1972 NFL season

1972 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 17 – December 17, 1972
Playoffs
Start date December 23, 1972
AFC Champions Miami Dolphins
NFC Champions Washington Redskins
Super Bowl VII
Date January 14, 1973
Site Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Champions Miami Dolphins
Pro Bowl
Date January 21, 1973
Site Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

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.

Major rule changes

  • The inbounds lines or hashmarks were moved 10¾ feet closer to the center of the field, to 23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches from the sidelines. Since the 1945 season, they had been 20 yards from the sideline (40 feet apart).[1] The hashmarks are now 18½ feet 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.
  • 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.

Stadium changes

Division races

Starting in 1970, and until 2002, there were three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) 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 Conference

Week Eastern Central Western 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 Conference

Week Eastern Central Western 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 standings

Note: Prior to 1972, the NFL did not include tie games when calculating a team's winning percentage in the official standings


Playoffs

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.
 
Divisional PlayoffsConf. Championship GamesSuper Bowl VII
 
          
 
December 24 – Miami Orange Bowl
 
 
Cleveland Browns14
 
December 31 – Three Rivers Stadium
 
Miami Dolphins20
 
Miami Dolphins21
 
December 23 – Three Rivers Stadium
 
Pittsburgh Steelers17
 
Oakland Raiders7
 
January 14 – L.A. Coliseum
 
Pittsburgh Steelers13
 
Miami Dolphins14
 
December 23 – Candlestick Park
 
Washington Redskins7
 
Dallas Cowboys30
 
December 31 – RFK Stadium
 
San Francisco 49ers28
 
Dallas Cowboys3
 
December 24 – RFK Stadium
 
Washington Redskins26
 
Green Bay Packers3
 
 
Washington Redskins16
 

Awards

Most Valuable PlayerLarry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Coach of the YearDon Shula, Miami
Offensive Player of the YearLarry Brown, Running Back, Washington
Defensive Player of the YearJoe Greene, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Offensive Rookie of the YearFranco Harris, Running Back, Pittsburgh
Defensive Rookie of the YearWillie Buchanon, Cornerback, Green Bay
Man of the YearWillie Lanier, Linebacker,Kansas
Comeback Player of the YearEarl Morrall, Quarterback,Miami
Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerJake Scott, Safety, Miami

Draft

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.

Coaches

American Football Conference

National Football Conference

References

  1. "Owners give offense big seven-yard boost". Rome News-Tribune. Georgia. Associated Press. March 24, 1972. p. 6A.
  • NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
  • Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
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