17-0 > 18-1
The New England Patriots ended the 2007 NFL season at 18-1, only the third team ever to post such a mark. Here’s the list of those three football juggernauts:
1) 1984 San Francisco 49’ers
2) 1985 Chicago Bears
3) 2007 New England Patriots
Which of those teams is not like the other? HAHAHAHA!!!
Completing my series of eerily inaccurate predictions, shortly before the Super Bowl I wrote that New England would roll. Let's take a moment to review my awesome track record for the 2007 season: I pronounced that Brett Favre and Jamal Lewis were finished, that Miami would finish 8-8, that Baltimore and Philadelphia would play in the Super Bowl, and that Miami trading Wes Welker was a defensible move. Wow. I am hereby retiring from making anymore football predictions. Clearly, I purposely predicted a Patriots win in order to guarantee the exact opposite result, a result which must have been preordained thanks to New England's cheating and bad sportsmanship. Nobody deserved to blow a Super Bowl and perfect season more. A satisfying ending to what was mostly a nightmarish year for Dolphins fans.
You know, the Miami Dolphins and their fans were just two plays away from seeing all of the following happen during the 2007 season:
1) Brett Favre breaking every career passing record set by Dan Marino, the greatest player in franchise history.
3) The Patriots going 19-0, joining the 1972 Dolphins as the only perfect season in history.
If all three of those things had come to pass, and they damn near did, I think it’s fair to say that would have been the worst season suffered by any team ever in the history of sports. And I’m not exaggerating. Number one on the list unfortunately happened, and worse, old-man Favre played like an MVP so we didn’t even have the satisfaction of ripping him for hanging on just to break some records. But as our luck would have it Matt Stover’s miss in Week 14 gave the Dolphins the shot they needed to avoid becoming the first team to ever drop all 16 games in a season while the Manning-to-Tyree miracle play in Super Bowl XLII propelled the Giants to their classic upset shocker of the Pats. So it was just one ordinary horrifically awful season, not a legendary horrifically awful season. Whew.
For years people have criticized members of the 1972 Dolphins as a bunch of bitter old men rooting for other teams to lose and then guzzling champagne in unsportsmanlike toasts each year once assured that their undefeated mark would remain a singular accomplishment. While completely unfair (what athlete wants their record broken?), a few Dolphins (I’m looking at you Mercury Morris) no doubt reinforced this view of them by saying somewhat ungracious things about New England as the Pats made their run at a perfect season. As the Patriots got closer and another perfect season appeared near-certain, those old Dolphins suddenly started saying all the right things about the Patriots while insisting that nothing New England might do could ever diminish what the Dolphins accomplished back in 1972.
But they were lying.
Had the Patriots pulled off a perfect season that would have forever diminished what the Dolphins did in ’72. Surely the Dolphins of 1972 knew that better than anyone. In the first place, if it happens twice it can’t possibly be as special as something that’s happened only once. Nobody did it for 41 years before Miami and nobody’s done it in the 35 years since. The longer Miami stands alone, the more legendary the feat becomes. When people argue about who's the greatest football team of all-time, others can throw out all the stats, scores, and schedules they want to make their case but the '72 Dolphins can always play their trump card: "Nobody ever beat us". Nobody else can say that. Had New England won somebody else could have.
Secondly, let’s face it, outside of diehard Dolphins fans everybody would have considered the 2007 Patriots the greater champion. They played a tougher schedule, they won by bigger margins (while running it up!), they won more games, and they were the present while the Dolphins were the past. The 1972 Dolphins would have been shunted off to the sidelines to make room for the lionizing of the 2007 Patriots. But who cares now? It ain't gonna happen. All hail the forever perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins.
I’ll always believe the pressure of trying to go undefeated wore the Pats down once the postseason started as demonstrated by the fact New England played worse every week as the playoffs went on. Unlike the 1972 Dolphins, the New England Patriots saved their worst for last. Under the greatest pressure of all the Dolphins survived, if not thrived, while the Patriots died. The 1972 Dolphins should actually now be thanking the Patriots for what they did! The Patriots Super Bowl choke showed the world just how hard perfection is and underlined once and for all how great those Dolphins played. If before Super Bowl XLII people didn’t quite appreciate what the Dolphins once did, they have to now.
After the Dolphins laid down the gauntlet in 1972, the first team to make a serious run at a perfect season was the 1985 Chicago Bears. That run famously ended on a Monday night in Miami. Later, Larry Csonka said to the 1985 Dolphins, “You won the 18th game for us.” The New York Giants just won the 19th.