clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dolphins vs. Bears: Undefeated seasons and an interrupted rivalry

The Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears have only met 13 times, but they will be forever linked by one game - and one game they did not play.

Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins Vs. Chicago Bears Gameplay Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Sunday afternoon marks just the 14th time the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears have faced off in a regular-season meeting. They first met in 1971 and last played against each other in 2018. There is one game that stands out above the rest, and one game that should have been played, but the New England Patriots interrupted a dream meeting.

In 1971, the Dolphins came into a Week 11 meeting with the Bears at 8-1-1, while Chicago was 6-4 for the season. Playing in Miami’s Orange Bowl, the Dolphins, in just their sixth season of existence, came out firing, scoring a field goal and a touchdown in the first quarter, then matching that in the second period. The third quarter started with a Miami touchdown, with the Bears finally getting on the board with a field goal. Miami slammed the door in the fourth quarter, scoring another touchdown. The Dolphins secured the 34-3 win with quarterback Bob Griese throwing for 214 yards on 12-for-17 passing with two touchdowns and an interception, while fullback Larry Csonka ran 16 times for 104 yards and a score and halfback Jim Kiick added 71 yards on 17 carries.

Miami would go on to win the AFC East with a 10-3-1 record, then carry the momentum all the way to a Super Bowl VI appearance - the first of what would become three-straight Super Bowl appearances, with wins in Super Bowls VII and VIII.

The next two Dolphins versus Bears meetings came in 1975 and 1979, with the Dolphins winning those two contests 46-13 in Chicago and 31-16 in Miami. It is the next meeting that would go down into NFL history, however.

In Super Bowl VII, the Dolphins completed the lone Perfect Season in NFL history. The 1972 Dolphins won every game of the regular season, then continued to roll all the way to the Lombardi Trophy. In 1985, the Bears seemed to be on a similar path, using their defense to dominate their way through the regular season. In a Monday Night Football broadcast, the Dolphins welcomed the Bears into the Orange Bowl.

Once Chicago arrived to the game, they ran straight into a wall. The Bears defense was built to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks, getting into the backfield and disrupting everything. Miami’s offensive line dominated the day, and quarterback Dan Marino used his lightning-fast release to keep the Bears' defense muzzled.

What was typically a defensive domination by the Bears, who were averaging 10.5 points allowed per game up to the Week 13 meeting, became a shootout in primetime in South Florida. Marino and the Dolphins offense were ready for that. And, the Orange Bowl crowd was ready for a shootout as well. The crowd was deafening throughout the contest, making it nearly impossible for the Bears offense to make adjustments to their play calling.

Chicago started the game with Steve Fuller at quarterback, with Jim McMahon injured. Fuller was 11-for-21 for 169 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, along with having been sacked four times, before the Bears’ head coach put McMahon in the game. McMahon finished the contest, but was not able to keep the Bears from losing for the first time in the year; he finished 3-for-6 for 42 yards with an interception.

Marino, for the Dolphins, was 14-for-27 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and an interception; he was sacked three times. Wide receiver Mark Duper caught five of Marino’s passes, tallying 107 yards, while Mark Clayton caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Chicago running back Walter Payton carried the ball 23 times for 121 yards, while Miami’s Tony Nathan picked up 74 yards on 15 carries.

The game started with Miami scoring in the first quarter on a Marino pass to receiver Nat Moore for a 33-yard touchdown. The Bears answered with a one-yard touchdown run from Fuller, with Miami then adding a 47-yard field goal before the end of the period. Miami picked up a touchdown on a one-yard run from Ron Davenport in the second period, followed by a Bears 30-yard field goal. The Dolphins scored two more touchdowns in the half, first with a Davenport run then on a Marino to Moore pass.

Trailing 31-10 to start the second half, Chicago put up the first score of the third quarter with a one-yard run from Fuller. Miami answered with a 42-yard pass from Marino to Clayton. The Bears scored again in the third quarter, with Fuller finding Ken Margerum for the 19-yard score.

Both teams would go scoreless in the fourth quarter, giving Miami the 38-24 win and handing the Bears their first, and only, regular-season loss for the year.

Fast forward from the Dec. 2, Week 13 Monday night game to Jan. 12, the AFC and NFC Championship games, and things seemed to be setting up for an epic rematch in Super Bowl XX. The Bears, on the heels of their 15-1 regular season performance and with a grand total of zero points allowed to that point in the playoffs, easily made their way to the Super Bowl, beating the Los Angeles Rams 24-0 in the NFC Championship.

On the AFC side, Miami met their AFC East division rivals, the New England Patriots, with an eye on the Super Bowl. New England had claimed the last playoff spot with an 11-5 record, beating another AFC East rival, the New York Jets, in the Wild Card round, then beating the then-Los Angeles Raiders in the Divisional round of the playoffs. The Dolphins and Patriots had split their two regular-season meetings that year, each winning at home in close contests.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, this game was neither close, nor a win at home. The Patriots took it to the Dolphins throughout the 1985 series’ rubber game, scoring in each quarter and limiting Miami to just two end zone trips. New England crushed Miami’s hopes of a Super Bowl appearance, and interrupted the league’s dream rematch between Miami and Chicago, with a 31-14 performance in the AFC Championship.

The Bears would go on to crush the Patriots 46-10 to win Super Bowl XX, making their loss to the Dolphins the only blemish on Chicago’s record that year.

The teams met again in 1988, with Chicago earning their first victory over the Dolphins with a 34-7 victory at home. They met again in 1991, again in Chicago, but with Miami coming away with a 16-13 victory.

