20 years later: The best Week 1 game in Miami Dolphins team history

Miami Dolphins Ricky Williams. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins Ricky Williams. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /

It has been 20 years since Ricky Williams’ first year with the Miami Dolphins, and the team started out with a bang in Week 1 against the Lions.

There wouldn’t be a discussion about the best Week 1 games in Miami Dolphins history without talking about the 1994 game against the New England Patriots.

It was Dan Marino’s first game back after an Achilles injury robbed him of most of the prior season, and the Dolphins had high aspirations and had the fifth-best odds of any team to win the Super Bowl. Marino came out on fire, having one of the best games of his career by posting a stat line of 473 yards and 5 touchdowns, all while throwing just one interception.

And the Dolphins won. Barely. The defense made a crucial fourth-down stop to win the game for Miami, but not after giving up 421 yards and 4 touchdowns to Drew Bledsoe and 35 points to the Patriots. Marino’s showing was incredible, and his team needed every ounce of it to win.

One thing that the Dolphins didn’t do that day was achieve something that a Maino-led team had done only once, something that made Week 1 of the 2002 season the best opening game in franchise history.

There was a lot of hype and optimism going into 2002. Miami was still in search of an offensive identity after a couple of seasons without Marino at the helm but had a defense that was one of the most feared in the league during their prime run. The Dolphins remedied their need for offensive star power by trading for disgruntled Saints running back Ricky Williams, who turned the Dolphins into contenders. They had the seventh-best Super Bowl odds in the league that year.

Williams proved his worth by having the best season of his career, rushing for 1,853 yards, a mark that led the league during a time when he was competing against the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis, and Travis Henry for running back supremacy. He finished with nearly 200 more yards than the guy who came in second. William’s effort ranks as the 15th best single-season running back performance in NFL history.

Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins Ricky Williams. (Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /

It all started in Week 1. The Dolphins were playing host to the Detroit Lions and wound up having one of the best offensive games that the franchise had ever seen. Williams ran for 111 yards on 20 carries and added two touchdowns, a game that ended up being one of the more statistically mediocre of the season for him. But he was taken out of the contest after the third quarter as Miami built an insurmountable lead, and his backups were even able to put up 65 combined yards.

Dolphins legend Jay Fiedler even threw for over 200 yards and added three touchdowns against a hapless Lions defense, and the Miami offensive put up 49 points, the fourth-highest single-game total in team history and a number that Marino eclipsed just once, way back in 1985.

The defense did their job, too. Unlike the 1994 defense that couldn’t stop a Bledsoe nosebleed, this Dolphins defense suffocated the Lions, so much so that Detroit opted for a Week 1 quarterback change, benching starter Mike McMahon and replacing him with rookie Joey Harrington. The Lions were already down 42-14 at the time, and Harrington went just 4 for 11 and racked up a whopping 41 yards in relief.

Miami won 49-21.

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Is it the best Week 1 game in Miami Dolphins franchise history? Can this year’s team hope to have some kind of similar success when they play against the Patriots? Let us know what you think.