Path to Perfection
by Michael Morrison
In 1972, the Miami Dolphins completed what no other NFL team had — a perfect season. The Dolphins won all 14 of their regular season games, then disposed of playoff opponents Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and finally Washington (in Super Bowl VII) to finish with a 17-0 record.
That season is to football what Roger Maris' 61 home runs were to baseball — just mention the number 1972 to football fans and they'll know exactly what it represents. But as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattered Maris' mark in 1998, so the Denver Broncos now seem poised to become the second undefeated team in history.
Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula is carried off the field after defeating Washington 14-7 in Super Bowl VII, completing the only perfect season in NFL history.
On December 6, the defending-champion Broncos ran their record to 13-0 for this season, joining the '72 Dolphins and the 1934 Chicago Bears as the only teams to open the year with 13 consecutive wins. It wasn't easy, though: the team that had trailed in only three games this season —never by more than six points— found itself losing to the Kansas City Chiefs by 14 early on, and then 31-21 in the fourth quarter. But Broncos QB John Elway kept their hopes for perfection alive. "Captain Comeback" threw for 400 yards that day, and a touchdown pass to tight end Shannon Sharpe with 3:34 remaining lifted Denver to a 35-31 victory.
That was the Broncos' 18th consecutive win (including playoff games) since their 34-17 loss to San Francisco on December 15, 1997. It tied a record for consecutive wins shared by the 1989-90 49ers, the '72 Dolphins, and the '33-34 and '41-42 Bears. With a win this week over the 5-8 New York Giants, Denver could set a new mark. Ironically, it was the Giants that ended the Bears' 1934 streak.