Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots: Greatest Games In The Series
A Dolfan Diaries Entry
Dolphins-Patriots is always a big game, and this week's game didn't fail to deliv-
No that doesn't work.
The Dolphins came out Sunda-
That doesn't work either.
Forgive me, I'm on Dolfan Diaries auto-pilot. See usually I write these Sunday Night after the final game of the day (sometimes starting at halftime) and since my writing schedule is so ingrained into my head I had to look at the NFL schedule to remember this.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins. Monday night, 8:30pm, ESPN.
Meaning here we are on Sunday Night/Early Monday Morning, with me finished with my WWE article for the night, ready to take on a Dolfan Diary entry of a game that's still less than 24 hours away. (God help me next week, what do I write then?)
But, I can't sleep so it got me to thinking what I should do-a retrospective of the 10 greatest games from this rivalry.
Yes, this should be easy, after all in the 70's the Dolphins dominated the Patriots, going 13-7 (including 10-0 at home) so I'm going to just ignore the 70's and make this a 1980-2010 list.
Now Dolphins fans I'm sorry but, some Patriots victories are going to be on here. I want to be fair and objective with this list.
#10: December 12, 1982; The Snow Plow Game
Let's be honest. This game wouldn't be memorable had it not been for that snowplow.
Prior to that, it was a scoreless tie for four quarters. Hampered by a Nor'easter, the two teams were held to a combined 447 yards (think about that as these two teams are lighting it up tomorrow and going for four hundred yards each) including only 13 passing yards for the Pats (now a days we call that a typical Brady to Welker first down connection, and I've seen it done in worse weather than that) and only three points on the board, and even then how the three points were scored is still considered controversial in Miami, but celebrated in New England (the infamous Snow Plow, actually a John Deere 314 tractor with a brush attachment, is on display inside the Patriots Hall of Fame and Museum at Gillette Stadium.)
With the game locked up in a scoreless tie in the fourth and the Patriots in field goal position, Patriots coach Ron Meyer decides to get Mark Henderson, the driver of the snowplow on work release that day, cut an arc through the snow on the astroturf field to allow Patriots kicker John Smith to kick a 33-yard field goal that would win the game for the Patriots.
While Meyer (and Patriots fans) didn't feel there was anything wrong with plowing the field, Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula felt it was unfair. He complained to Commissioner Pete Rozelle to reverse the score, and while he couldn't do that, he did make it illegal for teams to plow a spot on the field to allow a kicker to kick a field goal. (My take, surprise Dolphins fans you might hate me for this but, since there wasn't a rule against it at the time, it was legal. The 'phins that day should've been more worried about turning the ball over twice than a snowplow.)
This video explains everything you need to know about the game, and this link provides the box score to a game known more in NFL Lore for the means that were used to kick the field goal than the actual game itself.
Only three weeks later, the Miami Dolphins would defeat the New England Patriots 28-13 at the Orange Bowl in an AFC Wild Card playoff game. No snowplow was needed for that Dolphins victory.
#9: September 9th, 1990; Start Of a Great Phins Season, Pats, Not So Great
For the Dolphins and the Patriots, the 1990 NFL Season couldn't be any more different.
One team was lead by a hall of fame coach and quarterback and would end up going 12-4, second best record in the AFC that season, and their first playoff berth since 1985.
The other team was considered the laughing stock of the NFL, and had just as many problems off the field as they did on the field.
Guess which team is which (if you're a 90's baby that is.)
Yes, let that sink in all of you born in the 90's and beyond, the Patriots, the same franchise that won three Super Bowls last decade and won seven out of the last nine AFC East crowns, were once the laughing stock of the NFL.
The Dolphins, a team that has been to the playoffs three times in the last decade and only has one playoff win (despite three out of their four playoff games being at home) were the team with the second best record in the AFC in 1990.
But, on Opening Day you probably wouldn't be able to tell which one is which.
Halfway through the second quarter, the Patriots lead the Dolphins 21-6, until Dan Marino hit Tony Martin for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
After that the Dolphins would outscore the Patriots 24-3, leading to the Dolphins beating New England 27-24.
