Part Two: The 50 Most Significant Plays in Miami Dolphins History

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Part Two: The 50 Most Significant Plays in Miami Dolphins History

I have to thank the readers for the feedback so far on the 50 most significant plays in Miami Dolphins history.  There have been several good suggestions and even with only 10 plays being discussed so far, many Dolphins fans have identified with these moments–the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Remember it’s the 50 most significant plays in the team's 40-year plus history, not the best or even most memorable.

Here are the next 10 which will bring the total so far to 20:

 

1972 Bob Griese Breaks a Leg

In the fifth game of the Dolphins' perfect season, Griese broke his right leg and dislocated his ankle when being tackled by the San Diego Chargers' Deacon Jones and Ron East.

The Dolphins had claimed 16-year veteran Earl Morrall off waivers earlier in the year and the 38-year-old proved to be the ultimate insurance plan for Miami, leading the team to 10 straight wins. 

Would the Dolphins have gone undefeated if Griese played the whole year?  Possibly, but no one will ever know.

But Morrall led the AFC in passing just as Griese had done the previous year. 

The play is also significant in that when Griese returned from injury, the Dolphins needed a spark to defeat Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game. The future Hall of Famer was motivated and he, along with Larry Seiple's previously-mentioned fake punt, spurred the 21-17 victory.

The Dolphins' perfect season needs no extra superlatives, but it is truly remarkable that it was achieved with two starting quarterbacks.

1983 A.J. Duhe's Muddy Touchdown Romp

On a muddy Orange Bowl field that looked partly like a monster truck surface, Duhe picked off three Richard Todd passes to highlight a 14-0 victory in the AFC Championship game. 

Duhe's last pick was the most significant.

He batted an intended swing pass into the air and secured it as he romped through the slop for a 35-yard touchdown.  The play ended any hopes of a Jet comeback and sent Miami to the Super Bowl.

The teams' only postseason meeting also was historically significant, as the Dolphins became the first NFL team to defeat the same opponent three times in one season.

 

1985 Mark Duper's Finger Tip Clutch

Down 17-14 with less than a minute to play, Dan Marino fired a rainbow down the right sideline.  Mark "Super" Duper grabbed the ball with his fingertips and continued into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.

With the catch, Duper set a Dolphins single game receiving record with 217 yards. 

Duper's effort marks one of the best performances in NFL history after coming off a significant injury.  He had missed the previous seven weeks with a broken leg.  His catch also started the team on an eight-game winning streak. 

Dan Marino said, “Forget about the throw.  It was the catch. A great, great catch.”

 

1994 Stewart Forces Marcus Allen Fumble and Much More

Billed as Marino-Montana III and a duel between future Hall of Famers, the 1994 AFC first-round playoff game lived up to the hype as both Dan Marino (22 of 29 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns) and Joe Montana (26 for 37 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns) played extremely well.

However, it was safety Michael Stewart wrestling the ball away from another future Hall of Famer, Marcus Allen, with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter that was arguably the most significant play and put the game on ice for the Dolphins. 

Even though he officially retired after the 1997 season, I always viewed the sight of a dejected Allen after the fumble as the end of his career.  The game was the final one for a retiring Montana, hence the undeniable historical impact.

 

2000 Jumbo Elliott and the Monday Night Miracle

With 42 seconds left in the game, Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde found eligible offensive tackle Jumbo Elliot for a three-yard touchdown to tie the score at 37 and send the game into overtime.  

New York kicker Jon Hall nailed a game-winning 40-yard field goal in the extra period. Elliot's bobbled catch highlighted an unbelievable comeback, as Miami had held a 30-7 lead at the end of the third quarter.  

Despite the win, and a subsequent victory later in the season in Miami, the Jets missed the playoffs losing six of their final nine games and their last three. Miami clinched the division with a win over New England on the last day of the season. This play and game are significant because the mere mention of it causes Dolphins fans to groan and feel that no lead is safe.

 

1984 Clayton Eclipses Single-Season Touchdown Mark

With the score tied at 21 in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Mark Clayton sent Miami to a victory and set one of the most impressive NFL records in the process.  His 63-yard touchdown gave Miami a 28-21 win over Dallas in the team's regular season finale.  The 14-2 Dolphins would eventually advance to Super Bowl XIX against the San Francisco 49ers.

It was Clayton's third score of the game and gave him 18 touchdown catches on the season, an NFL single-season record at the time and is still tied for third highest in NFL history today.

 

1972 Dick Anderson Interception Return

The Dolphins defeated Baltimore, 21-0, for the franchise's first AFC Championship.  The Colts were held scoreless for the first time in 97 games and Anderson's 62-yard interception return was the key reason why.  His weaving path to the end zone was paved by seven key blocks that symbolized the selfless culture of the "No-Name" defense.

The play reportedly prompted linebacker Nick Buoniconti to say, "You're so slow I went out for a hot dog, came back and you were still running.”  Anderson supposedly retorted, "You're the only one who didn't throw a block."

 

2007 Greg Camarillo Prevents 0-16

He hadn't scored a touchdown since high school.  But in his first year with the Miami Dolphins, the waiver wire pick-up caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cleo Lemon in overtime to give the Dolphins a 22-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, the team's only win of the year.  1-15 was awful, but 0-16 would have been a permanent stain on franchise history.

 

1999 Brunell to Smith Starts the Rout

In a 1999 Divisional Playoff, it didn't take long to figure out that it was going to be a long day for Dolphin faithful.  Mark Brunell connected with wide receiver Jimmy Smith on a 41-yard pass play to the Miami 22.  The play clearly set the tone for what was to follow.  Shortly thereafter, Brunell connected with Smith on an eight-yard score and a 7-0 lead.  55 points later, the Dolphins had allowed the most points in franchise history and suffered their worst defeat ever. 

 

1998 Without a "Trace"

Without Trace Armstrong, one of the most positive moments in Miami Dolphins history might have become one of the worst.  With 17 seconds remaining in the game and the Dolphins leading 24-17, Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie had led his team to a first and goal on the Miami five-yard line. 

Armstrong sacked Flutie and forced the ball free, which was recovered by teammate Shane Burton.  Armstrong's play preserved a landmark win against their bitter division rival after three previous postseason losses to the Bills. 

Stay tuned for Part III of The 50 Most Significant Plays in Miami Dolphins history coming to you soon...

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