Golden Football Magazine
NFL Championship Games
Super Bowl VII - Minnesota Vikings vs Miami Dolphins: First Half
Note: The gray boxes contain asides that provide interesting material but could be skipped
without losing the continuity of the article.
Part 1 - Pregame | Part 3 - 2nd Half
The drab game was played on a drab day - overcast, foggy, and chilly (52°). Super Bowl VIII is still the shortest in Super Bowl history - two hours and 27 minutes. It also ranks as one of the least exciting Super Bowls. Tex Maule started his article in Sports Illustrated this way: Super Bowl VIII had all the excitement and suspense of a master butcher quartering a steer.

Coin toss

Jake Scott returns opening kickoff.

Griese passes as Wayne Moore blocks Jim Marshall.

Jim Mandich catches pass for 1st down.

Larry Csonka runs over Nate Wright.

Csonka runs past Jim Marshall, who is blocked by Wayne Moore.

Csonka sheds tacklers.

Fran Tarkenton looks for a receiver.

Alan Page and Wally Hilgenberg

Csonka runs between Siemon and Eller.

Don Shula on sideline

Siemon tries to corral Csonka.

Csonka scores Miami's first TD.

Ron Yary and Frank Gallagher block.

Mercury Morris eludes Marshall.

Wright and Krause tackle Csonka on Dolphins' 2nd scoring drive.

Tarkenton rolls out.

Distraught Viking fan.

Siemon makes another tackle.

Csonka barges ahead.

Tarkenton tries to pass over Van Herder.

Csonka takes Griese's handoff.

Wally Hilgenberg

Csonka breaks into the open.

Csonka receives medical attention after personal foul by Hilgenberg.

Garo Yepremian kicks FG out of Earl Morrall's hold.

Tarkenton rares back as Yary fends off Den Herder.

Quarter 1

Miami won the toss and elected to receive. The choice paid off as they immediately took control of the line of scrimmage and thereby took control of the game. Minnesota's fear that the Dolphins would "come out winging" were quickly substantiated.
Fred Cox kicked to Jake Scott, who took the ball at the 7 and sprinted straight up the right side to the 38. Paul Warfield, whose status was uncertain because of a pulled hamstring, came out with the starting unit but would not touch the ball on the opening possession. Mercury Morris took a pitch around RE for 4y. Larry Csonka took a quick handoff off RT to the 44.

Roy Winston tackles Larry Csonka on his first run.
Facing his first 3rd down, Griese threw down the middle to TE Jim Mandich to the Minnesota 43 where S Bobby Bryant dumped him.
G Bob Kuechenberg later revealed that he noticed something in his film study about Alan Page. Alan had the fastest inside move of anybody. I'm thinking, There's got to be something. ... When he's going inside, his inside foot is four or six inches further back that it is normally. I called my offensive line coach, Monte Clark, and said, "I think I've got something on Page. If you block him by the book, there's no stopping him. He eats the book for breakfast." I asked to change our blocking. Monte said, "Let me talk to the boss." Tomorrow comes and Monte says, "Kooch, I've got bad news: Not only does the boss say no, he says hell no." ... (On the game's first drive) I saw Alan's foot go back. The pass protection was supposed to be Jim Langer, the center, and me buddy-blocking the MLB and Page. Well, Page just about took the handoff from Bob Griese. There was no way Langer could snap the ball and block him at the same time. No one could. I lost it at that point. I turned to the sideline and said, "I'm doing it my way." I did, and Alan Page never made a tackle after that."

Bob Griese passes down the middle. Note the striped football.
SB VIII was the only one played with striped footballs.

