|Super Bowl VII|
|Date||January 14, 1973|
|Stadium||Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California|
|MVP||Jake Scott, Safety|
|Favorite||Redskins by 1|
|Future Hall of Famers|
|Dolphins: Don Shula (coach), Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, Paul Warfield. |
Redskins: George Allen (coach), Chris Hanburger, Sonny Jurgenson, Charley Taylor.
|National anthem||Little Angels of Holy Angels Church, Chicago|
|Coin toss||Tom Bell|
|Halftime show||Woody Herman and the Michigan Marching Band|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis|
|Nielsen ratings||42.7 |
(est. 53.32 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||US$88,000|
Super Bowl VII was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Miami Dolphins and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Washington Redskins to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1972 season. The Dolphins defeated the Redskins by the score of 14–7, and became the first and still the only team in NFL history to complete a perfect undefeated season. The game was played on January 14, 1973, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, the second time the Super Bowl was played in that city.
This was the Dolphins' second Super Bowl appearance after losing Super Bowl VI. They posted an undefeated 14–0 regular season record before defeating the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. The Redskins were making their first Super Bowl appearance after posting an 11–3 regular season record and playoff victories over the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. Despite being undefeated, the Dolphins were actually 1 point underdogs, largely based on the weakness of their regular season schedule.
Super Bowl VII was largely dominated by the Dolphins, and remains the lowest-scoring Super Bowl to date with a total of only 21 points (3 touchdown and 3 extra points). The only drama was during the final minutes of the game, in what was later known as "Garo's Gaffe". Miami attempted to cap off their 17–0 perfect season with a 17–0 perfect score shutout with a 41-yard field goal by Garo Yepremian, but instead the game and the season was jeopardized when his kick was blocked. Instead of falling on the loose ball, the Dolphins kicker picked it up, attempted a forward pass, but batted it in the air, and Redskins' cornerback Mike Bass caught it and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. This game also remains as the longest period in a Super Bowl for one team to be shut out, as Washington was held scoreless until 2:07 remained in the fourth quarter.[note 1]
Dolphins safety Jake Scott was named Most Valuable Player. He recorded two interceptions for 63 return yards, including a 55-yard return from the end zone during the 4th quarter. Scott became the second defensive player in Super Bowl history (after linebacker Chuck Howley in Super Bowl V) to earn a Super Bowl MVP.
The Dolphins went undefeated during the season, despite losing their starting quarterback. In the fifth game of the regular season, starter Bob Griese suffered a fractured right leg and dislocated ankle. In his place, 38-year-old Earl Morrall led Miami to victory in their nine remaining regular season games, and was the 1972 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Morrall had previously played for Dolphins head coach Don Shula when they were both with the Baltimore Colts, where Morrall backed up quarterback Johnny Unitas and started in Super Bowl III.
But Miami also had the same core group of young players who helped the team advance to the previous year's Super Bowl VI. (The only Dolphins starter in Super Bowl VII over the age of 30 was 32-year-old Nick Buoniconti.) The Dolphins still had a powerful running attack, spearheaded by running backs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Eugene "Mercury" Morris. (Morris, who in previous seasons had been used primarily as a kick returner, took over the starting halfback position from Kiick, who had been the starter the previous four years. The more-experienced Kiick, however, would start in Super Bowl VII.) Csonka led the team with 1,117 yards and six touchdowns. Kiick contributed 521 yards and five touchdowns, and also caught 21 passes for 147 yards and another touchdown. Morris, a breakaway runner, rushed for 1,000 yards, caught 15 passes for 168 yards, added another 334 yards returning kickoffs, and scored a league-leading 12 rushing touchdowns. Overall, Miami set a record with 2,960 total rushing yards during the regular season, and became the first team ever to have two players rush for 1,000 yards in one season. Miami led the NFL in points scored (385).
