Super Bowl VIII was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Minnesota Vikings and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Miami Dolphins to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1973 season. The Dolphins defeated the Vikings by the score of 24–7 to win their second consecutive Super Bowl….the first team to do so since the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowls I and I….and the first AFC team to do so.
The game was played on January 13, 1974 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas….which was the first time the Super Bowl site was not that of an NFL franchise….plus this was the first Super Bowl not to be held in either the Los Angeles, Miami or New Orleans areas. It was also the last Super Bowl, and penultimate game overall (the 1974 Pro Bowl in Kansas City was the last) to feature goal posts at the front of the end zone.
This was the Dolphins’ third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. They posted a 12–2 record during the regular season….then defeated the Cincinnati Bengals….and the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs…..while the Vikings were making their second Super Bowl appearance after also finishing the regular season with a 12–2 record….and posting postseason victories over the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.
Super Bowl VIII was largely dominated by the Dolphins….who scored 24 unanswered points during the first three quarters….which included two touchdowns on their first two drives….as Minnesota’s best chance to threaten Miami occurred with less than a minute left in the first half…..but Vikings running back Oscar Reed fumbled the ball away at the Dolphins’ 6-yard line…..and his team was unable to overcome Miami’s lead in the second half. The Dolphins’ Larry Csonka became the first running back to be named Super Bowl MVP….with both his 145 rushing yards and his 33 carries were Super Bowl records.
This was the first Super Bowl in which a former AFL franchise was the favorite. The 1970 AFC champion Baltimore Colts had been the favorite in Super Bowl V….but they were an original NFL franchise prior the 1970 merger. This was also the first Super Bowl played in a stadium that was not the current home to an NFL or AFL team, as no team had called Rice Stadium home since the Houston Oilers moved into the Astrodome in 1968.
The Vikings complained about their practice facilities at Houston’s Delmar High School, a 20-minute bus ride from their hotel. They said the locker room was cramped, uncarpeted, had no lockers and that most of the shower heads didn’t work. The practice field had no blocking sleds. “I don’t think our players have seen anything like this since junior high school”, said Vikings head coach Bud Grant. The Dolphins, meanwhile, trained at the Oilers’ facility.
On television before the game, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath said, “If Miami gets the kickoff and scores on the opening drive, the game is over.”….as indeed, the Dolphins became the first team to score a touchdown after receiving the game’s opening kickoff. Famed “Gonzo” writer Hunter S. Thompson covered the game for Rolling Stone magazine, and his exploits in Houston are legendary.
This was the only Super Bowl in which the game ball had stripes….for until the late 1970’s, the NFL permitted striped footballs for night games, indoor games and other special situations. Head linesman Leo Miles was the first African-American to officiate in a Super Bowl.