After that game the Dolphins would go 12-4 on the year (including 7-1 in the division) and finish just a game out of first place in the AFC East and home-field advantage before losing in the Divisional Playoffs to the Buffalo Bills.
New England would bounce back nicely and defeat the Indianapolis Colts 16-14 the next week. However, they were then accused of Sexual Harassment by Boston Globe writer Lisa Olson, who likened it to "mind rape." She was then called a "classic bitch" by then-Patriots owner Victor Kiam.
The Pats didn't win another game the rest of the year after that.
#8: October 19th, 2003: For The Second Time: Thanks Bartman!
What does Steve Bartman have to do with the Miami Dolphins?
Well think about it this way, his foul ball interference might've not only swung the World Series, but the Super Bowl that year too.
Doesn't make any sense to you? Look at the date: October 19th, 2003.
Also that date: Game 2 of the World Series between the Marlins and the Yankees.
Which meant that Miami was home to games 3, 4, and 5 of that World Series, meaning the infield dirt had to remain for at least one more dolphins game.
I'd hate to know how things would've turned out had the Marlins lost that World Series, considering that it was that field that cost the Dolphins the game.
See had the Cubs (my favorite baseball team by the way) beat the Marlins (my least favorite baseball team, I don't care if you take away my Miami-fan credentials for that) then the diamond is covered up and the game probably goes differently.
Having to kick off the diamond, Olindo Mare misses a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal which then leads to overtime, where Tom Brady hits Troy Brown down the sidelines for a 72-yard TD and the victory.
Going into the game, Miami was 4-1 and in first place in the AFC East, a half game up on the 3-2 Patriots. A Dolphins win moves the Patriots to 3-3, who knows what happens then considering that the Patriots wouldn't lose again until the end of the World Series, the 2004 World Series that is.
Had the Dolphins prevailed that day though, are they the ones that make that historic run?
(Wannstedt was the coach, Ricky retired before the next season, and there was a QB controversy between AJ Feely and Jay Fiedler, who am I kidding? The 'phins did finish 10-6 that year though, which was good enough to NOT make the playoffs.)
#7: November 23rd, 1998: Bledsoe Leads a Comeback.
I like the Pats-Dolphins rivalry in the 90's. It was balanced, and a playoff berth was almost always on the line.
It was no different in 1998, when both teams ended up making it into the post-season. (Actually, four out of the five AFC East teams, even Buffalo, were playoff teams that year.)
Of course at this point, three days prior to Thanksgiving, the Dolphins were 7-3, in first place by a game over Buffalo, New England and the Jets, and had already defeated the Patriots in Miami 12-9 the month before.
The Patriots however were 5-5, fighting for their playoff survival.
For the Dolphins a win meant ending the Patriots playoff hopes, moving to 8-3 and capturing the momentum to possibly run away with the AFC East crown. For the Patriots a win meant survival.
Well just remember not to ever corner a cat, even if its Pete Carroll. The Dolphins had just gone up 23-19 and needed to go for two to make it a six point game as opposed to a four point game (its one of those "thats stupid" plays, in football there's really not much of a difference between four points and six points for a touchdown by the other team means you're still losing. Why not just take the extra point and make it five? It won't make much of a difference.)
So, Drew Bledsoe came onto the field and lead a fourth quarter drive where the Patriots ended up scoring the game-winning TD thanks to a 25-yard pass to Shawn Jefferson.
In the end the win kept the Patriots alive and allowed them to make the playoffs. For the Dolphins it meant falling into a tie for first place and setting up a must-win against the Jets two weeks later (a Dolphins loss that allowed the Jets to win their first ever AFC East Championship.)
#6: January 12th, 1986; A Historic Day, Good For The Pats, Bad For The Dolphins
Ok it wasn't by any means a "great game" unless you're a Patriots fan. It was historic because:
-It was New England's first win in Miami. Ever.
-It was the Dolphins first loss in the AFC Title game. Ever.
-It confirmed that the Bears would win the Super Bowl that year. The Dolphins knew how to play the Bears and would've at least made it close and potentially a classic. The Patriots showed up to New Orleans Dead on Arrival.
