AP Photo/appeared in Sarasota Herald-Tribune
For the first time in four years, the Miami Dolphins are in the playoff hunt. For the first time ever, the Dolphins clinched a playoff spot on this day 50 years ago.
After losing seasons in each of the franchise’s first four years, the Dolphins broke through in 1970 under first-year head coach Don Shula. Miami shored up a playoff berth with a 45-7 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
Setting the Stage
To make the playoffs, the Dolphins needed a win, tie or Kansas City Chiefs’ loss as they arrived at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 20, 1970. After a 4-4 start, Miami arrived as winners of five straight.
The Buffalo Bills were all that stood in the way of Miami and the postseason. Buffalo didn’t provide much resistance as the Dolphins cruised to a 45-7 victory.
It didn’t take long for the hometown fans to know that it would be their team’s day. The Dolphins raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and extended that to 31-0 by halftime.
Jim Kiick scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first half while Larry Csonka added another. Quarterback Bob Griese finished 7-for-10 passing with 143 yards and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Howard Twilley in the first quarter.
Kiick’s third touchdown of the day extended the lead to 38-0 in the third quarter. With Griese done for the day, backup quarterback John Stofa got in on the fun. Stofa went just 1-for-7 passing, but the one was a 36-yard scoring connection to Stan Mitchell.
Buffalo did ultimately break up the shutout. Willie Grate got the Bills on the board with a 30-yard touchdown reception from quarterback James Harris.
Miami finished with 325 yards of offense to 197 for Buffalo. The Dolphins forced four turnovers in the victory. Dick Anderson, Dean Brown and Lloyd Mumphord all came away with interceptions in the win.
Csonka paced the Miami ground attack with 89 yards rushing on 14 carries. He was also the Dolphins’ leading receiver with a 54-yard reception.
The Chiefs would lose to the Oakland Raiders later in the day, but the playoff spot had already been clinched. Miami would ultimately lose to Oakland in its first postseason game, 21-14.
The Dolphins would go on to reach the Super Bowl in each of the next three seasons, winning two. Their first-ever postseason appearance however, was clinched on this day a half-century ago.