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Ten Memorable Home Finales

Posted Dec 21, 2012

There's something special about the Fins' home finale.

As the Dolphins prepare to play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, we look back at arguably their 10 most memorable regular season home finales.

The games are listed in reverse chronological order, starting with last year’s December game against the New York Jets.

2011, Dolphins 19, N.Y. Jets 17 — In terms of pure football action, this might not rank that high, but it was the significance of the game that made it stand out. Simply put, it was Jason Taylor’s last game in a Dolphins uniform. Taylor appeared to produce a storybook finish when he returned a fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but the fumble was overturned by instant replay. As it was, the Dolphins won to knock the Jets out of the playoffs and Taylor got a victory ride from his teammates.

2002, Dolphins 23, Oakland 17 — The Dolphins had the tough assignment of closing out the 2002 season with road games against Minnesota and New England, and that was after a home finale against an Oakland team that was headed to the Super Bowl that season. While the road games ended in disappointment, the Dolphins turned in an impressive performance against the Raiders, who had come to South Florida riding a five-game winning streak. The Dolphins pretty much shut down league MVP Rich Gannon that day, holding him to only 204 yards passing and all but clinching the victory with Patrick Surtain’s late interception.

1998, Dolphins 38, Denver 21 — Even though Denver’s bid for an undefeated season had ended the week before against the New York Giants, this still was a marquee matchup because it was a rare meeting between Dan Marino and John Elway. On this night, Marino won the battle in a runaway. While Elway struggled to the tune of 13-for-36 for only 151 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, Marino passed for 355 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Lamar Thomas.

1994, Dolphins 27, Detroit 20 — Christmas Day in 1994 fell on a Sunday, so the league scheduled all but two of the 14 games on Saturday. San Francisco and Minnesota played in the customary Monday night game, while the Dolphins and Lions played on Sunday night. The Dolphins came in with a 9-6 record and needing a victory to clinch the AFC East title. The Lions also were 9-6 and still had a chance to win the NFC Central. Running back Bernie Parmalee was the hero for the Dolphins that night as he scored three rushing touchdowns and also had a 20-yard catch that helped the Dolphins run out the clock.

1992, Dolphins 19, N.Y. Jets 17 — This was the famous “chock sign” game. Current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll was coaching the Jets back then and he couldn’t help himself after Pete Stoyanovich missed an extra point that would have tied the game with only 2:30 left. But Stoyanovich got the last laugh after the Dolphins forced a three-and-out, a 29-yard punt set up the Dolphins in Jets territory and a 17-yard completion from Dan Marino to Mark Duper put Miami in field goal range. Stoyanovich’s 37-yard field goal with 7 seconds left not only provided great revenge, it also clinched a playoff spot for the Dolphins.

1998, Dolphins 38, Cleveland 31 — The 1988 season was a rare down year in Don Shula’s Dolphins career, but the next-to-last Monday night game of the season provided some great memories. Dan Marino was having the better of Bernie Kosar in a shootout in the fourth quarter, with the Dolphins leading 31-17, when Kosar left the game with an injury. Enter Don Strock, the longtime Dolphins backup who was closing out his career with the Browns. Strock quickly threw two touchdown passes to tie the game at 31-31, but Marino had the last word, leading a drive that culminated with Lorenzo Hampton’s 1-yard touchdown run in the final minute.

1984, Dolphins 28, Dallas 21 — The 1984 season was one of the most memorable in Dolphins history and they closed it out in style on the final Monday night of the season. Facing a Dallas team needing a victory to make the playoffs, the Dolphins did what they did best that season — put up big numbers in the passing game. Dan Marino eclipsed the 5,000-yard mark for the year and threw three of his four touchdown passes to Mark Clayton as the Miami wide receiver set an NFL record with 18 on the season.

1980, N.Y Jets 24, Dolphins 17 — There really wasn’t anything remarkable on the field about this Saturday afternoon matchup at the Orange Bowl between the 3-12 Jets and the 8-7 Dolphins, but there sure was something different about it. This was the day when NBC decided to conduct an experiment and broadcast a game without announcers. It obviously didn’t go over particularly well, considering it’s never been done again. As for the game, the Jets won, 24-17, thanks in large part to a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown by Darrol Ray.

1972, Dolphins 16, Baltimore 0 — Having already clinched the best record in the AFC, the Dolphins didn’t need this game for any reason other than to complete a perfect regular season. They did in style, as interceptions by Curtis Johnson, Doug Swift and Lloyd Mumphord helped the defense pitch a shutout, and Mercury Morris rushed for 86 yards to join Larry Csonka as 1,000-yard rushers — making the Dolphins the first time in NFL history with two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.

1971, Dolphins 27, Green Bay 6 — The Dolphins already had clinched a playoff spot as they prepared to face the Packers at the Orange Bowl in the season finale, but they were going for their first division title. This one was in doubt until the second half, with the Dolphins pulling away from a 6-6 tie with three touchdowns — on runs by Jim Kiick and Larry Csonka, and a blocked field goal return by Curtis Johnson. Csonka rushed for 68 yards on the day, becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher in Dolphins history.
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