So a couple of days ago I was watching the classic Dolphins/Jets game from 1994 on NFL Network and I got to thinking (which I try not to do too much). And what came from my thinking was deciding to take a break from all the recent Dolphins news and take a trip down memory lane.
So today, I present to you all the top 5 moments (in-game moments, that is - not as in when the Dolphins drafted "X" player or traded for "X player) of the past 15 years, in my own personal opinion. And that's the fun of this. Some you might agree with. Some you probably won't. But it makes for a fun debate and is something to help past the time until this weekend's mini-camp, which the media is able to access (meaning we'll have some good reports on what is going on).
So let's get into my top 5 moments of the past 15 years:
Number 5: Dolphins vs Raiders, Week 2 2001
Some might be wondering why an early season game is up this high. Well the Raiders were coming off of a 12-4 season where they lost in the AFC title game to Baltimore. Entering the season, the Raiders were one of the favorites to win the AFC and were 1-0 coming into Miami. You'll also remember that this game was the first one following the tragic events of September 11 of that year. Living in New Jersey, that day's events were probably a much bigger deal to me than to most of you around the country. So you put all that together, and this game was a big deal for many reasons.
With the Dolphins leading 10-9 to start the 4th quarter, Jay Fiedler made a huge mistake by throwing an interception that would be returned for a touchdown by Anthony Dorsett. Now trailing 15-10, the Dolphins were unable the move the ball beyond their own 26 yard line on their next 3 possessions. When they got the ball back at their own 20 and just 1:41, many expected the Dolphins offense to sputter once again.
It didn't. Instead, Fiedler completed the first 4 passes of the drive and got Miami to Oakland's 19 yard line with 1:15 left. The drive would then end a few plays later when, on 3rd & goal with 12 seconds left, Fiedler scrambled and dove in for the touchdown with only 5 ticks left in the game. Say all of what you want about Jay Fiedler, but the man had balls. And that moment is #5 on my list.
Number 4: Dolphins at Cowboys, Week 13 1993
Going into Dallas on Thanksgiving Day in some rare Dallas snowstorm and pulling out a victory is a very difficult thing to ask from a team. Doing it without their quarterback and leader makes an almost impossible task. So it was up to Steve DeBerg to lead this team to an improbable win.
Trailing 14-13 and following a fumble by Terry Kirby with under 4 minutes to play deep in Miami territory, the Dolphins defense stepped up, holding Dallas to a FG opportunity. However, the icy, slippery field caused Eddie Murray to miss a 32 yard field goal and give life to the Dolphins.
So with 2:16 remaining, the Dolphins took over deep in their own territory. DeBerg made a couple of big throws and got the Dolphins into FG range. It was a 40 yard attempt for Pete Stoyanovich. But it was blocked. Enter Leon Lett. After the ball was blocked, the Dolphins can't recover it unless a Dallas player touches the ball. So if no Cowboys touch the ball, the game is over. Thankfully for Dolphin fans, Leon Lett slid into the ball for some mysterious reason. The Dolphins then recovered the ball at Dallas' 1 yard line and Pete Stoyanovich kicked a short field goal for the win. So Leon Lett's huge blunder and Stoyanovich's kick come in at #4 on our list.
Number 3: Dolphins vs Patriots, Week 15 2004
Who could forget this classic Monday Night game. The Patriots entered with a 12-1 record while the Dolphins were 2-11 and had an interim head coach, Jim Bates. But by halftime, the Dolphins were showing that they indeed came to play, trailing only 14-10. The Dolphins even took a 3 point lead midway through the 3rd quarter on a Travis Minor 1 yard run. However, the Patriots came back with a TD in the final minutes of the 3rd quarter and another touchdown with just 3:59 left in the game.
With the Dolphins trailing 28-17, it was A.J. Feeley leading a quick TD drive to pull the Dolphins within 5 (Miami went for 2 and failed). Bates decided to kick it deep and put it on the defense to get a stop. And that they did. On a 3rd and 9, Jason Taylor rushed in and had Tom Brady in his grasp. Despite being in the process of falling, Brady threw the ball anyways (because he's as pompous as they come) and was intercepted by Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Now with great field position, it was up to A.J. Feeley to make something happen. And on a 4th down and 10 play from NE's 21 yard line, Feeley throw basically a jump ball...which Derrius Thompson actually caught for the touchdown. Now with a 29-28 lead, Brady would be intercepted again on the next drive and Feeley would take a couple of knees to seal the improbable win. So Feeley's connection with Thompson comes in at #3.
Number 2: Dolphins vs Colts, Wild Card Weekend 2000
Despite having the better regular season record, many people thought that the Colts, led by Peyton Manning, would pull this game out. And it seemed that way by halftime, with Miami trailing 14-0. But never count out Lamar Smith! (who would have thought)
Trailing 17-10, Jay Fiedler led the Dolphins on a 14 play, 80 yard drive that resulted in a Jed Weaver TD reception with under a minute to go to tie the game. But Lamar Smith was the story today.
In overtime, following a missed 49 yard field goal that would have won the game for Indy, the Dolphins took over at their own 39 yard line. They moved the ball down to Indy's 23 yard line. Despite being within FG range, they figured they'd give the ball to Smith for carry #39. Smith ran hard for 6 yards, moving it to the 17 yard line. Again, passing on the field goal, the Dolphins decided to run it with Smith for the 40th time in the game. And it was a good decision.
Smith ran right but hit a wall of bodies in front of him. But rather than go into the pile and pick up a yard, if anything, he bounced it outside. Because the defenders were all inside, Smith had room and didn't look back. It was a foot race. Indy safety Jason Belser latched onto Smith inside the 5 yard line, but Lamar was not to be denied. He carried Belser into the endzone and carried his team to the OT win. Smith ran for 209 yards in that game, but it's his final 17 yards that make this list as the #2 most memorable moment of the past 15 years.
Number 1: Dolphins at Jets, Week 13 1994
This is the game that got me thinking to do this list. And this is, by far (in my opinion) the most memorable moment of the past 15 years.
With the Dolphins trailing 17-0 at halftime and 24-7 midway through the 3rd quarter, it seemed as though hope was lost. But not when Dan Marino is your quarterback. Marino led the Dolphins on a torrent comeback. And with 2:34 remaining, the Dolphins trailed by just 3 points.
Marino then led Miami down the field in less than 2 minutes. Following a completion to Mark Ingram with 30 seconds left down to NY's 7 yard line, it seemed like Marino was signaling to just line up so that he could spike the ball and stop the clock. When the ball was snapped, though, Ingram went out on a route into the endzone while pretty much everyone else just stood there, thinking Dan would spike the ball. Marino then quickly threw to Ingram in the right front corner of the endzone while the cornerback on the play tried to catch up. He couldn't get there in time and Marino capped off one of his best comebacks with perhaps the single greatest play of his career - one that would come to be known as "The Fake Spike."
Oh, and kudos to Bernie Kosar as well, as he was reportedly the one to suggest this play. And it's a play that we will likely never see ever again, as defenses are now known to look out for the "fake spike" play that Dan Marino and Mark Ingram made famous back in November of 1994.
So there's my top 5 moments of the past 15 years. Agree? Disagree? Tell us your top 5 or just point out something I might have missed in the comments below...