-T 6-3 255 Florida A&M 1
69 Doug Sutherland DT 6-3 250 Wisconsin-Superior 4
70 Jim Marshall DE 6-4 250 Ohio State 14
73 Ron Yary T 6-5 255 USC 6
75 Bob Lurtsema DT 6-6 250 Mich. Tech, West. Mich. 7
77 Gary Larsen DT 6-5 260 Concordia (MN) 10
81 Carl Eller DE 6-6 245 Minnesota 14
82 Jim Lash WR 6-1 200 Northwestern 1
83 Stu Voigt TE 6-1 225 Wisconsin 4
84 Carroll Dale WR 6-2 200 Virginia Tech 14
85 Gary Ballman TE 6-1 215 Michigan State 12
88 Alan Page DT 6-4 245 Notre Dame 7
89 Doug Kingsriter WR 6-2 220 Minnesota 1
References: "Grant Didn't Overcoach Or Overanalyze - He Just Won," Don Pierson, Chicago Tribune (1994)
The Football Game I'll Never Forget: 100 NFL Stars' Stories
, as told to the editors of Football Digest (2004)
The Ultimate Super Bowl Book, Bob McGinn (2009)
50 Years, 50 Moments: The Most Unforgettable Plays in Super Bowl History, Jerry Rice and Randy O. Williams (2015)
The Super Bowl: The First Fifty Years of America's Greatest Game, David Fischer (2015)