The Dolphins are facing the Cincinnati Bengals this week and will be playing on a Thursday night for the ninth time in franchise history and the fourth time in the past five years.
The team’s Thursday night appearances have come in bunches separated by long gaps. The Dolphins made appearances in 1979, 1980 and 1981 before not playing on that night again until 1990. Then there was another long gap before the Dolphins opened the 2006 season against the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Overall, the Dolphins are 9-6 on Thursdays, a record that includes a 5-2 showing in Thanksgiving Day games.
Because of all the Thanksgiving Day games, it only makes sense that the most Thursday games the Dolphins have played have come in November. Even among the night games, though, five of the eight were played in that month, including the last three — against Carolina, Chicago and Buffalo.
The game against Cincinnati this week will be only the Dolphins’ second Thursday game in October, the first being a 17-10 victory against New England in 1990.
The other two Thursday night games were played in September and both were against Pittsburgh, in 1981 and 2006.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, will head to Miami with a 5-3 record in Thursday games. Its most recent appearance came last season when the Bengals won 34-13 at Philadelphia in December.
Because of all the Thanksgiving action, most of the Dolphins’ games on Thursdays have been on the road. The Dolphins have played five Thursday games at home, but only one since 1990. Miami is 3-2 in home games on Thursdays, with two victories against New England and one against the Steelers in the 1981 game at the Orange Bowl.
The most memorable Thursday game in Dolphins history likely was the 1977 Thanksgiving Day battle at St. Louis when quarterback Bob Griese came out wearing glasses but still saw clearly enough to shred the Cardinals defense for six touchdown passes and lead Miami to a 55-14 victory.
A little less than 36 years later, it remains the highest scoring output in Dolphins history and Griese’s six touchdown passes is still tied for the franchise record with the six that Dan Marino threw in a game against the New York Jets in 1986.
The other Thursday victory that stands out came on Thanksgiving Day 1993 when the Dolphins went to Dallas and beat the Cowboys, who were the defending Super Bowl champions and on their way to a second consecutive title.
There have been several noteworthy individual performances by the Dolphins in Thursday games, led by the Griese show.
In addition, Keith Byars tied a franchise record in that 16-14 victory in 1993 with a 77-yard touchdown run. In the Dolphins’ 1981 Thursday night victory against Pittsburgh, Tom Vigorito set a franchise record with an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown, a record that later was tied in 2007 by Ted Ginn Jr.
Chris Chambers (2003) and Nat Moore (1977) both caught three touchdown passes in Thanksgiving Day games, coming just one short of the team record shared by Paul Warfield (1973) and Mark Ingram (1994).
Based on the NFL scheduling formula, the Dolphins have a 50-50 chance of playing again on Thanksgiving in 2014 because annual host Detroit is scheduled to face an AFC team and its two visitors from that conference next season will be Buffalo and Miami.
But that’s next year. Here’s the rundown of the Dolphins’ past Thursday games:
1973 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) — Won 14-7
1977 at St. Louis (Thanksgiving) — Won 55-14
1979 vs. New England — Won 39-24
1980 vs. San Diego — Lost 27-24 (OT)
1981 vs. Pittsburgh — Won 30-10
1990 vs. New England — Won 17-10
1993 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) — Won 16-14
1999 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) — Lost 20-0
2003 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) — Won 40-21
2006 at Pittsburgh — Lost 28-17
2006 at Detroit (Thanksgiving) — Won 27-10
2009 at Carolina — Won 24-17
2010 vs. Chicago — Lost 16-0
2011 at Dallas (Thanksgiving) — Lost 20-19
2012 at Buffalo — Lost 19-14