Receiver Paul Warfield once again provided the run-based Dolphins with an effective deep threat option, catching 29 passes for 606 yards, an average of 20.9 yards per catch. Miami's offensive line, led by future hall of famers Jim Langer and Larry Little was also a key factor for the Dolphins' offensive production. Miami's "No-Name Defense" (a nickname inspired by Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry when he could not recall the names of any Dolphins defenders just before Super Bowl VI), led by future hall of fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, allowed the fewest points in the league during the regular season (171), and ranked second in the NFL with 26 interceptions. Safety Jake Scott recorded five interceptions, while Lloyd Mumphord had four picks and safety Dick Anderson had 3 interceptions and led the NFL with 5 fumble recoveries. Because of injuries to defensive linemen (at the beginning of the season the Dolphins were down to four healthy defensive linemen) defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger created what he called the "53" defense, in which versatile Bob Matheson (number 53) would be used as either a defensive end in the standard 4–3 defense or as a fourth linebacker in a 3–4 defense, with Manny Fernandez at nose tackle. As a linebacker, Matheson would either rush or drop back into coverage. Said Nick Buoniconti, "Teams would be totally confused." Linebacker Doug Swift was also a playmaker with 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery.
The Dolphins' undefeated, untied regular season was the third in NFL history, and the first of the post-Merger era. The previous two teams to do it, the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears, both lost those years' NFL Championship Games. The Cleveland Browns completed a perfect season in 1948, including a Championship victory, when they were part of the All-America Football Conference.
After finishing the 1970 season with a 6–8 regular season record, the Redskins hired George Allen as their head coach, hoping he could turn the team's fortunes around. Allen's philosophy was that veteran players win games, so immediately after taking over the team, he traded away most of the younger team members and draft choices for older, more established players. His motto was "The future is now." Washington quickly became the oldest team in the NFL and earned the nickname "The Over the Hill Gang." The average age of starters was 31 years old. However, Allen's strategy turned the Redskins around as the team improved to a 9–4–1 record in 1971, and finished the 1972 season with an NFC-best 11–3 record.
Washington was led by 33-year old quarterback Billy Kilmer, who completed 120 out of 225 passes for 1,648 yards and a league leading 19 touchdowns during the regular season, with only 11 interceptions, giving him an NFL best 84.8 passer rating. Kilmer had started the first three games of the season, was replaced in game four by 38-year-old Sonny Jurgensen, then replaced Jurgensen when he was lost for the season with an Achilles tendon injury. Their powerful rushing attack featured two running backs. Larry Brown gained 1,216 yards (first in the NFC and second in the NFL) in 285 carries during the regular season, caught 32 passes for 473 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns, earning him both the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Running back Charley Harraway had 567 yards in 148 carries. Future hall of fame wide receiver Charley Taylor and wide receiver Roy Jefferson provided the team with a solid deep threat, combining for 84 receptions, 1,223 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Washington also had a solid defense led by linebacker Chris Hanburger (four interceptions, 98 return yards, one touchdown), and cornerbacks Pat Fischer (four interceptions, 61 return yards) and Mike Bass (three interceptions, 53 return yards)
Morrall led the Dolphins to a 20–14 playoff win over the Cleveland Browns. However, Griese started the second half of the AFC Championship Game to help rally the Dolphins to a 21–17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, largely due to a fake punt by Dolphin Larry Seiple.
Meanwhile, the Redskins advanced to the Super Bowl without allowing a touchdown in either their 16–3 playoff win over the Green Bay Packers or their 26–3 NFC Championship Game victory over the Cowboys.
Super Bowl pregame news and notes
Much of the pregame hype surrounded the chances of the Dolphins completing a perfect, undefeated season, as well as their quarterback controversy between Griese and Morrall. Griese was eventually picked to start the Super Bowl because Shula felt more comfortable with Morrall as the backup just in case Griese was ineffective due to his recent inactivity. Miami was also strongly motivated to win the Super Bowl after having been humiliated by the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. Wrote Nick Buoniconti, "There was no way we were going to lose the Super Bowl; there was no way." Head coach Don Shula, loser of Super Bowls III and VI, was also determined to win. Although Shula was relaxed and charming when dealing with the press, it was all an act; Dolphins players described him as "neurotic" and "absolutely crazy." He was also sick Super Bowl week with the flu, which he kept secret.
