When the NFL's 2008 regular season schedule was announced earlier this year, I (like many) was thrilled at the idea of opening up the season - and this new era of Dolphins football - at home against the Jets. The last time the Dolphins opened up the season with the Jets was back in 1995. And we'll get to that game in a moment.
But first, over the past 15 years, the Dolphins have opened the season with a divisional opponent 6 times. And all of those times come in a row, from '93 to '98. In those games, the Dolphins are 6-0. Since '98, though, the Dolphins have not started the season with an opponent from the AFC East. So it's about time we kick things off with a divisional opponent. Oh, and by the way, the last time the Dolphins lost a regular season opener against a divisional opponent was back in 1991, in Buffalo against the Bills.
Now like I said above, this is the first time the Dolphins and Jets will open the season against one another since 1995. That game, also played at home, was the first meeting between these two teams since the famous "fake spike" game back in November of '94. This game would turn out to be a sloppy game filled with mistakes. The Dolphins turned the ball over 4 times while the Jets would commit 6 turnovers. But in the end, it wouldn't matter.
The game started out rough for the Dolphins, though. Through one quarter, Dan Marino was just 3 of 8 for 40 yards. He also had thrown an interception. Despite that, however, the score was 0-0 and the Dolphins were driving deep into New York territory.
Then on the second play from scrimmage to open the 2nd quarter, Bernie Parmalee (from Jersey City, by the way) would take a sweep and scamper 24 yards into the endzone for his first career touchdown, giving the Dolphins a 7-0 lead.
The following kickoff would prove to be huge as well. The Jets' return man, Dexter Carter, fielded the kick but was absolutely crushed by the Dolphins' Robert Wilson inside the 20 and lost the ball. Miami recovered and 3 plays later, Marino hit Irving Fryar in the endzone for the touchdown. Just like that, the Fins had a 14-0 lead.
The Dolphins' defense did its job the following series, forcing the Jets to punt. However, Bernie Parmalee was hit hard and fumbled on the first play following the punt. The ball was recovered by DT Matt Brock, who ran it in for the touchdown. Miami's lead was cut from 14-7.
Following another fumble by Parmalee (no wonder he had a short career) and a couple of punts by both teams, it would be the Jets striking again. Marino would throw his 2nd interception of the game, giving the Jets the ball at Miami's 31 yard line with 3:53 left in the half. Five plays later, Boomer Esiason would connect with Charles Wilson on a 6 yard touchdown pass, tying the game at 14 with just 1:48 left in the half.
The ensuing drive, however, would turn out to be the turning point of the game and was really just classic Danny Marino. Irving Spikes would return the kickoff out to their own 32 yard line. Dan Marino and company would do the rest, stealing away the momentum from the Jets entering the locker room. Marino began by dumping the ball off to Terry Kirby, which Kirby turned into a 32 yard gain. Marino would then connect with O.J. McDuffie for a relatively short gain. Two plays later, Marino connected with Fryar on a 23 yard pass play that got the Dolphins down to the 2 yard line with 16 seconds left. After a failed rush attempt by Kirby, the Dolphins decided to put the ball in Marino's hands. He found Keith Byars out of the backfield on a quick swing pass. Byars leaped over the goalline with just 4 seconds left and gave the Dolphins a 21-14 lead at halftime.
The second half of the game would be all Miami. Following a punt by each team to open up the half, the Jets had the ball and were driving into Miami territory. But on a 1st and 10 play from Miami's 45 yard line, pressure on Boomer Esiason caused him to make a poor throw, which was picked off by Troy Vincent at the Dolphins' 15 yard line.
The Dolphins would begin this drive by giving Parmalee the ball twice in a row, picking up a total of 17 yards out to the Jets' 33 yard line (and no, he didn't fumble this time). Marino would then hit Fryar over the middle, moving the ball into Jets' territory. A few plays later, Marino would connect with Keith Byars yet again for what seemed like a touchdown. However, Byars stepped out at the 4 yard line. On the next play, however, Parmalee would not only hold onto the ball but also scoot over Chris Gray and get into the endzone, giving the Fins a 28-14 lead.
The following drive by the Jets would basically seal the deal for Miami. After moving down into Miami territory, the Jets had a 1st and 10 from Miami's 38. However, Esiason would overthrow his intended receiver on the next play and the ball would find its way into the hands of Troy Vincent yet again. He caught it at the 31 yard line and would take it all the way for a 69 yard touchdown, giving the Dolphins a 35-14 lead.
The Dolphins would add two more touchdowns, one of which being a beautiful deep ball from Marino to Fryar on a 3rd and 5 from the 50 yard line. How much would you kill now to take chances like that despite having a 21 point lead with under a minute left to play in the 3rd quarter. I'd bet more recent regimes in Miami would have simply been content to run the ball and then punt it away.
The final score of this game would be 52-14. Marino's final stat line would read 16-26-250-3. Irving Fryar, who would end the season leading the team with 910 yards receiving, had stat line of 5-110-2.
So here's to hoping that the 2008 version of a Dolphins/Jets season opener plays out the same way, just with different names. Perhaps John Beck throws for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. And maybe Ted Ginn catches 5 balls for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. And how about Will Allen picks off the Jets' QB twice, returning one for a touchdown.
A guy can dream, can't he?