Dolphins’ best win and worst loss versus the New England Patriots


The Miami Dolphins are scheduled to play 13 different opponents during the 2017 season.  Continuing a reflection that started last week, this week we can look back on arguably the best win and the worst loss against another divisional opponent, this time the New England Patriots.

Heading into the 2016 season, the Dolphins have faced the Boston / New England Patriots 101 times in the regular season and playoffs.  Ninety-eight of those games came in the regular season, with the Dolphins winning 52, losing 46, and 3 have come in the playoffs, with the Dolphins winning 1.

Best Win.  Sept. 4, 1994: Marino’s comeback.  Quarterback Dan Marino blew out his Achilles’ tendon 11 months earlier, and there were rumblings that Scott Mitchell should be the starter or even Bernie Kosar should start at quarterback for this season-opening game.  Marino answered those critics by throwing for 5 touchdowns and 473 yards in the Dolphins’ 39-35 win.  Most memorably, the Dolphins trailed 35-32 with just over 3 minutes left in the game and were facing a fourth down-and-6 from the Patriots’ 35+ yard line.  Rather than simply going for the first down, Marino released a bomb from the Patriots 43 yard line that Irving Fryar caught up with at the 6 yard line and ran into the end zone for the game winning score (see a video of the last drive at  Marino’s smile might never have been bigger then when he came off the field after that play.

Other games were in the running for the best win designation.  Here are those choices, in chronological order: November 12, 1972 (New England 0 at Miami 52, Coach Shula’s 100th career victory); November 8, 1981 (Coach Shula’s 200th career victory with a 30-27 overtime win); January 8, 1983 (Dolphins’ sole playoff win against the Patriots, 28-13); October 18, 1992 (Dolphins win 38-17 in game moved from September 6 due to Hurricane Andrew); December 27, 1992 (Dolphins clinch AFC East title with 16-13 overtime win); December 20, 2004 (2-11 Dolphins defeat 11-2 Patriots 29-28 after scoring two touchdowns in the final 2:07); September 21, 2008 (Dolphins unveil wildcat formation, Ronnie Brown rushes for 4 touchdowns on direct snaps, and Dolphins win 38-13).

Worst Loss.  December 12, 1982: The Snowplow Game.  The night of December 11, 1982, heavy rains soaked the Astroturf surface in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  Temperatures dropped, the field froze over, and a snowstorm hit during the game.  As a result, the officials were permitted to call time-outs during the game to allow a snowplow to clear yard markers.  Despite this emergency rule, the ground crew was unable to keep up with the worsening storm, and the teams were locked in a scoreless game late into the fourth quarter. With 4:45 remaining and the Patriots lining up for a 33-yard field goal, snowplow operator Mark Henderson drove onto the field.  When he reached the middle of the field, Henderson steered the plow left, giving New England a clean spot from which to kick the field goal. Dolphins’ head coach Don Shula vehemently protested, but play continued, and the kick was good.  The Patriots won the game 3–0.  Several days later, Coach Shula met with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle concerning the Dolphins’ protest; although Rozelle agreed that the Patriots’ use of the snowplow gave them an unfair advantage, Rozelle refused to reverse the result of a game.  In 2015, Shula talked to Sports Illustrated about still being irked by the game ( and said in another interview that he “should have gone out and thrown himself in front of the snowplow” ( .

More from Dolphins All-Time Lists

There are several games that receive honorable mention for worst loss.  Here are those choices, in chronological order: October 12, 1980 (Patriots defeat Dolphins 34-0); January 12, 1986 (Patriots defeat Dolphins 31-14 and prevent Dolphins from returning to second consecutive Super Bowl  – XX against the Chicago Bears); January 2, 1994 (9-6 Dolphins lose to 4-11 Patriots and miss playoffs with 33-27 overtime loss); December 28, 1997 (Dolphins lose to Patriots 17-3 in Wild Card game in New England after losing to them 14-12 the week before in a Monday Night finale in Miami); December 29, 2002 (Dolphins lose in overtime after leading 24-13 with less than 3 minutes left in regulation); October 19, 2003 (Dolphins lose 19-13 in overtime after having opportunities to win on field goals toward the end of regulation and in overtime); December 20, 2012 (Patriots shut out Dolphins 28-0, handing Dolphins their fourth consecutive losing season).

This season, the Dolphins are scheduled to face the Patriots in New England during Week 2 (September 18) and in Miami during Week 17 (January 1, 2017).  Let’s hope that those games can help end the Patriots’ stranglehold on the AFC East title and compete for the Best Win category.  Do you agree with the choices made above, or should other games have won out?