Still, many favored the Redskins to win the game because of their group of "Over the Hill Gang" veterans, and because Miami had what some considered an easy schedule (only two Dolphin opponents, Kansas City and the New York Giants posted winning records, and both of those teams were 8–6) and had struggled in the playoffs.
Allen had a reputation for spying on opponents. A school overlooked the Rams facility that the NFL designated the Dolphins practice field, so the Dolphins found a more secure field at a local community college. Dolphins employees inspected the trees every day for spies.
Miami cornerback Tim Foley, a future broadcaster who was injured and would not play in Super Bowl VII, was writing daily stories for a Miami newspaper and interviewed George Allen and Redskin players, provoking charges from Allen that Foley was actually spying for Shula.
Allen was extremely uptight and prickly dealing with the press Super Bowl week, and accused the press of ruining his team's preparation. Allen pushed the team so hard in practices that the players joked among themselves that they should have left Allen in Washington.
During practice the day before Super Bowl VII, the Dolphins' five foot seven, 150 pound kicker, Garo Yepremian, relaxed by throwing 30-yard passes to David Shula, Don Shula's son. During the pre-game warmups, he consistently kicked low line drives and couldn't figure out why.
Television and entertainment
This was the first Super Bowl to be televised live in the city in which it was being played. Despite unconditional blackout rules in the NFL that normally would have prohibited the live telecast from being shown locally, the NFL allowed the game to be telecast in the Los Angeles area on an experimental basis when all tickets for the game were sold. The league then changed its blackout rules the following season to allow any game sold out at least 72 hours in advance to be televised in the host market. No subsequent Super Bowl has ever been blacked out under this rule, as all have been sold out (owing to its status as the marquee event on the NFL schedule, meaning that tickets sell out pretty quickly).
The pregame show was a tribute to Apollo 17, the sixth and last mission to land on the Moon and the final one of Project Apollo. The show featured the Michigan Marching Band and the crew of Apollo 17 who exactly one month earlier had been the final humans to date to leave the Moon.
Later, the Little Angels of Chicago's Angels Church from Chicago performed the national anthem.
According to Buoniconti, the Dolphins' priority on defense was to stop Larry Brown and force Kilmer to pass. Buoniconti looked at Washington's offensive formation on each play and shifted the defense so it was strongest where he felt Brown would run. This strategy proved successful. Washington's offensive line also had trouble handling Dolphins' defensive tackle/nose tackle Manny Fernandez, who was very quick. "He beat their center Len Hauss like a drum," wrote Buoniconti. Miami's defenders had also drilled in maintaining precise pursuit angles on sweeps to prevent the cut-back running that Duane Thomas had used to destroy the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
With a game-time kickoff temperature of 84 degrees, this is the warmest Super Bowl to date. It came the year after the coldest game in Super Bowl VI which registered a temperature at kickoff of 39 degrees.
As they had in Super Bowl VI, Miami won the toss and elected to receive. Most of the first quarter was a defensive battle with each team punting on their first two possessions. Then Miami got the ball on their own 37-yard line with 2:55 left in the first quarter. Running back Jim Kiick started out the drive with two carries for eleven yards. Then quarterback Bob Griese completed an 18-yard pass to wide receiver Paul Warfield to reach the Washington 34-yard line. After two more running plays, on third and four Griese threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to receiver Howard Twilley (his only catch of the game). Twilley fooled Pat Fischer by faking a route to the inside, then broke to the outside and caught the ball at the five-yard line, dragging Fischer into the end zone. "Griese read us real good all day," said Fischer. Yepremian's extra point gave the Dolphins a 7–0 lead with one second remaining in the period. (Yepremian noticed that the kick was too low, just like his practice kicks).
