It’s week 13, and the champagne is still on ice. As the 12-0 Indianapolis Colts roll out victory after victory, the 1972 iami Dolphins can do little except wait to see if their historic feat will withstand yet another worthy challenge.

The 1972 Dolphins accomplished a football achievement that was previously thought impossible: the perfect season. They ran through the regular season – literally ran, behind the legs of Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick – and battled through the playoffs before a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins forever ensured their accomplishments would be recorded in the annals of NFL history.

After the Dolphins’ season ended in triumph, the team made a pact. They realized their perfect season was truly an incredible accomplishment, and vowed to celebrate it by putting a bottle of champagne on ice each season. The bottle would only be opened when the final perfect NFL team had suffered its first defeat. This gesture is not so much gloating in other teams’ failures, as much as a commemoration of the incredible effort it took for the Dolphins to go 17-0.

Though in most seasons champagne is flowing by week 7 or 8, over time a few intrepid franchises have forced Miami to wait it out a little longer than they would have liked. The first serious challenge was levied by the 1985 Bears. Chicago ran its record up to 12-0 before suffering a loss to a Miami Dolphins’ team led by a young Dan Marino. The Dolphins, already a strong team, were buoyed by the effects of many members of the 1972 squad prowling the sidelines and urging their team to beat the Bears and uphold their place in history. In 1990, both the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants started 10-0 before each succumbed to the pressure of the chase in its next game. Recently, the 1998 Denver Broncos began a magical season 13-0 before a determined New York Giants team shattered their hopes the following week.

When watching this season’s Colts, however, one can’t help but get the feeling that they are the worthiest challenger yet. Their offense, easily the NFL’s most sophisticated, has evolved to the point where no defense can completely shut it down. If you focus on Peyton Manning and his passing game, you can no longer just double cover Marvin Harrison. Somehow, you also have to account for Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark dashing across the middle of the field. An excellent secondary might be able to hold them in check, but the team better have a strong front seven to put a stop to a running game featuring Edgerrin James, one of the league’s most incredible playmakers, and his talented offensive line.

Even if a defense is somehow able to suppress the Colts’ offense, Indianapolis’ defense is more than capable of picking up the slack. The Colts’ defense, a mixture of “name” stars such as Dwight Freeney and Corey Simon, and unheralded, overachieving playmakers like Gary Brackett and Cato June, has coalesced under Tony Dungy into one of the NFL’s top units.

The New England Patriots are widely considered to have put together one of the NFL’s all-time greatest runs over the past few seasons, but even they were not as completely dominant as the Colts have been this season. The Patriots were known for their moxie and resilience, because they were always the team able to make the few big plays down the stretch that enabled them to salt away another victory. For the Colts, though, the last few minutes of games are rarely relevant. Supposed serious challengers to their dominance, such as the Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, were all able to hang with Indianapolis early, but the Colts eventually managed to beat these three top teams by a combined score of 111-65. Even the 1972 Dolphins were not steamrolling teams this convincingly.

Of course, with games against strong teams such as the San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks still remaining, there is always the chance that the pressure of perfection could catch up with the Colts. Providing that Head Coach Tony Dungy decides not to rest his starters too much down the stretch, it seems increasingly likely that no team will be able to stand in the way of a perfect season.

As a football fan, I’m excited to watch the Colts each Sunday, because I have no doubt that I’m seeing some of the NFL’s all-time greatest players reinvent the game with a never before seen dominance. As a Dolphins fan, though, I’m more conflicted, because this legacy of perfection really is something that we Dolphins faithful hold close to our hearts. Yet the Colts’ victories, though incredible in their own right, can never take away from the glory of the 1972 Dolphins. It isn’t as if another perfect season could somehow blemish the Dolphins’ record.

If the previously unthinkable happens, and come Feb. 5 we’re talking about the 19-0 Colts, I propose that Don Shula, Bob Griese and all the members of the 1972 team pack up their champagne and give Indianapolis a call. The teams should get together to celebrate their achievement as members of a club that put together entire seasons when nobody – nobody – could defeat them.

And if another team gets to Indianapolis before Shula, then the champagne will only taste a little colder and sweeter.

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