Mercury Morris takes handoff.
After Morris got nothing at RT, Csonka burst off LT behind cross blocking by Wayne Moore on Alan Page and Bob Kuechenberg on Jim Marshall. On 1st and 10 at the 26, Griese threw a quick down and out to RE Briscoe to the 21. Csonka rammed up the middle to move the chains again just short of the 15. On the next handoff, Larry rambled through RG to the 8. Morris then took the ball on a crossbuck to make it 1st-and-Goal at the 5. Before the next play, Griese asked Csonka what play he'd like him to call. Larry said, "X block to the left and the Roll Right, Trap Left." Warfield went in motion from right to left before Griese took the snap, did a 270° spin to his left, and handed to Csonka moving inside through a big hole at RG. Larry rammed through LB Jeff Siemon and S Paul Krause at the 2 into the EZ. Garo Yepremian booted the PAT. The Dolphins had scored on their first drive in both the AFC playoff games and now had done it again. Dolphins 7 Vikings 0 (9:33 left in Q1)

Larry Csonka scores the game's first TD.
The team that scored the first TD had won each of the first seven Super Bowls. On television before the game, Jets QB Joe Namath said, If Miami gets the kickoff and scores on the opening drive, the game is over.
The Dolphins' offensive game plan was designed to exploit the Viking defense's excellent pursuit. The Chiefs had used similar tactics against Minnesota in SB IV.
In a 1974 book, Shula wrote: In the case of Page, Eller and company, we wanted to try to turn their aggressiveness to our advantage. We decided to emphasize negative influence by misdirection and cross blocking, trying to make the Vikings Front Four commit to the influence of the play and then actually running it elsewhere. The Vikings responded as we anticipated. Then later in the game we found that the Vikings started hesitating, reducing their charge. When they did that, we beat them with straight blocking.
Page admitted after the game that he knew the Vikings were in trouble "after the first few plays."

The No Name Defense L-R: 45 Curtis Johnson, 84 Bill Stanfill, 72 Bob Heinz, 75 Manny Fernandez, 83 Vern Den Herder, 59 Doug Swift, 25 Tim Foley
Yepremian booted to Charlie West at the goal line. Showing their superiority on special teams, the Dolphins tripped him up at the 14. Frank Gallagher came in for Milt Sunde at RG after Bud Grant scratched Sunde before the game because his knee had not responded to treatment. Chuck Foreman spun away from tacklers to the 19. With two TEs on the field, Fran Tarkenton again handed to Foreman, but Manny Fernandez and Mike Kolen stuffed him for no gain. With the Dolphins in their familiar "53 Defense" with extra LB Bob Matheson in the game, Tarkenton threw a swing pass to Foreman in the right flat, but four defenders swarmed him at the 23 to force a punt.
Buoniconti after the game: We had a problem at first. We were confused by how they were lining up (with two TEs and an unbalanced line), but we figured it out on the sideline before their second possession.
D-coordinator Bill Arnsparger reflected on his 54 Defense years later. The key to our three years of success is we had people that really prepared and took the thing seriously during practice. Had it not been for Bob Matheson, we would not have played the three-man line. They'd put an end on him, and he had the ability to beat the end. But that opened up the middle for one of the inside backers, Nick or Mike Kolen, to be in the pocket quick.
The Vikings nearly got a break that would have given them momentum when Mike Eischeid punted a line drive to Jake Scott, who took it on the run at the Miami 40 just before Ron Porter hit him. The ball squirted forward, and Terry Brown had a good shot at it for the Vikings, but Scott got it back at the 44.
Tarkenton watched the punt from the sidelines. We had a good hit and forced the fumble. We had five men there, and they had one. Yet the ball went to them. Not only did they play exceptionally well, much better than we did, but they also had a few good bounces.
Miami continued its clinical dissection of the Vikings' defense. The Dolphins' second possession was a carbon copy of the first: 10 plays, broken into eight runs and two passes, this time for 56y and a TD. Morris eluded a crashing Marshall just after he took the ball and stutter-stepped around LE to the 49.

Larry Little cuts down Marshall to allow Morris to run free.
Paul Krause (22) targets Morris.
Griese then threw to Mandich on the right sideline to the Minnesota 44. On 1st down, Mercury quick-stepped through RT to the 39, then was replaced by Jim Kiick. Csonka sped through RT behind Kiick's block and shed tacklers to the 31. Finally, Page made a statement for the Vikings D by crashing past Moore and stopping Kiick for a 3y loss. But Csonka gained that back and more over Page's end to the 22.
Griese: I sensed almost immediately that Csonka was running well. I just kept dialing his number.
A measurement showed the Dolphins a foot short of another 1st down. No problem. Morris replaced Kiick and lined up in an I behind Csonka. Larry took the quick handoff and moved through the hole opened by C Jim Langer to the 14. Griese then went to the air again, hitting RE Marlin Briscoe on a slant to the 1. Bob was now 4-for-4 passing. Kiick then tried to leap into the EZ at RT. The officials placed the ball a foot from the goal line. Then Jim followed Csonka into a pile at LG to just barely get into the EZ for his first TD of the season. Dolphins 14 Vikings 0 (1:22)

