With Colts' loss, '72 Fins remain NFL's only unbeaten
MIAMI -- When San Diego's Keenan McCardell made an ill-advised decision to field a punt at his goal line Sunday, Don Shula angrily rose from his skybox seat, stomped around the room and then stood in the corner fuming.
"I got up and displayed some anger," Shula said later. "I was sort of upset. Wouldn't you be?"
Nearly 10 years into retirement, the old coach can still get worked up -- especially when a team threatens to match his perfect season.
San Diego ended the Indianapolis Colts' bid for perfection Sunday, winning 26-17. That left the Colts 13-1 with two weeks to go in the regular season.
And that means the Miami Dolphins' 17-0 record in 1972 will remain unmatched for at least another year.
Shula and '72 quarterback Bob Griese watched the Chargers-Colts game on TV from a suite at Dolphins Stadium, where they attended Miami's game against the New York Jets.
"We didn't have any champagne to toast each other," Shula said. "But we did have some Diet Cokes up there. We lifted the Diet Cokes."
Griese and a couple of his '72 teammates have been known to pop champagne when the last unbeaten NFL team loses, feeding an image of an annual celebration that has become a sore point for the old Dolphins.
"We're depicted as being happy about somebody's misfortune," Shula said.
So while Shula acknowledged cheering for the Chargers, several '72 Dolphins claimed mixed feelings about the Colts' loss.
"If they had been able to go undefeated, then we could have someone to talk to who would understand the experience," former running back Mercury Morris said. "It's like trying to describe to someone what it's like to walk on the moon. It's only a description -- they'll never know until they go."
Griese said it was difficult to root against the Colts because he respects their organization and players.
"In the end, I was sorry to see them lose, because it would have been great for a team like that to win them all," Griese said. "It's not like they are the Oakland Raiders, where it would be hard to root for them to go undefeated."
Several '72 Dolphins said the Colts' loss may improve their chances of winning the Super Bowl.
"Now the monkey is off their backs," former safety Dick Anderson said.
"I think it is better for Indianapolis," former running back Jim Kiick agreed. "They have a lot of pressure taken off of them. Now they can concentrate on going to the Super Bowl and winning."
But their shot at an undefeated season is gone.
Had the Colts finished 19-0, Shula said he would have been the first to congratulate coach Tony Dungy. Instead, he was on the phone Sunday to congratulate the Chargers' coach.
"Marty Schottenheimer is a great friend of mine," Shula said, "and has become an even better friend now."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press