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'72 Redskins haven't lost their team spirit
By Jeff Seidel
NFL Insider

(Editor's Note: The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have one of the NFL's most heated rivalries, and it was coach George Allen's arrival in the nation's capital in 1971 that lit the fuse. As the longtime adversaries prepare to meet on Thanksgiving Day, some former Redskins share their memories of the 1972 season, when an NFC title-game win over Dallas earned them a date against the undefeated Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.)

(Nov. 26, 2002) -- The 1972 Washington Redskins achieved success because they truly were a team. They worked hard, played hard, and were as close off the field as they were on it.

Even today, 30 years after the Miami Dolphins beat them in Super Bowl VII to wrap up the NFL's lone perfect season, there's no "I" in this team.

Coach George Allen created the all-for-one atmosphere, believing that a team played better if the players stayed together. The team's motto of "40 for 60" -- 40 players for 60 minutes -- reflected that philosophy, and the players still talk about it with emotion three decades later.

1972 Redskins video
1972 Redskins

Take a look back at the 1972 Washington Redskins.
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"George made us feel like we were all in a family," says defensive back Brig Owens, who played for the Redskins from 1966-1977. "He made us realize that we were one big team. We're still all pretty close today. Whenever we see each other, we're glad to see each other."

Allen arrived in Washington in 1971 and brought in a bunch of veterans, including six from his former team, the then-Los Angeles Rams. There were so many older players that the Redskins soon were dubbed The Over-The-Hill Gang, but something about the group just clicked.

"The 1972 team was really a team," quarterback Sonny Jurgensen says. "In the team concept, we did everything together. [We] ate together, partied together; we were very close. It was probably the closest team I've ever been on."

The players strongly believe that, despite all the talent, the team's closeness pushed it to a higher level.

Allen experienced immediate success in 1971 as the Redskins made the playoffs as a wild-card team. Reaching the postseason so quickly after years of frustration planted some ideas in the players' heads.

"We realized that we had the team, and if you do what you're supposed to do, you'll win," Owens says. "It was a complete team."

The Redskins reported to training camp the following summer with one goal in mind. Walking off the field after a preseason game against Miami, some players told the Dolphins that they would meet again in the Super Bowl.

"The togetherness we had came from the fact that we saw that by being together and being close, we could win," tight end Mack Alston says. "George taught us that. I think we would have done anything he said because we were winning games."

George Allen taught his players to play as a team, which lead them to a Super Bowl. 
George Allen taught his players to play as a team, which lead them to a Super Bowl.  

As the season rolled on, the wins kept coming. Running back Larry Brown led the NFC in rushing with 1,216 yards and helped the Redskins control the ball. When Jurgensen went down with a torn Achilles' tendon, Billy Kilmer stepped in and the offense didn't miss a beat.

The defense was stingy from start to finish as the Redskins (11-3) captured the NFC East by one game over Dallas. A five-man defensive line stymied Green Bay's powerful running game in a 16-3 first-round playoff victory. The Redskins then shut down Roger Staubach and the Super Bowl-champion Cowboys for a 26-3 victory in the NFC title game on New Year's Eve in Washington.

That set up a Super Bowl meeting with Miami. The Dolphins had gone 14-0 during the regular season, outscoring opponents 385-171, but needed to come from behind to win their two playoff games over Cleveland (20-14) and Pittsburgh (21-17).

The Super Bowl wasn't as close, as the Dolphins made a pair of first-half touchdowns stand up for a 14-7 win in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Kilmer was intercepted three times, twice by game MVP Jake Scott, and Washington's only score came with a little more than two minutes remaining when Mike Bass caught Miami kicker Garo Yepremian's aborted pass attempt after a blocked field goal and ran 49 yards for a touchdown.

Three decades later, though, the Redskins still concede nothing.

"We were a better team, but they beat us that day," Owens says.

As the Dolphins celebrate the 30-year anniversary of their perfect season, the 1972 Redskins might be a footnote in NFL history, but they're a group that remembers its accomplishments and still has strong bonds. Thirty former Redskins were on hand in Canton, Ohio, this summer when Allen, who died in 1990, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"It was just a unique group of men, and everything just fit together very well," linebacker Chris Hanburger says. "I think what made it work was our personalities were so different, and yet everyone was so happy at what the other guys could accomplish. ... Everybody just worked so well together."

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