On the third play of the Redskins' ensuing drive, Miami safety Jake Scott intercepted quarterback Billy Kilmer's pass down the middle intended for Taylor and returned it eight yards to the Washington 47-yard line. However a 15-yard illegal man downfield penalty on left guard Bob Kuechenberg nullified a 20-yard pass completion to tight end Marv Fleming on the first play after the turnover, and the Dolphins were forced to punt after three more plays.
After the Redskins were forced to punt again, Miami reached the 47-yard line with a 13-yard run by Larry Csonka and an 8-yard run by Kiick. But on the next play, Griese's 47-yard touchdown pass to Warfield was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty on receiver Marlin Briscoe (Briscoe's first, and only, play of the game). Then on third down, Redskins defensive tackle Diron Talbert sacked Griese for a 6-yard loss and the Dolphins had to punt.
The Redskins then advanced from their own 17-yard line to the Miami 48-yard line (their first incursion into Miami territory) with less than two minutes left in the half. But on third down and three yards to go, Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti intercepted Kilmer's pass to tight end Jerry Smith at the Miami 41-yard line and returned it 32 yards to the Washington 27-yard line. From there, Kiick and Csonka each ran once for three yards, and then Griese completed a 19-yard pass (his sixth completion in six attempts) to tight end Jim Mandich, who made a diving catch at the 2-yard line. Two plays later, Kiick scored on a 1-yard blast behind Little and Csonka with just 18 seconds left in the half, and Yepremian's extra point gave the Dolphins a lead of 14–0 before halftime (once again, Yepremian noticed the kick was too low).
Miami's defense dominated the Redskins in the first half, limiting Washington to 49 yards rushing, 23 yards passing, and four first downs.
The Redskins had more success moving the ball in the second half. They took the second half kickoff and advanced across midfield for only the second time in the game, driving from their own 30-yard line to Miami's 17-yard line in a seven-play drive that featured just two runs. On first down at Miami's 17-yard line, Kilmer threw to Charley Taylor, who was open at the 2-yard line, but Taylor stumbled right before the ball arrived and the ball glanced off his fingertips. After a second-down screen pass to Harraway fell incomplete, left tackle Manny Fernandez sacked Kilmer on third down for a loss of eight yards, and Washington's drive ended with no points after kicker Curt Knight's ensuing 32-yard field goal attempt was wide right. "That was an obvious turning point," said Allen. Later in the period, the Dolphins drove 78 yards to Washington's 5-yard line, featuring a 49-yard run by Csonka, the second-longest run in Super Bowl history at the time. However, Redskins defensive back Brig Owens intercepted a pass intended for Fleming in the end zone for a touchback.
Early in the fourth quarter, Washington threatened to score by mounting its most impressive drive of the game, driving 79 yards from its own 11 to Miami's 10-yard line in twelve plays. On second down at the Miami 10-yard line, Kilmer threw to tight end Jerry Smith in the end zone. Smith was wide open, but the ball hit the crossbar of the goalpost and fell incomplete. Then on third down, Scott intercepted Kilmer's pass to Taylor in the end zone and returned it 55 yards to the Redskins 48-yard line.
Miami moved the ball to the 34-yard line on their ensuing drive. Leading 14–0 on 4th down with 4 yards to go, Shula could have tried for a conversion, but thought "What a hell of a way to remember this game" if they could end a perfect 17–0 season with a 17–0 Super Bowl final score. He called on kicker Garo Yepremian to attempt a 42-yard field goal in what is now remembered as one of the most famous blunders in NFL lore: "Garo's Gaffe". As had been the case all day, Yepremian's kick was too low, and it was blocked by Washington defensive tackle Bill Brundige. The ball bounced to Yepremian's right and he reached it before holder Earl Morrall. But instead of falling on the ball, Yepremian picked it up and, with Brundige bearing down on him, made a frantic attempt to pass the ball to Csonka, who blocked on field goals. Unfortunately for Miami, the ball slipped out of his hands and went straight up in the air. Yepremian attempted to bat the ball out of bounds, but instead batted it back up into the air, and it went right into the arms of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass, who returned the fumble 49 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14–7 with 2:07 left in the game.
