The Miami Dolphins entered the American Football League as an expansion team in 1966. In the 30-plus years since then, the franchise has made history on a number of occasions.
The Ring of Fame wrapping around Sun Life Stadium tells a story of tradition and excellence, of one of the most storied franchises in NFL history.
To narrow a list down to just 10 games required many amazing moments to be left out.
Every game in franchise history was eligible, but the focus of the list is on more than just the individual game, but it’s historical significance as well. If you’re a football fan, then you know that sometimes a game just means so much more than that.
These are the 10 games that represent that notion the best.
No. 10: Dec. 16, 2007: Dolphins vs. Ravens 22-16 OT
2007 was a year to forget in Miami Dolphins history, and that’s putting it lightly. Nick Saban abandoned the team and ran off to Alabama to coach the Crimson Tide. In his stead, Cam Cameron took the helm.
Cameron led the Dolphins to an 0-13 record, and had the city as a whole bracing themselves for the wrong kind of history. Just three move loses and Miami would become the first team in the NFL to ever go 0-16.
In week 15, the Baltimore Ravens came to town and at the half it looked like Miami was on the verge of yet another loss down 13-3.
They came out in the second half a different team though. The defense came to life and the offense put together a few drives to tie the game at 16 heading into overtime.
Baltimore got the ball to start extra time and headed down the field in a hurry. Matt Stover lined up for a 44-yard field goal to ice it, but the kick was off and just missed wide.
On the next drive, undrafted free agent Greg Camarillo emerged from obscurity to solidify his place in Dolphins history.
Before the Ravens game, he’s caught one pass for two yards.
On the third play of Miami’s overtime drive, Camarillo ran a short slant and caught a Cleo Lemon pass about eight yards down the field. He turned the reception into a 64-yard touchdown catch, sprinting to the endzone and clearing Miami’s bench like they’d just one the Superbowl.
In a season that will forever go down as the worst year in Dolphins’ history, Camarillo’s overtime miracle guaranteed the season wouldn’t go down as the worst in NFL history.
No. 9: Sept. 23, 2001: Dolphins vs. Raiders 18-15
In the wake of September 11, 2001, the nation as a whole embraced patriotism amid terrible sorrow. The NFL canceled all games that weekend as football suddenly became of little importance.
The next week, the games continued and stadiums across the country bleed red, white, and blue. American flags flew proudly from the hands of fans, players, and coaches.
The Dolphins matched up with a heavily-favored Oakland Raiders squad led by Rich Gannon and one of the best offensive lines in the league.
The Raiders led most of the contest, holding the Dolphins offense in check for much of the afternoon.
With the game coming to a close and Miami down 15-10, Jay Fiedler came to life after throwing two costly interceptions earlier in the day. He led an 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 2-yard scramble and dive across the endzone line to put the Dolphins ahead with five seconds remaining.
The crowd erupted in cheers to a degree rarely seen. The game itself was simply an early regular season contest, but in light of recent events it meant much more than that.
No. 8: Dec. 30, 2000: Dolphins vs. Colts 23-17 OT
2000 was a year of change for the Miami Dolphins. Dan Marino had retired and gone the way of an immortal memory. Jimmy Johnson resigned as coach following the 1999 season and an embarrassing 62-7 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Not much was expected from Miami the following season. Little known Jay Fiedler took over the helm at quarterback and Dave Wannstedt took over as head coach.
The Dolphins had a surprising 11-5 record that season, winning the AFC East. They hosted the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round of the playoffs in an anticipated matchup.
Running back Lamar Smith, who had rushed for over 100 yards just four times that season, made history with an NFL record 40 carries.
He turned them into 209 rushing yards, a Playoff record.
With the game tied at 17 in overtime, Smith took the game over and ran over the Colts at will. The contest came to a close with Smith breaking free for a 17-yard touchdown run in which he literally dragged defenders into the endzone.
It was the best game of his 10-year career, and his last as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
No. 7: Nov. 27, 1994: Dolphins vs. Jets 28-24
In 1994, the Dolphins led the Jets by one game for first place in the AFC East heading into the Nov. 27 matchup in the Meadowlands.
The Jets looked poised to take control of the division through three quarters with a 24-6 lead. But in the fourth, Dan Marino had one of the most memorable comebacks of his storied career.
He led the Dolphins to two fourth quarter touchdown drives to get Miami within three points at 24-21.
Miami got the ball back with just over a minute left on the clock, and Marino went right back to work. He took the Dolphins down to the Jets five-yard line, and pulled off what is simply known as “the clock play.”
With 30 seconds left in the game and the clock ticking, the Dolphins lined up to spike the ball and set up the field-goal unit to tie it a 24.
Marino had different plans though. He called for the snap, faked a spike, and with the defense frozen found Bobby Ingram in the corner of the endzone for the five-yard touchdown to put Miami ahead for good; it was Ingram’s fourth TD catch of the game.
The Dolphins went on to win the division and the Jets imploded, losing out the remainder of their schedule.
No. 6: Dec. 28, 2008: Dolphins vs. Jets 24-17
After the disaster of the 2007 season, Bill Parcells was brought in to head up Football Operations. He cleaned house and brought in an entirely new front office, coaching staff, and turned over most of the roster.
The 2008 team looked nothing like their predecessor from the year before. They didn’t play the same way either.
The team had an entirely new attitude and refused to lay down like they’d done in the past. After starting the season 2-4, the Dolphins turned it around and made one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history.
After winning eight of their next nine games, Miami traveled to New York for the last game of the season. If they won, they’d win the division and head back to the postseason for the first time in seven years. If they lost, they would stay at home.
In a gritty, defensive, back and fourth contest that was tied at 17, the Jets took control of the ball in the closing minutes with a chance to take the lead and end Miami’s playoff dreams.