-Because of the fact that The City of Miami owned the Orange Bowl and the field had to be painted for it, usually the Dolphins would play in the post-season with the Orange Bowl color scheme on the field, sometimes the only change would be King Orange would be covered with the NFL logo. Instead this time they decided to paint the word "Patriots" into one of the end zones. And they did this, why?
It was a wet and sloppy game that the Patriots defense dominated thanks to six turnovers. It ended up being a 31-14 victory for the eventual sacrificial lambs to the Chicago Super Bowl slaughter.
The Pats have since gone 6-1 in AFC title games, while the Dolphins have only made it back one other time, in 1992.
This game could possibly be what I like to call an "escalator" game—when one team is on its way up and meets the team that's on the top on its way down.
#5: January 1st, 2006: Flutie Dropkicks Out Of The NFL.
As a football fan who's into the history of the game and knew that not only was this legal but at one point a major part of the game, I found this moment cool.
While this game meant so little to the already clinched and had knowledge of their playoff opponent for next week Patriots that Tom Brady didn't play the second half, rookie Matt Cassel showed signs of things to come by throwing a nine-yard TD to Tim Dwight to move the Pats to within six.
Then Bill Belichick has a crazy idea, an idea so crazy that it might just work: use Doug Flutie for a drop kick.
What is a drop kick? Like what they do in WWE?
Well, no. The drop kick was often used in early football as a surprise tactic: The ball would be snapped or lateraled to a back, who would perhaps fake a run or pass, but then would kick the field goal instead.
(Imagine if Ronnie Brown knew how to do this, meaning it would be run out of the wildcat, how often would Henning inflict that upon us, and if it were first-and-goal at the one he'd probably use it on first down. I'd say it would take 10 missed drop kicks by Ricky or Ronnie before Dan Henning takes it out of the playbook. But speaking of that, how come they never taught Ronnie how to punt? Wouldn't a surprise 3rd-and-long punt out of the Wildcat anywhere between the Dolphins 45 and the oppositions 40 be a great way to win the field position battle? Isn't that better than running it and not getting the yards and punting it to a returner who's expecting it?)
Flutie was one of the last players to perfect the art. (By the way, every QB and kicker should learn how to do it, think of the possibilities with it and how you could wind up scoring three points out of thin air. Every QB should learn how to punt too, but thats another story for another day.)
This was also Doug Flutie's final regular season game in the NFL, and Belichick wanted him to go out with a bang—or a Drop kick.
The Dolphins wound up prevailing 28-26 and was able to finish with a playoff record, but this game, between a team already eliminated from the post-season and a team already secure in their position, wasn't about the final score, which was probably forgotten by many until I brought it up.
Instead all you think of is Flutie's drop kick, still to me one of the coolest things I've seen in the NFL.
#4: December 6th, 2009; Henne Shines As Brady Melts Down.
This was the last time these two teams met.
Originally slated for NBC's prime time slot, instead they were slid down to a 1pm start with Vikings-Panthers inserted instead because of Brett Favre, who played a terrible game that night and allowed the Panthers to win.
This game however featured Chad Henne going an absurd 29-52 for 335 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, while Brady answered with 19-29 352 yards two touchdowns and two picks, with one of those picks coming courtesy of Vontae Davis as the Pats were about to put the game away for good.
A two minute drill? Try two. One of them successful, the other not. Which one was which? Here's a hint, the successful one was lead by the QB from Michigan. The non-successful one was lead by the QB from Michigan.
Henne's final drive was almost picture perfect, leading to a 41-yard Dan Carpenter Field Goal.
Brady's final drive ended with an interception by Channing Crowder.
The Dolphins, at one point trailing 14-0, ended up defeating New England 22-21.
This game showed a glimpse at the Dolphins future, and they've seemed to build off that game. Hopefully this next game against the Pats will be exactly like this (with a better performance by the 'phins running game, expected since Ronnie will be available, he wasn't the last time around.)
As for the NFL and NBC, which decided to move this game from prime time to regional coverage? Even Das Kommisionar Goodell pointed out that the NFL might have made a mistake.