Wally Hilgenberg (58) confronts the official after Jim Kiick's TD. The head linesman signaling TD was Leo Miles, the first African-American to officiate a Super Bowl.
After the game, C Jim Langer explained the Dolphins' blocking scheme. What we did was split the defense. This creates a big running lane, and the back just cuts back into the hole. They had Alan Page on my head and Jeff Siemon over Bob Kuechenberg. On our plays to the right, I gave Page a shoulder and then slid around on Siemon. Kuechenberg and I formed a moving wall. That kind of seals that side off. We do a lot of what we call buddy-blocking.
Langer later added: They weren't a physically strong team and we were. ... all our linemen were benching 400 pounds plus, and the Vikings weren't really on a weight program yet. They were great players and had great hustle, but physically they couldn't match up to us on the line. It was obvious from the beginning that our offense could overpower their defense.
Kuechenberg added: Page is as quick as anybody. We'd help Page get over the middle and then block so Larry could run behind him. ... Our game plan was to win on first down. That way you don't get a passing situation where Minnesota is the toughest. We were getting the good yardage on first down, and that was the key.
Years later, Langer recalled: We kept ripping huge holes into their defense and Csonka kept picking up good yardage, especially to the right. We'd hear Alan cussing because those negative-influence plays were just driving him nuts. He didn't know what the hell to do.
Vikings MLB Jeff Siemon, who never knew who would be blocking him each play, on the Dolphins: They were a smaller front but had good leverage. We were a bend-but-don't-break kind of a defense, but we did give up some yards. Part of it was our lack of size and part of it was our predictability. Offenses knew what defensive line charge we were going to be in most of the time. We learned how to do it very well and effectively and, against most teams, we could prevail.
West returned the kickoff from the 6 to the 24, but John Gilliam was detected holding. So the Vikings started from the 10. They did achieve their initial first down but no more on the possession. First, Tarkenton rolled right and flipped to Foreman to the 16. Oscar Reed tried to turn the corner at LE, but Fernandez collared him for no gain. On the next snap, Fran again rolled right and fired on the run to the second TE, Doug Kingsriter, for a 1st down at the 27.
END OF Q1: Dolphins 14 Vikings 0
Miami ran 20 plays in Q1 to six for Minnesota and outgained the Vikings 118y to 16.

Quarter 2

Foreman slashed over RT for a gain of 5 to the 32. Then Reed moved the ball to the 36, a yard shy of a 1st down. Oscar tried to get the needed yardage at RT, but MLB Nick Buoniconti led the charge that stopped him 2' short. So Eischeid kicked to Scott, who wiggled for 7y to the 28.

Officials call for measurement after Reed run.
The Vikings finally got the stop they desperately needed, although Miami's possession started strong with Morris hot-footing around the RE to the 42. Csonka tried to gain around LE but was stopped by LB Wally Hilgenberg after a gain of only 3. Then Page struck again, sacking Griese with the help of blitzing LB Roy Winston for a loss of 11. Griese then threw long just before being decked by Eller and almost connected inside the 30 with Briscoe, who was hit by Krause as the ball arrived. Larry Seiple came in for his first punt of the day, 38y to Bryant, who made a fair catch at the Minnesota 27.

Carl Eller and Griese follow ball on long incompletion.
Tim Foley replaced Lloyd Mumphord at LCB for Miami and immediately teamed with S Dick Anderson to stop Foreman after a gain of 3 around RE. Then Tarkenton tried to pass, but Matheson, Den Herder, and Fernandez sacked him for a loss of 11. On the next snap, Fran scrambled out of the pocket and threw to Kingsriter at the right sideline, but the official ruled him out of bounds to the consternation of the Vikings fans. So Scott made a fair catch of Eischeid's punt at the Dolphin 35.