Dolphins rookie defensive end Philip Merling made the best play of his short career to make sure that didn’t happen.
He intercepted a short Brett Farve pass and bull-rushed his way past the entire Jets offense for a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown. The play put Miami ahead for good and got the Fins back to the Playoffs.
No. 5: Jan. 6, 1985: Dolphins vs. Steelers 45-28
In what was arguably the greatest postseason game of Dan Marino’s career, No. 13 led the Dolphins to a crushing 45-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1985 AFC Championship game.
Many people though the Steelers would escape the Orange Bowl with the win, even though Marino was the MVP that year.
Those thoughts only grew stronger as the Steelers took a 14-10 lead into the second quarter. Miami’s offense was stagnant to that point and it didn’t look like they’d be able to get it going against a very touch defense.
From there, Marino opened up hole all over the Steelers defense. He orchestrated back-to-back scoring drives to put Miami ahead, before closing the contest with 421 yards and four touchdowns.
The victory advanced the Dolphins to the Superbowl for the first and last time of Dan Marino’s career. Joe Montana and the San Fransisco 49ers defeated the Dolphins in the big show, but the memory of the AFC Championship can’t be forgotten.
No. 4: Sept. 4, 1994: Dolphins vs. Patriots 39-35
Dan Marino missed all but 11 games of the 1993 season with a torn Achilles’ Tendon and entered the 1994 season as a serious question mark.
A lot of people from around the league wondered if Marino would be rusty, if he’d be able to perform at his best. In the first game of the season, those questions were answered.
A young and talented, budding quarterback by the name of Drew Bledsoe came to town with the New England Patriots. The conditions were terrible, with heavy rain turning the Florida Marlins infield at Joe Robbie Stadium into thick mud.
Despite all that, Marino and Bledsoe put on one of the greatest passing shows in NFL history, combining for 894 yards and nine touchdowns. The shootout went back and fourth all game until the dust settled at the end of the fourth and Miami led 39-35.
Marino threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns, setting an NFL record by passing for four or more touchdown in a game for the 18th time in his career. He also joined Fran Tarkenton as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record over 300 touchdown passes.
No. 3: Dec. 25, 1971: Dolphins vs. Chiefs 27-24 OT
On Christmas Day, 1971, The Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs met in the AFC divisional playoffs to compete in what would become the longest game in NFL history.
In what was one of the most exciting, back-and-forth games every played, the action seemed like it would never end. It took two overtime periods and a total game-time of 82 minutes and 40 seconds for the Dolphins to claim victory.
The Chiefs were led by Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson and took an early 10-0 lead. The Dolphins answered right back with their Hall of Fame quarterback, Bob Griese, to tie the game at 10 going to the half.
After battling it out through most of the second half, the Chiefs led 24-17 with under two minutes to play, but Miami was able to pull off a late touchdown drive to tie the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chiefs running back Ed Podolak returned the kick 78 yards to set up a Jan Stenerud field-goal to win the game, but Stenerud missed the kick and the game went into overtime.
In the first overtime, Stenerud had a chance at redemption with another field-goal attempt, but the Dolphins blocked the kick, only to later miss a field-goal of their own a few plays later.
But finally, after nearly six full quarters of play, Garo Yepremian lined up for Miami to make a 37-yard attempt. The kick was good and the Dolphins claimed their first playoff victory in franchise history.
No. 2: Dec. 2, 1985: Dolphins vs. Bears 38-24
The 1985 Chicago Bears were considered one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Known for Buddy Ryan’s infamous “46” defense that had allowed 10 or few points in nine of 12 games that season, the Bears faced off with the Miami Dolphins in what was the highest-rated Monday Night Football in history.
The Bears entered the contest undefeated and without allowing a touchdown for over 13 quarters. They were knocking at the doorstep of history, threatening to become just the second team in history to go undefeated.
It was universally-agreed that if the Dolphins didn’t stop them, no one would.
The 1972 Dolphins, who were the only team to go undefeated in history, held their breath hoping Miami could pull off the major upset.
Led by Dan Marino, they did just that. The Bears titanic defense crumbled under the pressure of Miami’s deadly passing game. Ryan wasn’t able to find any answers.
Marino stood behind arguably the best offensive-line in the league, taking his time and picking apart the Bears defense with short passes to his tight ends, and occasionally hooking up with Nat Moore for the long ball.
In a game very few people gave the Dolphins a chance to win, Miami crushed Chicago 38-24.
The Bears went on to a 15-1 regular-season record before sweeping the playoffs and winning Super Bowl XX. If not for the ’85 Dolphins, the ’72 Dolphins wouldn’t be alone on the mountain.
No. 1: Jan. 14, 1973: Dolphins vs. Redskins 14-7
The 1972 Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in both the regular season and postseason. Others have come close, but no one has been able to reach the mountain-top besides Miami.
Led by Bob Griese, Larry Czonka, Paul Warfield, Larry Little, Jim Langer, and Nick Buoniconti, the ’72 Dolphins are one of the greatest teams to ever grace the field.
They went 14-0 through the regular season and narrowly defeated the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers to reach Super Bowl VII.
On January 14, 1973, the Dolphins and Washington Redskins met on the field for a game that would forever solidify Miami’s place in the record books.
In a 14-7 game that was controlled by the Dolphins solid running game and “no-name” defense, Miami won the Super Bowl and finished with a 16-0 record in what is better known as the “Perfect Season”
As an individual game, Super Bowl VII wasn’t the most exciting, or even the closest of contests, but there has never been a more defining moment in Dolphins history.
The 1972 undefeated Dolphins might forever be the only team in history to reach that mark.