CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins may be able to uncork the champagne a little earlier this year with just one unbeaten team remaining after Week Four of what has been an unpredictable NFL season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) and Chicago Bears (3-1) were culled from the ranks of undefeated team on Sunday, leaving the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0), who sat out Week Four with a bye, as the last team standing with an unblemished record.
The results will no doubt have alumni of the ‘72 Dolphins putting the bubbly on ice, which they traditionally pop each year after the NFL’s last unbeaten falls and leaves their perfect season intact.
In recent years, the magical perfect season has been part of the NFL discussion with the ‘72 Dolphins being forced to wait until closer to Christmas before they could be sure their mark was safe.
But the toast could come earlier this year as the Chiefs will take their unbeaten record to Indianapolis on Sunday for a game against a Colts team that knows a little something about strong starts.
Last season, Indianapolis opened with 14 straight wins and the New Orleans Saints went 13-0 before their first loss.
The Colts also set the pace in 2006, charging out of the gate 9-0 while the Tennessee Titans were 10-0 in 2008.
In 2007, the New England Patriots had a 16-0 regular season before seeing their perfect campaign disappear with a loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
A loss by the Chiefs on Sunday would see no team reach their fourth game without at least one defeat in what has been a topsy-turvy but compelling season.
The Colts, tipped to return to the Super Bowl this year, slipped to 2-2 after losing 31-28 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They now have the same record as the St. Louis Rams, winners of just one game last season.
The Saints’ 46-year-old John Carney made three field goals as New Orleans beat the winless Carolina Panthers 16-14.
St. Louis rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who was just one-year-old when Carney kicked his first NFL field goal, threw a pair of touchdown passes as the surprising Rams hammered the Seattle Seahawks 20-3 to notch back-to-back wins for the first time in two seasons.
Pittsburgh suffered their first loss falling 17-14 to AFC North rivals the Baltimore Ravens but head into a bye week with a 3-1 record and Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set to return after sitting out a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct policy.
In a year where no team has stepped forward to put stamp on the season, Pittsburgh may be the team to watch.
The Steelers were within seconds of maintaining their perfect start to the season until Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh that gave Baltimore the victory.
”We could have easily been 4-0,“ declared Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. ”It just talks to the quality of players that we have on our team, the togetherness that we have. We came together.
The Bears, meanwhile, were reeling after a 17-3 loss to the Giants that ended with third string quarterback Caleb Hanie calling plays when starter Jay Cutler and backup Todd Collins were flattened under a ferocious New York pass rush.
While the Chiefs are the lone team still chasing perfection there are four still seeking their first wins, the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills.
Editing by Frank Pingue