#3: September 21st, 2008: Unleash The Wildcat
They trot out the wildcat, which would've been great in 2008. In 2010 the wildcat should be used sparingly. I even suggested to friends that this season it would be wise for the Dolphins to keep it on the shelf, but still practice it (including some plays involving Henne lining up as a receiver and being used as an intended receiver and Brandon Marshall being used as well, which was done but not too well earlier in the game) to break it out come playoff time if they get that far.
But they broke it out a bit too much today, and when they did, they nearly upset the rhythm that the offense was on. In fact the wildcat actually nearly killed quite a few drives today, but absolutely killed this one.
I hate the wildcat in 2010. Those are the words I wrote in my last Dolfan Diaries entry. It's because of how unoriginal the wildcat has become. Now every team has a wildcat package.
But like I said, trotting out the wildcat was great in 2008, because it hadn't been seen in the NFL in a long time then.
It stymied the usually prepared New England Patriots as Ronnie Brown had a fantasy game for the ages. The Dolphins ended up winning 38-13. Think this game wasn't important? Well look at this:
2008 AFC East standings:
Miami Dolphins (11-5)*
New England Patriots (11-5)
New York Jets (9-7)
Buffalo Bills (7-9)
* means AFC East Champions
Notice how despite being 11-5, the Patriots don't have a single marking next to them. They didn't even make it into the post-season. If they won this game they would have made it.
#2: December 20th, 2004: The Night Courage Wore Orange
Miami (3-11) 29 New England (12-2) 28
What do they say about Any Given Sunday? (Well, Monday Night in this games' case.)
Just a spectacular game by the Dolphins that night. Their best game all season.
Well in a season where you finish 4-12, anytime you win has to qualify as best played game all season, but with this game it definitely was. And the best part?
It didn't screw up our draft plans. I mean its not like Saban would've taken Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick!
The guy does know how to pick pro QB's, oh yeah that's right he picked Culpepper over Brees—then hightailed it to Alabama when he saw that it wouldn't work.
(NOTE TO ALABAMA FANS THAT CAME ACROSS THIS GOOGLING NICK SABAN: ITS THE TRUTH! I'M NOT HATING. PLEASE DON'T BE SO DAMN SENSITIVE ABOUT THIS! EVERY TIME SOMEONE SAYS SOMETHING BAD ABOUT SABAN, EVEN IF ITS TRUE, YOU GET YOUR PANTIES IN A BUNCH. STOP! WE'RE NOT EVEN LIKE THAT OVER LEBRON DOWN HERE AND WHAT SABAN DID WAS A LOT WORSE!)
#1. September 4th, 1994: Marino Vs. Bledsoe, a Fight to The Finish.
I still get goosebumps thinking about this game.
Dan Marino's first game back from an Achilles Tendon injury.
Dolphins wanting revenge on the Patriots for knocking them out of contention the year before.
Bledsoe, Parcells and the Patriots wanting to assert themselves as the new force in the NFL.
Parcells vs. Shula, so many storylines to sell this game.
Yet, it wasn't hyped up that much, it was just your average opening day.
Under a huge downpour and a typical balmy and humid South Florida day, the Dolphins and Patriots set off fireworks that were seen throughout the NFL.
A link to the profootballreference.com page on this game is shown under the term "shootout" on dictionary.com.
And a shootout it was. Here's Marino's numbers:
23/42 473 yards 5 touchdowns 1 interception.
32/51 421 yards 4 touchdowns 2 interceptions.
Obviously this game was the power run defensive struggle that you would expect Parcells and Shula to engage in under inclement weather.
I attended this game and it is still one of my favorite games attended all time. I had a smile on my face all week, not just because the Dolphins won, but because I got to see them win, and it was the type of football game that made me fall in love with the sport to begin with. I was 10 years old that day by the way.
Because of that, I rank this as the greatest Dolphins-Patriots game of all time (I mean from 1980-2010) and it forever shall be...
Unless of course my visions for this year's AFC Championship game come true.
Special Thanks to YouTube, SI Vault, and profootballreference.com for this slideshow.
Dolfan Diaries: Pats vs. Phins, will be posted after the game tonight.