1972 NFL season

The 1972 NFL season was the 53rd regular season of the National Football League. The Miami Dolphins became the first (and to date the only) NFL team to finish a championship season undefeated and untied when they beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. The Dolphins not only led the NFL in points scored, while their defense led the league in fewest points allowed, the roster would also featured two running backs to gain 1,000 rushing yards in the same season.[1]

1972 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 17 – December 17, 1972
Start dateDecember 23, 1972
AFC ChampionsMiami Dolphins
NFC ChampionsWashington Redskins
Super Bowl VII
DateJanuary 14, 1973
SiteLos Angeles Memorial Coliseum
ChampionsMiami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
DateJanuary 21, 1973
SiteTexas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Colts and Rams exchange ownersEdit

On July 13, Robert Irsay and Willard Keland bought the Los Angeles Rams from the estate of Dan Reeves and transferred ownership to Carroll Rosenbloom, in exchange for ownership of the Baltimore Colts.[2][3][4]


The 1972 NFL Draft was held from February 1 to 2, 1972 at New York City’s Essex House. With the first pick, the Buffalo Bills selected defensive end Walt Patulski from the University of Notre Dame.

New officialsEdit

Referee Jack Vest, the referee for Super Bowl II, the 1969 AFL championship game and 1971 AFC championship game, was killed in a June motorcycle accident. Chuck Heberling was promoted from line judge to fill the vacancy and kept Vest's crew intact. Heberling's line judge vacancy was filled by Red Cashion, who was promoted to referee in 1976 and worked in the league through 1996, earning assignment to Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX.

Major rule changesEdit

  • The inbounds lines or hashmarks were moved 10.75 ft (3.28 m) closer to the center of the field, to 70.75 ft (21.56 m) from the sidelines. Since the 1945 season, they had been 20 yd (18.29 m) from the sideline [40 ft (12.19 m) apart].[5] The hashmarks are now 18.5 ft (5.64 m) apart (the same width as the goalposts), cutting down on severe angles for short field goal attempts, and nearly eliminating the short-side fields for the offense.
    • With the hashmarks now the same width as the goalposts, a team punting from inside its 15-yard line could snap the ball from a spot even with the marked field numbers instead of the hashmarks to avoid the punt hitting the goalpost.
  • Field number markings were standardized across the league, both in size and position.
    • Prior to 1972, the Oakland Raiders' field numbers were inside a silver shield, and San Diego Chargers used diamonds to mark numbers.
    • The fields for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints had field numbers closer to the sidelines than most stadiums, since they were marked with both NFL and collegiate hash marks.
    • Yard lines ending in "5" could not be marked. In 1971, the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants were the last teams to mark yard lines every five yards instead of ten.
  • If a legal receiver goes out of bounds, either accidentally or forced out, and returns to touch or catch the pass in bounds, the penalty is a loss of down (but no penalty yardage will be assessed).
  • If a punt or missed field goal crosses the receivers' goal line, a member of the receiving team may advance the ball into the field of play. Previously, the ball was dead when a scrimmage kick crossed the goal line and the receivers were awarded an automatic touchback.
  • All fouls committed by the offensive team behind the line of scrimmage will be assessed from the previous spot.
  • Tie games, previously ignored in computing of winning percentage, were made equal to a half-game win and a half-game loss.
  • This was the first season third-down conversions were recorded as an official statistic.

Division racesEdit

From 1970 through 2002, there were three divisions (East, Central and West) in each conference. The winners of each division, and a fourth "wild card" team based on the best non-division winner, qualified for the playoffs. The tiebreaker rules were changed to start with head-to-head competition, followed by division records, common opponents records, and conference play.

National Football ConferenceEdit

Week East Central West Wild Card
1 Dallas, St. Louis, Washington 1–0–0 Detroit, Green Bay 1–0–0 Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles 1–0–0 St.L, Wash., Atl., San Fran., Green Bay 1–0–0
2 Dallas, Washington 2–0–0 Minnesota 1–1–0 Los Angeles 1–0–1 Dallas, Washington 2–0–0
3 Washington 2–1–0 Detroit, Green Bay 2–1–0 Atlanta, San Francisco 2–1–0 3 teams 2–1–0
4 Washington 3–1–0 Detroit* 3–1–0 Los Angeles 2–1–1 2 teams 3–1–0
5 Washington 4–1–0 Green Bay 4–1–0 Los Angeles 3–1–1 Dallas 4–1–0
6 Washington 5–1–0 Green Bay* 4–2–0 Los Angeles 4–1–1 4 teams 4–2–0
7 Washington 6–1–0 Green Bay* 4–3–0 Los Angeles 4–2–1 Dallas 5–2–0
8 Washington 7–1–0 Green Bay* 5–3–0 Los Angeles 5–2–1 Dallas 6–2–0
9 Washington 8–1–0 Green Bay 6–3–0 Los Angeles 5–3–1 Dallas 7–2–0
10 Washington 9–1–0 Green Bay 7–3–0 Los Angeles* 5–4–1 Dallas 8–2–0
11 Washington 10–1–0 Green Bay* 7–4–0 San Francisco 6–4–1 Dallas 8–3–0
12 Washington 11–1–0 Green Bay 8–4–0 Atlanta 7–5–0 Dallas 9–3–0
13 Washington 11–2–0 Green Bay 9–4–0 San Francisco 7–5–1 Dallas 10–3–0
14 Washington 11–3–0 Green Bay 10–4–0 San Francisco 8–5–1 Dallas 10–4–0

