The Mack Herron Story: NFL Star

Early TD Convinced Herron
Dolphins Could be Hooked

By:  Pete Farley

FOXBORO – He held an ice pack against his left eye that was bruised and swollen.  He admitted he expected to ache in a few other places when he climbed out of bed this morning.  Mack Herron wasn’t complaining, though, as he pulled off his uniform in the patriots’ dressing room shortly after 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  He’d just helped lead the pats to one of the biggest upsets in their 15-year history – a stunning 34-24 win over the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins before a disbelieving crowd of 55,006 at Schaefer Stadium.  He’d run 14 yards for the Patriots’ first touchdown, caught two passes for an additional 24 yards and outrushed two fair country backs named Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick by a wide margin. 

“My eye hurts, and I’m a little beat physically,” the Patriots’ mini-sized running back admitted.  “When you win a game as big as this one, though, you feel good all over no matter how much you hurt.”  Helping Herron forget his aches and pains was the knowledge that the touchdown he’d scored in the first five minutes of play had put the Pats in the driver’s seat against a tam that had overwhelmed the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl last January.  “Miami’s a tough team defensively,” Herron said.  “When we scored the first time we got the football, I figured we had a heck of a shot at beating them.”  So, too, obviously, did a few other people wearing red jerseys, white helmets and the stigma of being chronic losers. 

Jim Plunkett, who has had his nose rubbed into the dirt by the Dolphins a few times in the past, settled one or two old scores by completing 14 of 24 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown.  Sam Cunningham, who went through high school and college reading of the exploits of Csonka and Kiick, overshadowed both of the Dolphins’ big stars by rushing for 187 yards and scoring the touchdown that gave the Patriots a whopping 31-10 lead in the third period.  “You’ve got to give the Patriots offense credit,” a visibly disappointed Don Shula said in Miami dressing room after the game.  “Plunkett made it go, Herron got a lot of yardage and Cunningham came up with some key runs.”  Of his own team’s inability to move the football more efficiently than it did, Shula said, “They’re (the Patriots) a young team, but they didn’t make many mistakes.  They beat us in the line, and we had trouble blocking against their 5-4 defense.” 

IN THE HUDDLE:  Herron broke two tackles in scoring the touchdown that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead after four minutes and 40 seconds of play in the first period… Julius Adams, John Tanner, Ray Hamilton, Bob Geddes and rookie San Hunt were stickouts on defense for the Pats..The effectiveness of the Patriots’ defense can best be gauged by the fact that Csonka gained only 62 yards rushing and Kiick was limited to a mere 10…Joe Wilson, the one-time Holy Cross star who was picked up off the waiver wire by the pats late last week, was dressed and in uniform…The 28-yard run Herron reeled off in the second period was the longest of his NFL career. 


Mack signing autographs

In Plunkett’s eyes, the key to the Patriot’s win was the 175 yards Herron and Cunningham picked up on the ground between them.  “With Herron and Cunningham running like that,” Plunkett said, “I had the option to do a lot of things.  As good as they are, it was a little too much for Miami to cope with.”  That was obvious when, after the Dolphins tied the score, 7-7, on a one-yard touchdown run by Csonka in the second period, the Patriots came back to put 17 points on scoreboard before halftime.  Helping stake the pats to the 24-10 lead they took into the dressing room at the half were a 13-yard touchdown pass from Plunkett to Reggie Rucker, a 21-yard field goal by John Smith and a five-yard touchdown run by Plunkett on a broken play. 

“Herron ran extremely well,” ‘Chuck’ Fairbanks, the Patriots’ coach, said.  “We also had good pursuit and good hitting on defense.”  “Keeping out mistakes and our penalties to a minimum was the big factor, though,” Fairbanks said.  “By doing that, we never let Miami get untracked.” 

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