The Miami Dolphins' 5 Most Memorable Week 1 Games in History
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It's Ryan Tannehill's NFL start, and he's the first Dolphins rookie quarterback to start in Week 1 since Bob Griese all the way back in 1967 (the team's second year of existence).
Before we look forward to a season that could be one of the most challenging in Miami Dolphins history, we're going to look back a bit today.
What were the most memorable Week 1 games in Dolphins history? We'll be looking at these games based on how important these games would be in the long term, what happened in these games that still resonates, and partly, just how entertaining these games were.
It was a tough decision to choose only five out of the 46 opening days in Miami Dolphins history, but here are some of the most memorable.
The First Game (Oakland 23, Miami 14. September 2nd, 1966)
The Dolphins got off to an extremely rocky beginning. They were an expansion team in the still-fledgling-at-the-time AFL, owned not only by the now legendary Joe Robbie, but also by television producer and star Danny Thomas. (See? Stephen Ross isn't even the first Dolphins owner to bring in the celebrities.)
Another television star that made an appearance at the Orange Bowl on that Friday night was Flipper, at the time the official mascot of the Dolphins (and inspiration for Snowflake, the Dolphins kidnapped by *spoiler alert* Ray Finkle/Lois Einhorn in the Jim Carrey comedy classic Ace Ventura: Pet Detective).
In the end, Miami would lose its first game 23-14 to the Oakland Raiders, but the very beginning of the game saw a highlight: Joe Auer would return the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
The First Step of Perfection (Miami 20, Kansas City 10. September 17, 1972)
Miami vs. Kansas City looked like an intriguing match-up on paper for Week 1 of the 1972 season due to both teams' participation in the "Longest Game Ever Played" during the previous year's AFC Divisional Playoffs.
However Miami would jump out to a 17-0 lead and wouldn't look back. I'm not just talking about in the game, they wouldn't look back the rest of the season, as Miami would go 17-0.
Miami would win by pounding the Chiefs on the ground. Larry Csonka would carry the ball 21 times for 118 yards and a touchdown, while Mercury Morris would rush for 67 yards on 14 carries. Jim Kiick would run for 11 yards of his own during a game where the Dolphins out-rushed the Chiefs 196-134.
Overall Kansas City would out-gain Miami in total yards 332-296, but turnovers (Kansas City had a total of four) and penalties (nine that in total went for 95 yards) would doom the Chiefs.
Now I couldn't find a picture or video of this particular game, but I'm sure you'll have no problem checking out the video of a much smaller city of Miami celebrating the Dolphins' Super Bowl victory later that season in true Miami-style: with pots and pans of course.
Just goes to show you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Marino Begins His Record Assault (Miami 35, Washington 17. September 2nd, 1984)
Only his second season in the league. Only the 13th game in his NFL career. The only problem Dan Marino would have in this game is that it would be against the two-time defending NFC Champions and the team that beat these Dolphins only a year and nine months earlier in the Super Bowl.
He would only throw for 311 yards and five touchdowns on 21 completions, taking only 28 attempts.
It was only the beginning of the greatest season ever by a quarterback (and with the way the rules have allowed the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to break most of the records set by Marino that year, still the greatest season every by a quarterback).
The first five touchdowns you see in this clip are those five touchdowns from the Week 1 game in Washington. It was only five of the 48 he threw that season, breaking a record thought unbreakable, and by 12 touchdowns.
Marino's Comeback Game (Miami 39, New England 35. September 4, 1994)
So how do you recover from tearing an Achilles tendon the season before? How do you respond to your first time on the field, a wet and muddy field no less, that still has a baseball diamond?
Patriots second-year player Drew Bledsoe was scary good, going 32 of 51 for 421 yards and four touchdowns (with two interceptions). He helped New England put up 35 points, usually enough to win in the NFL in 1994.
But Marino was better: he threw for 473 yards despite having nine less completions and nine less passing attempts. To go along with that, he had five touchdowns and only one interception.
The key pass being the fourth down and fifth touchdown pass to Irving Fryar. It didn't even seem like Don Shula knew they would run the play.
Somewhere in my personal collection (stored at my dad's house) you will find a ticket stub from this game. One of the greatest I've seen in person, and a game that I'm always happy to admit going to.
Seriously, if any of you readers see me looking sad, just bring up this game; I'll perk right up.
The Opening Game That Shocked Miami (Houston 21, Miami 20 September 7th, 2003)
This game was such a fail that I couldn't even find video evidence to support that this game was actually played. But it was, I saw it, and I think the video I selected sums up my feelings about it.
The Miami Dolphins were a double-digit favorite in this game, and why not? They had just come off a 9-7 season and were still considered a viable playoff team that could contend for the AFC East crown.
Miami also had a home-field advantage at the time, especially in September. Miami had won 11 consecutive Week 1 games and hadn't lost a home opener since 1993.
Houston on the other hand was still building a second year expansion team that had David Carr at quarterback. The previous season they went 4-12 and they still had problems doing just about anything on offense.
But you know how this NFL Parity thing works: on Any Given Sunday...
Miami had a 14-6 lead going into halftime and thanks in part to an anemic offense that consisted of running Ricky Williams into the ground, then maybe passing it to Chris Chambers once in a while, only scored six more points (off of a Ricky Williams touchdown reception, they would miss the two-point conversion, which would most definitely come back to haunt them as I also pose the question: why would you go for two when you see the other team can't score a touchdown on you and you're up by five?) while Houston would score only one touchdown, yet slowly but surely erode Miami's lead through field goals.
In other words it was Tony Sparano's ideal game.
Turnovers were what doomed Miami, thanks to a fumble by Ricky Williams in the second quarter (set up a Texans' 50-yard field goal) and two fourth-quarter interceptions by Jay Fiedler (the first one set up Houston's game-winning field goal).
This game was the anti-Marino vs. Bledsoe shootout. Bring this game up to me while I'm in a state of euphoria, watch how quickly I crash. Miami did finish the season a respectable 10-6, but this loss would wind up keeping it out of the postseason (they finished the season tied with the Denver Broncos for the final AFC Wild Card spot, which the Broncos would get, thanks to the conference record tiebreaker).
You know what this game somewhat reminds me of?
The Beginning of the Tannehill-Era (Miami vs. Houston. 1:00pm ET CBS)
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That's right, this next one! Miami going into Houston, only this time it's the Texans who have the Super Bowl expectations, while the Dolphins are the team no one expects anything from.
Instead of the game being played in Miami though, it's in Houston. It's Houston's defense that's feared, Houston's running back that will be the focus of most game-planning.
The Texans will be favored, in fact they're favored right now by 12 according to Yahoo! Sports.
If I were a betting man, I think I'd take the Dolphins to cover. Most of the money is going Houston's way anyways and with the way Miami's defense can stop the run, don't be too surprised if the Dolphins keep it within three to six points.
Or win this one outright.
You know, give them the taste of the medicine they gave the Dolphins in 2003, while giving me a game I can spotlight (and replace the 2003 game) in next year's version of this slideshow.