American Football ConferenceEdit

Week East Cent West Wild Card
1 Miami, NY Jets 1–0–0 Cincinnati, Pittsburgh 1–0–0 Denver 1–0–0 Miami, NY Jets 1–0–0
2 Miami, NY Jets 2–0–0 Cincinnati 2–0–0 Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego 1–1–0 Miami, NY Jets 2–0–0
3 Miami 3–0–0 Cleveland 2–1–0 Kansas City 2–1–0 Pittsburgh, San Diego, Cincinnati, NY Jets 2–1–0
4 Miami 4–0–0 Cincinnati 3–1–0 Kansas City 3–1–0 San Diego* 2–1–1
5 Miami 5–0–0 Cincinnati 4–1–0 Oakland 3–1–1 NY Jets* 3–2–0
6 Miami 6–0–0 Cincinnati* 4–2–0 Oakland 3–2–1 Pittsburgh* 4–2–0
7 Miami 7–0–0 Cincinnati* 5–2–0 Oakland 4–2–1 Pittsburgh* 5–2–0
8 Miami 8–0–0 Pittsburgh 6–2–0 Kansas City 5–3–0 Cleveland* 5–3–0
9 Miami 9–0–0 Pittsburgh 7–2–0 Oakland 5–3–1 Cleveland* 6–3–0
10 Miami 10–0–0 Cleveland 7–3–0 Oakland 6–3–1 Pittsburgh 7–3–0
11 Miami 11–0–0 Cleveland 8–3–0 Oakland 7–3–1 Pittsburgh 8–3–0
12 Miami 12–0–0 Pittsburgh 9–3–0 Oakland 8–3–1 Cleveland 8–4–0
13 Miami 13–0–0 Pittsburgh 10–3–0 Oakland 9–3–1 Cleveland 9–4–0
14 Miami 14–0–0 Pittsburgh 11–3–0 Oakland 10–3–1 Cleveland 10–4–0

Final standingsEdit


Note: Prior to the 1975 season, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly rotation. Had the playoffs been seeded, the divisional matchups in the AFC would not have changed, but undefeated Miami would have had home field advantage for the AFC championship game. The NFC divisional matchups would have been #4 wild card Dallas, ineligible to play Washington, at #2 Green Bay and #3 San Francisco at #1 Washington.
Dec. 24 – Miami Orange Bowl
WC Cleveland 14
Dec. 31 – Three Rivers Stadium
East Miami 20
East Miami 21
Dec. 23 – Three Rivers Stadium
Cent. Pittsburgh 17
AFC Championship
West Oakland 7
Jan. 14 – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Cent. Pittsburgh 13
Divisional playoffs
AFC Miami 14
Dec. 23 – Candlestick Park
NFC Washington 7
Super Bowl VII
WC Dallas 30
Dec. 31 – RFK Stadium
West San Francisco 28
WC Dallas 3
Dec. 24 – RFK Stadium
East Washington 26
NFC Championship
Cent. Green Bay 3
East Washington 16


Most Valuable Player Larry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Coach of the Year Don Shula, Miami
Offensive Player of the Year Larry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Defensive Player of the Year Joe Greene, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the Year Franco Harris, Running Back, Pittsburgh
Defensive Rookie of the Year Willie Buchanon, Cornerback, Green Bay
Man of the Year Willie Lanier, Linebacker, Kansas
Comeback Player of the Year Earl Morrall, Quarterback, Miami
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Jake Scott, Safety, Miami

Coaching changesEdit



Stadium changesEdit

Uniform changesEdit

  • The Denver Broncos discontinued wearing orange pants with their white jerseys as they had done from 1968-71. The orange pants returned in 1978 and '79.
  • The Detroit Lions added outlines to the jersey numbers
  • The Houston Oilers switched from silver to blue helmets. They also discontinued their silver pants in favor of white pants for their blue jerseys, and blue pants for their white jerseys. These uniforms lasted three seasons.
  • The Miami Dolphins reinstated their white jersey with alternating aqua and orange stripes on the sleeves, which was discontinued when Don Shula became coach. However, this style was not universally adopted, and several notable players, including Bob Griese and Larry Csonka, continued to wear the 1970-71 white jersey with plain sleeves. The Dolphins' aqua jerseys from 1970-71 with plain sleeves, worn twice in 1972 (vs. Buffalo in week 6 and St. Louis in week 11), remained unchanged.
  • The Washington Redskins switched from gold to burgundy helmets, and from the "R" helmet logo (designed by the late Vince Lombardi) to the Native American head logo. The helmet remained unchanged, save for changing from gray face masks to gold in 1978 and a modified logo for 1982 only, until the Redskins nickname was retired prior to the 2020 season.


  1. ^ 100 Things Braves Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die: Revised and Updated, Jack Wilkinson, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2019, ISBN 978-1-62937-694-3, p.3
  2. ^ "Colts owner trades club for Rams". Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. July 14, 1972. p. 1, part 2.
  3. ^ "Colts' owner now sole owner of Rams". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. July 14, 1972. p. 12.
  4. ^ Maule, Tex (August 14, 1972). "Nay on the neighs, yea on the baas". Sports Illustrated. p. 67.
  5. ^ "Owners give offense big seven-yard boost". Rome News-Tribune. Georgia. Associated Press. March 24, 1972. p. 6A.

External linksEdit