SIOUX CITY -- Our friend in Sioux Center, Vern Den Herder, doesn't really lose sleep over these things as much as some of his former Miami Dolphins teammates.

Even after starting all 17 games for the only team in NFL history to complete an undefeated season, the Dolphins of 1972, the former defensive end out of Central College leaves the fretting to others every time another team gets deep into the schedule without suffering a loss.

And, you can bet the worry warts in the bunch are starting to get a little edgy with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers at 13-0 on the year and looking rather unbeatable.

After thrashing a pretty fair Oakland Raiders squad 46-16 on Sunday, remaining regular season games with the Chiefs, Bears and Lions don't seem likely to derail Coach Mike McCarthy's team.

Then, with a winning streak that would grow to 22, one shy of the record 23 in row by Indianapolis in 2008-09, they'll head into postseason play, needing three more wins to retain their league title.

Just 8-6 before six consecutive victories catapulted them to their fourth Super Bowl triumph (and 13th world title), the Packers certainly haven't slowed down this fall.

They have had four wins by margins of eight points or less, including a three-pointer over the Giants last week (38-35). Also, the 5,129 total yards they've surrendered, rank them 31st out of 32 teams for total defense.

So, there are chinks in the armor, just as there have been for several other teams that have challenged the '72 Dolphins' unblemished record. Indeed, that third season in Miami for Don Shula and second for Den Herder saw six games decided by seven points or less.

On its way to "perfection,'' Miami won its third game 16-14 over the Vikings, its sixth contest 24-23 over the Bills and its 10th start 28-24 over the Jets. Then, following a 14-game regular season, the Dolphins' postseason trail included a 20-14 verdict over the Browns, a 21-17 margin over the Steelers and a 14-7 decision over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris gave the Dolphins a sensational stable of running backs. But if you're thinking the complementary talents of quarterback Bob Griese made this team quite an offensive juggernaut, you've forgotten, as did I, a very fascinating fact about this one and only undefeated squad.

Yes, Griese quarterbacked Miami to its Super Bowl triumph over Washington. And, yes, this was supposed to be the former Purdue star's sixth season as the Dolphins' No. 1 signal-caller.

However, Griese sustained leg and ankle fractures in a Week 5 win over the Chargers and didn't return to action until the second half of Miami's AFC Championship Game against the Steelers. In between, the starter for 11 consecutive games was 38-year-old Earl Morrall, who played 21 NFL seasons with six different teams after the 49ers grabbed him out of Michigan State with the second pick in the 1956 draft.

Obviously, the Dolphins were a little better equipped to withstand the loss of their starting quarterback than, say, the 2011 Chicago Bears.


I don't know if he's enjoying the Packers' success or even cheers for the Green and Gold, but former Bishop Heelan basketball star Brennan Cougill is just down the road at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, already well into his first season with the Phoenix.

Playing in the 9,729-seat Resch Center, located just across the street from Lambeau Field, the 6-9 260-pound junior transfer from Kirkwood Community College is third in minutes played (22.6 per game) and fourth in scoring (6.9) after his first 10 games with UW-Green Bay.

Even though he has started just once, the all-time metro scoring leader has a team-leading 18 assists and ranks second in rebounds with an even 6.0 per contest. The former University of Iowa forward has connected on six of 13 attempts from three-point range.

Alec Brown, a 7-1 sophomore from Winona, Minn., leads the team in scoring (14.2), rebounding (7.8) and blocked shots (28) after rejecting a school-record 67 shots as a freshman last winter. Brown led a 29-2 Winona team to a third-place Class AAA finish in Minnesota's four-class state tournament two years ago.

Cougill, of course, led Heelan to its first of what have now been three consecutive Class 3A state titles in Iowa, which also crowns four boys basketball champs.


Much as so many football teams covet those lanky receivers who can outreach smaller defenders, it's interesting to note that New England's Wes Welker, all 5-9 and 190 pounds of him, will very likely lead the NFL in receptions for the third time in five seasons.

As of Sunday, when he hauled in his league-leading 100th catch of the campaign, the Oklahoma City native and former Texas Tech star has reached triple-digits in receptions four times in five seasons. He missed 100 only last season when he ranked sixth in the league with 86 catches.

That followed a 2009 season in which Welker hauled in 123 passes, tying for the second highest single-season total in league history.

Herman Moore also had 123 receptions for the 1995 Detroit Lions, netting 1,686 yards while teammate Barry Sanders was rolling up 1,500 yards on the ground. Sanders, of course, is still third on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 15,269 yards even though he called it quits after just 10 seasons.

Lest we forget, those 123-catch seasons by Welker and Moore pale alongside the NFL record: Marvin Harrison's whopping 143 grabs at age 30 for the 2002 Indianapolis Colts.


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