To the surprise of some, the Redskins did not try an onside kick, but instead kicked deep. The Redskins were forced to use up all of their timeouts on the Dolphins' ensuing five-play possession, but forced Miami to punt (nearly blocking the punt) from its own 36-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the game, giving themselves a chance to drive for the tying touchdown. However, Miami's defense forced two incompletions and a 4-yard loss on a swing pass, and then defensive end Vern Den Herder's 9-yard sack on fourth down as time expired in the game.
Griese finished the game having completed 8 out of 11 pass completions for 88 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. Csonka was the game's leading rusher with 15 carries for 112 yards. Kiick had 38 rushing yards, two receptions for six yards, and a touchdown. Morris had 34 rushing yards. Manny Fernandez had 11 solo tackles and six assists. Kilmer completed six more passes then Griese, but finished the game with just 16 more total passing yards and was intercepted three times. Said Kilmer, "I wasn't sharp at all. Good as their defense is, I still should have thrown better." Washington's Larry Brown rushed for 72 yards on 22 carries and also had five receptions for 26 yards. Redskins receiver Roy Jefferson was the top receiver of the game, with five catches for 50 yards. Washington amassed almost as many total yards (228) as Miami (253), and actually more first downs (16 to Miami's 12).
Source:The NFL's Official Encyclopedic History of Professional Football, (1973), p. 153, Macmillan Publishing Co. New York, NY, LCCN 73-3862
|Miami Dolphins||Washington Redskins|
|First downs rushing||7||9|
|First downs passing||5||7|
|First downs penalty||0||0|
|Net yards rushing||184||141|
|Net yards passing||69||87|
|Paul Warfield #42||WR||Charley Taylor #42|
|Wayne Moore #79||LT||Terry Hermeling #75|
|Bob Kuechenberg #67||LG||Paul Laaveg #73|
|Jim Langer #62||C||Len Hauss #56|
|Larry Little #66||RG||John Wilbur #60|
|Norm Evans #73||RT||Walt Rock #76|
|Marv Fleming #80||TE||Jerry Smith #87|
|Howard Twilley #81||WR||Roy Jefferson #80|
|Bob Griese #12||QB||Billy Kilmer #17|
|Larry Csonka #39||FB||Charley Harraway #31|
|Jim Kiick #21||RB||Larry Brown #43|
|Vern Den Herder #83||LE||Ron McDole #79|
|Manny Fernandez #75||LDT||Bill Brundige #77|
|Bob Heinz #72||RDT||Diron Talbert #72|
|Bill Stanfill #84||RE||Verlon Biggs #89|
|Doug Swift #59||LOLB||Jack Pardee #32|
|Nick Buoniconti #85||MLB||Myron Pottios #66|
|Mike Kolen #57||ROLB||Chris Hanburger #55|
|Lloyd Mumphord #26||LCB||Pat Fischer #37|
|Curtis Johnson #45||RCB||Mike Bass #41|
|Dick Anderson #40||SS||Brig Owens #23|
|Jake Scott #13||FS||Roosevelt Taylor #22|
- Referee: Tom Bell (#7)
- Umpire: Lou Palazzi (#51)
- Head Linesman: Tony Veteri (#36)
- Line Judge: Bruce Alford (#24)
- Field Judge: Tony Skover (#50)
- Back Judge: Tom Kelleher (#25)
Note: A seven-official system was not used until 1978
Super Bowl postgame news
As Shula was being carried off the field after the end of the game, a kid who shook his hand stripped off his watch. Shula got down, chased after the kid, and retrieved his watch.
Manny Fernandez was a strong contender for MVP. Wrote Nick Buoniconti, "It was the game of his life–in fact, it was the most dominant game by a defensive lineman in the history of the game, and he would never be given much credit for it. They should have given out two game balls and made Manny Fernandez the co-MVP with Jake Scott." Larry Csonka also said he thought Fernandez should have been the MVP. The MVP was selected by Dick Schaap, the editor of SPORT magazine. Schaap admitted later that he had been out late the previous night, struggled to watch the defense-dominated game, and was not aware that Fernandez had 17 tackles.
