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Perfect-season Dolphins root from afar against unbeaten Bears


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Perfect-season Dolphins root from afar against unbeaten Bears


By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer

November 2, 2006


MIAMI (AP) -- Scattered around the country, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese and the rest of the 1972 Miami Dolphins will be rooting for their legacy and former team Sunday against the unbeaten Chicago Bears.


It'll be a little different than in December 1985, when a dozen former players from the 17-0 team in '72 -- including Hall of Famers Csonka and Griese -- gathered along the Orange Bowl sideline to watch Miami play another mighty Chicago team.


The presence of the perfect-season Dolphins inspired a team led by Dan Marino to beat the previously undefeated Bears, who went on to win the Super Bowl and finish 18-1.


"Those Dolphins were a little stronger team than the team we have today," Csonka said from his home in Ohio.


Miami's 1985 team was the defending AFC champion and battling for first place in the AFC East, while the 2006 Dolphins are 1-6 and two-touchdown underdogs at Chicago (7-0).


"I'm not sure any of the 17-0 Dolphins are going to have an impact Sunday," said '72 center Jim Langer, a Hall of Famer who lives in Minnesota.


With the only perfect season in NFL history, the '72 Dolphins root each year to preserve their unique status.


"We're a bunch of old men," said Csonka, 59. "We can't play anymore. The only way we can compete is with the word `perfect.' So we root to remain the only team that went undefeated and untied."


While the 1972 Dolphins will be cheering for Miami, they're hardly fans of the current team.


"It saddens me," Csonka said. "It's hard to deal with when you have great expectations."


"Totally disappointing in every aspect," Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti said. "They're not living up to their tradition. I saw one game, and I shut it off after a while because it was disgusting."


"The Bears are 7-0?" '72 guard Bob Kuechenberg said. "They'll be 8-0."


Perfect-season players are divided on the culprits for the Dolphins' woes.


Kuechenberg faults Nick Saban and said Miami's second-year coach should be fired for personnel moves that have failed to pan out, most notably the acquisition of hobbled quarterback Daunte Culpepper.


Buoniconti also took a jab at Saban, noting that the team has struggled since its coach turned down an invitation to a July dinner with President Bush that Buoniconti and two other '72 Dolphins attended.


"I guess it's what happens when you don't go to dinner with the president," Buoniconti said.


Rather than blaming the coach, Csonka faults the players for a season gone sour. Langer said the Dolphins have a good coach but lack an identity. Griese said poor quarterback play is at the heart of the trouble.


Despite the disenchantment, the '72 Dolphins will be rooting for their old team -- even Griese, whose son Brian is the backup quarterback for the Bears.


"I hope the Bears win the Super Bowl and lose one game along the way," Griese said.


That's what happened in 1985. The Bears came to Miami 12-0, touted as perhaps the best defensive team ever and a threat to surpass the '72 Dolphins' 17-0 record.


Miami coach Don Shula summoned his perfect-season players to the Monday night showdown. Drawing motivation from their celebrity rooting section, the Dolphins scored 31 points in the first half and won 38-24.


"That's Shula," Buoniconti said. "He knows what buttons to push. Don is a very emotional guy. He understood what it would mean to the team if he brought in all those guys."


Csonka and Kuechenberg took part in the locker-room celebration.


"I'll never forget the postgame," Kuechenberg said. "It was very emotional. Coach Shula's voice choked, and he gave a tearful thanks to the boys of '72."


Sunday will be only the second time Miami has faced a team 7-0 or better, and again the Bears are the opponent. But Saban said the victory in 1985 won't serve as motivation to his players.


"Some of these guys, how old were they in 1985?" Saban said. "You talk about Babe Ruth to these guys, and they don't even know who that is. You have to stay current."


The current standings includes two perfect teams: Chicago and the Indianapolis Colts (7-0), who face a showdown Sunday night at New England (6-1). That means if Saban's struggling team can pull off an upset, there might be no unbeaten teams left next week.


Around the country, the '72 Dolphins would celebrate.


"When the last undefeated team does lose, all of us, even if we're alone, hoist one to the heavens in thanks," Kuechenberg said. "Perfection is immortal. Imperfection is mortal. We immortals don't want company."

Edited by BONES
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