The Bears won the 1994 game in Miami 17-14, then did it again in Miami in 1997 with a 36-33 victory. The Dolphins on in Miami in 2002 behind a 27-9 performance.

The 2006 edition of the rivalry again featured an undefeated Chicago team with a Super Bowl appearance in their future. This time, Chicago was 7-0 on the season, while Miami was 1-6 on the season in their second year under head coach Nick Saban.

In a Sunday afternoon game at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Bears started the scoring with a first-quarter field goal. Miami then showed some fight first with a pass from quarterback Joey Harrington to Marty Booker for a five-yard score, then, 15 seconds later, with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown by edge rusher and future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. Chicago answered at the end of the half with a pass from quarterback Rex Grossman to receiver Muhsin Muhammad for the 30-yard score.

The walk-over game for the Bears was suddenly a battle, and the Dolphins were not going to go away. Harrington opened the scoring in the second half with a six-yard pass to receiver Wes Welker. The Bears settled for a field goal late in the third quarter, only to see Miami score twice in the fourth period, once on a 24-yard pass from Harrington to receiver Chris Chambers and once with an Olindo Mare 20-yard field goal. Miami improved to 2-6 with the 31-13 win over the formerly undefeated Bears, dropping them to 7-1. The Dolphins were led to the win behind 29 carries for 157 yards by running back Ronnie Brown.

Chicago would ultimately finish the year 13-3, then make it back to the Super Bowl — played in Miami — where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins would go on to a 6-10 record for the year and see Saban quit as the head coach after the season, leading to Miami’s hiring of Cam Cameron as their head coach for 2007, a hire that lasted one year after Miami finished 1-15 that season.

Chicago beat the Dolphins 16-0 in 2010 in Miami, with the Dolphins coming away victorious in a 2014 game in Chicago, winning 27-14.

The last game between the Dolphins and the Bears was in 2018, with Miami hosting Chicago. The Dolphins scored the only first-half points on a Brock Osweiler first-quarter pass to tight end Nick O’Leary for the five-yard score and a 7-0 halftime lead. Scoring in the second half was not nearly as scarce.

Chicago started with a touchdown just 97 seconds into the period after a pass interference penalty on Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick jumped the Bears forward 32 yards; quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found Allen Robinson for the 12-yard score and a 7-7 tie. Mid-way through the quarter Miami’s Jason Sanders connected on a 50-yard field goal, which was answered a minute later by Chicago with a 21-yard rush from Tarik Cohen. The third-quarter scoring ended with another field goal from Sanders, leading to a 21-13 Chicago lead as the game headed into the fourth period.

Miami tied the game with an Albert Wilson 43-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Osweiler, then Kenny Stills caught the Osweiler pass on the two-point conversion attempt. Chicago scored with 3:17 remaining in the game as Trubisky found Anthony Miller for the 29-yard touchdown. Miami responded with a 75-yard pass from Osweiler to Wilson just 16 seconds later.

With the score tied 28-28, the Dolphins opened overtime with the ball. They immediately drove the field, reaching the Bears’ one-yard line. On a carry for the ballgame, however, Kenyan Drake fumbled, with the Bears recovering. They then took the ball from their own 20-yard line after the touchback down to the Miami 35-yard line, but kicker Cody Parkey, a former Dolphins player now with Chicago, missed the 53-yard field goal attempt. Miami took over at their own 43-yard line with 1:55 remaining in the extra period. With three passes from Osweiler, Miami moved to the Chicago 29-yard line, where Sanders connected on a 47-yard field goal and gave Miami the 31-28 win as the clock hit zero.

By decade, the Dolphins were 3-0 against the Bears in the 1970s, then were 1-1 in the 1980s. Chicago went 2-1 against Miami in the 1990s, while Miami won both contests in the 2000s. In the 2010s, Miami was 2-1, including winning the last two contests between the clubs. Overall, Miami leads 9-4 in the series.

Miami comes into this game 5-3 on the year and in the sixth position in the AFC playoff picture. The Bears are 3-5 and hoping to get their playoff hopes sparked with a win at home against Miami.

Dolphins vs. Bears Superlatives

Superlative Dolphins Bears
Superlative Dolphins Bears
Most Rushing Yards in a game 216 (Ricky Williams, 12/9/02 at Miami) 123 (Neal Anderson, 9/4/88 at Chicago)
Most Passing Yards in a game 380 (Brock Osweiler, 10/14/18 at Miami) 343 (Erik Kramer, 10/27/97 at Miami)
Most Receptions in a game 9 (Irving Fryar, 11/13/94 at Miami) 8 (Bobby Engram, 10/27/97 at Miami)
Most Receiving Yards in a game 155 (Albert Wilson, 10/14/18 at Miami) 110 (Taylor Gabriel, 10/14/18 at Miami)
Largest Margin of Victory 33 (MIA 46 at CHI 13, 11/2/75) 27 (MIA 7 at CHI 34, 9/4/88)
Longest Win Streak 4 (11/29/71-12/2/85) 2 (11/13/94-10/27/97)
Most Points (single team) 46 (MIA 46 at CH 13, 11/2/75) 36 (CHI 36 at MIA 33 (OT), 10/27/97)
Most Points (combined) 69 (CHI 36 at MIA 33 (OT), 10/27/97)
Fewest Points (single team) 0 (CHI 16 at MIA 0, 11/18/10) 3 (CHI 3 at MIA 34, 11/29/71)
Fewest Points (combined) 16 (CHI 16 at MIA 0, 11/18/10)