Csonka on the loose (L) and following Kuechenberg (R).
Csonka took a pitch around RE, but Wright turned it in so Eller could make the tackle after a gain of only 1. But the Vikings were penalized 15y for a personal foul on Hilgenberg to their 49.
On the previous series, Hilgenberg had thrown an elbow through Csonka's facemask, cutting Larry above the eye, but had not been penalized. Larry said later, It was a cheap shot, but an honest cheap shot. He came right at me and threw an elbow right through my mask. I could see the game meant something to him.
Griese threw his first pass to Warfield, their patented down and out to the left. Bryant bopped Paul out of bounds at the Viking 43. Csonka banged up the middle to the 40 behind Moore and Kuechenberg's double team of Carl Eller. On 3rd-and-1, Griese gave the ball to Morris who burst up the middle behind Csonka to the 30. 1st and 10. Csonka slanted off RT, broke tackles, and careened to the 21. Griese tried Csonka up the middle, but this time Marshall and Siemon stopped him cold. TV announcer Ray Scott told his audience, I think we can label this maybe the most important play of this first half. It could decide whether the Dolphins do go on and really do break it wide open. Csonka tried the middle again and didn't make it. So Shula sent in the FG unit. Yepremian banged through the 28y FG. Dolphins 17 Vikings 0 (6:02)
Desperate to get something on the board before halftime, the Vikings mounted their best drive of the afternoon, finally reaching Miami territory. Starting from the 20 after the touchback, Tarkenton mixed passes and runs deftly. First, Foreman took a handoff around RE for just 2y.

Buoniconti hits Foreman.
Tark then threw incomplete to Foreman. Facing 3rd and 8, Fran fired to TE Stu Voight, who made a sliding catch at the 39 to keep the drive alive. Continuing his inconsistent play, Tarkenton threw behind Reed in the left flat to make it 2nd-and-10. Foreman escaped Den Herder's tackle behind the line to lunge forward for a yard. Again Tarkenton connected on 3rd down with Voigt, this time to the Miami 46. On the Vikings' first play in enemy territory, Gilliam took a quick pass in the left flat and maneuvered through the flying defenders for 3y. Then Tarkenton fumbled the snap and fell on it for a 2y loss. That brought on the two-minute warning.
After conferring with the coaches on the sideline, Fran dropped back to pass and hit Gilliam running free over the middle at the 17. He was brought down at the 15 for a 30y gain, after which the Vikings immediately called timeout. The next call was an odd one but effective. Tarkenton then rolled right on a planned run to the 7.

Tarkenton on the run
Then Reed tried RT behind Ron Yary but was met by Matheson for a loss of 1. Minnesota timeout and another sideline consultation. On 3rd-and-3, Reed bounced off the pile up the middle for 2y to bring up 4th-and-1. Deciding a FG would do him no good, Grant went for it with less than a minute left. From a bunched formation, Reed followed pulling LG Ed White over RT and appeared to have the 1st down. But he lost the ball when slammed from the side by Buoniconti, and Scott recovered. The No Name Defense had bent but not broken again.
Buoniconti said afterward that Foreman tipped the 4th-and-1 play. I cheated up close because of the way Foreman lined up. It didn't look like he was going to get the football. Fernandez submarined the play and I really got a good hit on Reed.
Asked later why Reed had run the ball three straight times, Grant said the Vikings twice had converted that way in the NFC title game against Dallas. "If it's less than a yard, we go for it. We feel we have the plays to make it."
With 30 seconds left, Csonka gained zero up the middle. After the Vikings used their last timeout, Larsen made his second straight tackle on Larry, this time for -1.

Gary Larsen tackles Csonka as Wright and Eller converge.

END OF Q2: Dolphins 17 Vikings 0

The Miami defense had limited Minnesota to 31y rushing, 72y passing, and just 4 first downs. The Dolphins racked out 13 first downs and 152 total yard. Oddly enough, the Vikings led in time of possession 17:16 to 13:44.
Grant made no halftime pep talk. He explained afterward: When you get in the playoffs, it's not a matter of coaches out-coaching each other. It's up to the players.

The Texas band entertained at halftime along with Judy Mallett, Miss Texas 1973, playing the fiddle. The theme of the show was "A Musical America."