Tonight’s Phinsider Hump Day Flashback is perhaps the one game that I will feature that I attended or was at least old enough to remember attending. I went into this game with the highest of hopes, like most of the Miami Dolphins fans at the time, that this was the beginning of another Super Bowl run following the demoralizing defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers just the season before. On top of that Miami entered this game, at home, as huge Vegas favorites with a 14 point line.
The one thing that I have never forgotten about the game is that it was on January the 4th 1986 and for the hundreds of times that I had been in the Orange Bowl I cannot for the life of me remember it feeling more hot or suffocating than that day. I have even looked up the temp and it only got into maybe the high 80’s during that game but it was sweltering with the humidity and the direct sun during the middle of the day. I grew up in Coral Gables with most of my weekends in the off season out on a boat and was well accustomed to how oppressively hot Miami can be even on a nice winters day but on this day the heat seemed to zap everyone in the stands.
The game kicked off and the Cleveland Browns literally dominated the Dolphins in the first half of play. Miami went to their respective locker room down 14 to 3 after two quarters. Everyone around us was in shock as was 15 year old me who at that age believed that Dan Marino was some sort of football God that walked on water. What the hell was happening? Well for one Cleveland, as hard as it is now to believe, was a good solid football team back then, lead by former Miami Hurricane star quarterback Bernie Kosar.
Miami actually started off the scoring in the game with a Fraud Reveiz 51 yard field goal in the first quarter. That would be the highlight for the Dolphins in the first half. Still in the first quarter the Browns marched down the field and scored on a 16 yard pass from Kosar to Ozzie Newsome. The Browns once again scored a touchdown in the second quarter on a 21 yard run by Earnest Byner, while also shutting the Dolphins out in the second quarter.
The third did not start out much better for the Dolphins when the Browns stunned the crowd with a 66 yard touchdown run by Byner. I could tell the fans around me were about to or had thrown in the towel but the naive 15 year old me still thought Marino would come through somehow and save the day as we had already seen him do many times in his short career up to that point.
Luckily for all of us Dolphins fans that was it for the Browns. I am sure the heat began to get to them as it does most teams that play Miami in Miami in the winter (a home field advantage that I hope to see the Dolphins be able to use in the playoffs again in the very near future). For those of you that are from Miami you know that the winter is the most pleasant time to be in South Florida. But you also know while it might be cool or downright chilly at times it can also be hot as hell no matter what day of the year it is. Luckily this was one of those hot winter days.
After the Browns last score of the game in the third quarter Marino and the Dolphins took over. Miami was down 21 to 3 but ended the third by putting up two touchdowns in a row. The first score was a 6 yard pass to Nat Moore from Marino to cut the Browns lead to 21-10. Miami followed that up with their second score in the third, a 31 yard run by Ron Davenport, cutting the Browns lead to 21 to 17. By now I knew that we were going to pull this one out. Cleveland looked tired, especially on defense. God bless that South Florida humidity!
In the fourth quarter the Miami Dolphins sealed the win with a one yard run by Davenport giving the Dolphins the 24 to 21 win sending the Dolphins back to the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive season. Sadly Miami lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game thus robbing the Dolphins of a chance to return to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row. As sad as I was over the Championship game loss I will never forget the joy we all felt in the Orange Bowl that day.