When Garo Yepremian went back to the Dolphins' sideline after his botched field goal attempt, Nick Buoniconti told him that if they lost he would "Hang you up by one of your ties." Yepremian was so traumatized by his botched field goal attempt that he had to be helped from the post-game party by his brother because of a stress-induced stabbing pain down his right side. Depressed, he spent two weeks in seclusion until he was cheered up by a letter, apparently from Shula, praising him for his contributions to the team and urging him to ignore criticism. Yepremian kept the letter and mentioned it to Shula in 2000, but Shula had no knowledge of it. They concluded the letter was actually written by Shula's wife Dorothy, who died from breast cancer in 1991. She had signed her husband's name to it. Nevertheless, "Garo's Gaffe" made Yepremian famous and led to a lucrative windfall of speaking engagements and endorsements. "It's been a blessing," says Yepremian.
The same teams met 10 years later in Super Bowl XVII, which was also played in the Los Angeles area, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Redskins won that game, 27–17. Two starters from Miami's undefeated team, guard Bob Kuechenberg and defensive end Vern Den Herder, were still active during the strike-shortened 1982 season. The Redskins had no players remaining from Super Bowl VII on their Super Bowl XVII roster. The last member of the 1972 Redskins still active with the franchise, offensive tackle Terry Hermeling, retired after the 1980 season.
Redskins linebacker and defensive captain Jack Pardee retired immediately following this game, ending a 16-year career. He coached the Chicago Bears for three seasons (1975–77) before succeeding Allen as Redskins coach in 1978. Pardee was fired following a 6–10 campaign in 1980 and was replaced by Joe Gibbs, who led the Redskins to three Super Bowl championships (XVII, XXII, XXVI) and 171 victories to earn induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pardee later coached the Houston Oilers for four and a half seasons (1990–94).
The Miami Dolphins became the second team to win the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year. To date, they are the last team to do so.
- The previous Super Bowl with the longest period for being shut out was in 1969, where the Jets held the Colts scoreless until 3:19 left in the game. Don Shula was head coach on the losing side that time, so he held the record for the longest period to be held under a shut out as well as the longest period to hold a shut out.
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- Script error. "[T]he Dolphins played one of the easiest schedules in modern NFL history – the opposition had a combined winning percentage under .400"
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- Coach Shula tried to cap off 17–0 season with a 17–0 final score
- Nick Buoniconti, "Super Bowl VII," Super Bowl: The Game of Their Lives, Danny Peary, editor. Macmillan, 1997. ISBN 0-02-860841-0
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! The Untold Story of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, p239. Dolphins/Curtis Publishing, 2002 ISBN 0-9702677-1-1
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p248.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p239.
- Shelby Strother, "The Perfect Season," NFL Top 40. Viking, 1988. ISBN 0-670-82490-9
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p247.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p264.
- NFL History by Decade
- Shelby Strother, "Playing to Perfection," The Super Bowl: Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America's Greatest Game. Simon and Schuster, 1990 ISBN 0-671-72798-2
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, p256.
- Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, with Dave Anderson, Always on the Run, p.218. Random House, 1973 OCLC 632348
- Washington Post article
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! p.268.
- Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, with Dave Anderson, Always on the Run, p.220.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect!, pp.260–261.
- Dave Hyde, Still Perfect! p.283.
The game was played on the same day as the live Elvis Presley broadcast of "Aloha from Hawaii", causing the concert air date to be postponed until April 1973.
- Super Bowl official website
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- http://www.pro-football-reference.com – Large online database of NFL data and statistics
- Super Bowl play-by-plays from USA Today (Last accessed September 28, 2005)
- All-Time Super Bowl Odds from The Sports Network (Last accessed October 16, 2005)
- Past Super Bowl Matchups – Winners – Odds From Predict 'Em.com, Last Accessed May 4, 2012.