October 09, 2004
A Dolphin-safe zone
BY: Christopher Price
A few weeks ago, a big hoo-ha was made -- mostly by us in the media -- after members of the 1972 Dolphins said the Patriots’ current 18-game win streak is nothing compared to Miami’s perfect season of 1972. Several players who were part of the only perfect season in NFL history downplayed New England’s current 18-game streak as nice … but it was nowhere near their mark. If the Patriots matched it by turning in an undefeated year of their own, fine. But to even put New England into the same class without turning in a perfect season, well, you might as well suggest the view from Nauset was better than the scenery down on South Beach.
(An aside here -- the 1972 Dolphins cling tenaciously to their record as the only team to put up a perfect season. Rumor has it they all get together and pop the top on a bottle of champagne every year after the last unbeaten team has fallen. They took great glee when the Bengals knocked off the Chiefs last season after Kansas City started 9-0. And if it happens this year, expect more celebrations in South Florida.)
But getting back to out story -- it was expected the current Patriots would roll their eyes at the suggestion they didn’t belong in the same class as that Miami team. Hey -- consecutive wins are consecutive wins, no matter who they come against. Surely, some anonymous New England player would offer up an off-the-record rebuttal, saying that what the Patriots have done -- especially in the era of free agency -- is every bit as impressive as what that Dolphin team accomplished. We in the media tossed the red meat into the pit and waited for something to happen.
Problem was, New England didn’t bite. Even worse, they actually took time out of their week to praise that Miami team. Every corner of the Patriots locker room had nothing but good things to say about the 1972 Dolphins. That included veteran cornerback Ty Law, who shook his head at the mention of that Miami team. “The ’72 Dolphins. Undefeated. That’s something right there,” he said earlier this week with a small smile. “This … this ain’t worth a damn compared to that, to be honest with you.”
Oh, sure. Eighteen in a row isn’t anything to sneeze at. But there’s something about perfection that’s so perfect, according to Law.
“We’ve accomplished something, that’s fine, but that right there is … that’s monumental. To go undefeated,” he said earlier this week. “There’s only one team that’s ever done that. And, they’ve got a championship to go along with it.
“This right here, this is a great accomplishment for our team, but it doesn’t mean anything. Hell, that could be taken away from you at any time when you lose a game. That can’t be taken away from those guys. They were the first ones to do it �-- the only thing you can do is match it.”
When you stack up this New England team against that Miami team, the Patriots are lacking in style points. Of their 18 consecutive wins, including two playoff games and the Super Bowl last season, only one has been a true blowout, 31-0 over Buffalo in the 2003 regular-season finale. Their victory margin of 8.9 points is four points lower than the average of any of the other five teams to win 18 straight. That's four points lower than the Denver Broncos of 1997-98, another of the 18-win teams. And it goes up from there: the '89-90 49ers at 13.3; the 1971-72 Dolphins at 14.7; the 1941-42 Bears at 15.2; and the 1933-34 Bears at 24.1.
But that doesn’t mean they haven’t gotten the attention of the man who guided that Miami team to the perfect season. On a conference call this week, former Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula said if any has a shot at it, it’s the Patriots.
"They've got a real shot at it," Shula said Tuesday. "They've got to win a lot of games to do it, and tough teams down the road. But they certainly are a legitimate threat to do it. They're a team that's solid in every way, from ownership to coaching to the players."
But as far as Law is concerned, there’s only one record he wants.
“We’re not going after records, we’re trying to win a game,” he said. “And that’s the honest to God’s truth. Everyone wants to talk about a record, but I don’t think it means that much, unless you can continue on and make it to the playoffs and get a championship. That’s the type of record that we want. A championship.”
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