- Elizabeth Merrill
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The phone rang in Philly at around 11:20 Saturday night, but everyone, of course, was awake. Garo Yepremian's 87-year-old mother was still in front of the TV. His wife and boys were there, too. Things were wild and loud an hour earlier, but then Laurence Maroney busted into the end zone, and 35 years of exclusivity dwindled into a chilly, quiet night.
"I have a feeling," Yepremian said, "that this is it."
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No table pounding or champagne popping could prevent this inevitability -- the 1972 Miami Dolphins now have company in the perfect season club. New England wrapped up a 16-0 regular season late Saturday with a 38-35 comeback victory over the New York Giants, becoming the first team in 35 years to do it.
It is a record that has been toyed with and talked about ad nauseam, and the Dolphins' old-timers have made it a little more interesting with their colorful comments about their grip on history. Saturday night was no exception. Yepremian, the kicker on the '72 team, said he didn't know how to comment on the Patriots' accomplishment because they still need to win three postseason games to be officially called perfect.
And even if they do
"We were the first ones to climb Mount Everest," Yepremian said late Saturday. "If New England comes and does it, then they can be the second ones. But you usually don't remember No. 2. I remember Sir Edmund Hillary was the first one to climb Mount Everest. I don't remember who did it the second time. Do you?"
The Dolphins were 14-0 in the 1972 regular season and defeated Washington in Super Bowl VII. That team, which lost quarterback Bob Griese in the fifth game, didn't think too much about going undefeated until the final week of the season. But the Patriots have been saddled with the perfect pressure since well before midseason, when former Miami coach Don Shula was asked to comment about New England's dominance.
Shula said an undefeated Patriots season ultimately would be tainted by the Patriots' spying incident in Week 1. He backed off those comments later, and Saturday night congratulated the Patriots, saying, "Going undefeated during the regular season is a remarkable achievement."
Griese issued a statement to congratulate New England on "going undefeated during the regular season" and compliment Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for one of the "greatest seasons ever by an NFL quarterback."
But Yepremian said the Patriots still have work to do.
"They're playing well," Yepremian said. "But they still have three more opponents coming up.
"I can't say how I feel because they haven't done it yet. If I had hair, I would look like Tom Cruise. But I don't have any hair. They haven't done it, so how can I say how I feel?"
Though the Dolphins have been very vocal about their place in history, at least several of the 60-somethings seemed almost disinterested in Saturday's game. Hall of Fame center Jim Langer planned to watch his grandson play basketball in Sioux Falls, S.D., during the game.
Quarterback Earl Morrall was at the Florida-Temple basketball game when Eli Manning temporarily put anti-Patriots in a frenzy. By the time Morrall found a TV in the second half, Tom Brady was rallying the Patriots into the record books.
"You've got to compliment them," Morrall said. "They're playing excellent football. Teams have gotten close to them, but they've clawed and fought back. I say, 'Welcome to the team. The undefeated club.' I compliment them on the job they've done."
The '72 Dolphins were known for their togetherness, much like the '07 Patriots, but they were scattered on Saturday night when perfection, for one night, was at least matched. Maybe some of them flipped off their televisions in frustration with about four minutes to go. Maybe they iced the champagne that has been used in small celebrations over the years when the final undefeated team falls.
Morrall said he had no plans Saturday night to call his buddies and wax philosophical over the passing of an era of sorts. It was late and he was tired.
"It's a unique record we've had for 35 years," Morrall said. "So we'll always have it. We were the first ones who ever did it. We'll be noted for that. Our undefeated season lasted 35 years. Hopefully they'll [enjoy] it for 35 years too."
Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Two members of the '72 Dolphins welcomed the Patriots to their special club on Saturday. Well, sort of.