Thursday Night Games Are Special For Dolphins

Posted Nov 14, 2012

Dolphins own a 4-3 record in Thursday night games.

The Dolphins have a long and well-documented history on Monday Night Football, but they’ve also made their share of appearances on Thursday night.

This week’s game at Buffalo will mark the eighth time the Dolphins will play on Thursday night since the NFL started scheduling games on that evening in 1978.

Miami went 4-3 in its first seven Thursday night games, and its appearances have come in spurts. The Dolphins played a Thursday night game in three consecutive seasons from 1979-81 and this week’s game at Ralph Wilson Stadium will be their third Thursday night game in the last four years.

Let’s revisit the Dolphins history on Thursday nights.

NOVEMBER 29, 1979
Orange Bowl, Miami, Fla.
Dolphins 39, New England 24

The Dolphins and Patriots both came into the game with 8-5 records, and at stake was first place and control of the AFC East race.

A Stanley Morgan touchdown reception from Steve Grogan gave New England a 17-10 lead in the second quarter, but it was pretty much all Dolphins after that.

Bob Griese, who had been benched in favor of Don Strock, gave the Dolphins the lead for good when he threw a 38-yard TD pass to Nat Moore as Miami ran off 29 consecutive points.

Larry Csonka scored three rushing touchdowns on the night, and the defense chipped in with six takeaways — two interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

The Dolphins would split their last two games to finish 10-6, good enough for the division title. The season ended with a divisional round playoff loss against eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

NOVEMBER 20, 1980
Orange Bowl, Miami, Fla.
San Diego 27, Dolphins 24 (OT)

The Dolphins went into the 1980 campaign on a run of nine seasons with at least 10 victories in 10 years, but things didn’t go so smoothly that year.

When the Chargers came to the Orange Bowl in the 12th week, the Dolphins were 6-5 and trying to make a run at the playoffs. San Diego was the defending AFC West champion and came in at 7-4.

This was a tight game all the way, with no team ever leading by more than seven points.

David Woodley, known more for his scrambling ability, actually threw for more yards than future Hall of Famer Dan Fouts that night. But Fouts threw three TD passes, while Woodley could manage only one.

Worse, Woodley threw two interceptions, the second of which was returned 28 yards by linebacker Woodrow Lowe to set up Rolf Benirschke’s game-winning field goal in overtime.

The Dolphins continued to play .500 football the rest of the way, and in the end their 8-8 record wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs.

SEPTEMBER 10, 1981
Orange Bowl, Miami, Fla.
Dolphins 30, Pittsburgh 10

After starting the 1981 season with a victory at St. Louis, the Dolphins came home to face the Steelers in their home opener.

The Steelers were two years removed from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl title, but they also were coming off an 8-8 season and their dynasty clearly was on the decline.

Still, this was a dominating performance by the Dolphins.

Miami rushed for 185 yards, the defensive effort featured two interceptions by Glenn Blackwood and two sacks each for A.J. Duhe and Kim Bokamper, and Tom Vigorito all but sealed the victory with an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter that made the score 27-10.

The game actually was close at halftime, with Miami holding a 13-10 lead. But David Woodley’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Tony Nathan began a 17-0 run by the Dolphins.

The 2-0 start spurred the Dolphins to an 11-4-1 season that ended with the dramatic playoff game against the San Diego Chargers.

OCTOBER 18, 1990
Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Dolphins 17, New England 10

The 1990 season marked the first time the NFL schedule included byes for every team, and the Dolphins and Patriots both had the week off before they faced off in prime time.

Miami came in with a 4-1 record, including a 27-24 victory at New England in the season opener. The Patriots, meanwhile, were 1-4 and had given up 33 points or more in losing their last three.

The Dolphins offense wasn’t able to match that kind of production, but it didn’t matter because the defense really came to play and the special teams chipped in with a huge play.

Miami held New England to 197 total yards and sacked quarterback Marc Wilson five times. The Dolphins led 10-3 at the half, with the only touchdown coming when Mark Higgs returned a blocked punt 19 yards.

Still, the Dolphins needed one last defensive stand to secure the victory and got it when they stuffed Wilson on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 35-yard line with under four minutes left.

The Dolphins’ hot start would get them to 8-1 on their way to a 12-4 finish. Unfortunately, Buffalo was even better at 13-3 and the Bills ended the Dolphins’ season with a 44-34 victory at Buffalo in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Pittsburgh 28, Dolphins 17

To kick off the NFL season, the league chose the Dolphins as the opponents for the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers.

The Dolphins were coming off a 2005 season that had ended with six consecutive victories and they had added quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the offseason.

It was an even game through the first three quarters, and the Dolphins led 17-14 thanks to a Ronnie Brown touchdown run. Things looked even more promising after quarterback Charlie Batch fumbled a snap at the Miami 1-yard line to end a Steelers threat and the Dolphins then drove into Pittsburgh territory.

That drive stalled when Brown was dropped for a 2-yard loss on third-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 41.

On the first play of the next series, tight end Heath Miller somehow was allowed to run free deep in the Miami secondary and after catching a pass at the Pittsburgh 32 was able to run all the way to end zone for an improbable 87-yard touchdown.

Three plays later, Culpepper was intercepted by safety Troy Polamalu, but the Dolphins caught a break when Jeff Reed missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.

It didn’t matter because on the very next snap, Culpepper was intercepted by Joey Porter, the same Joey Porter who would sign with the Dolphins the next spring, who returned the pick 42 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

The disappointing loss set the tone for a rough start to the season for the Dolphins, who would end up 6-10 and out of the playoffs.

NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Dolphins 24, Carolina 17

After a disappointing 0-3 start, the Dolphins found themselves with a chance to even their record for the first time when they faced a Carolina team with the same 4-5 mark.

Ricky Williams made sure .500 would be achieved.

In a performance that would earn him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors, Williams scored all three Miami touchdowns, capping his big night with a 45-yard touchdown run.

Williams had given the Dolphins a 14-3 halftime lead with a 14-yard TD reception from Chad Henne and a 1-yard scoring run.

Carolina got a late field goal after Williams’ third touchdown and got the ball one last time, marching all the way to the Miami 26-yard line before Jake Delhomme’s last-gasp pass to Dwayne Jarrett fell incomplete.

Linebacker Joey Porter led the Dolphins defensive effort with two sacks.

The Dolphins moved to a winning record at 7-6 three weeks later after beating Jacksonville, but a three-game losing streak left them with a 7-9 record.

NOVEMBER 18, 2010
Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Chicago 16, at Dolphins 0

With Miami at 5-4 and Chicago at 7-3, this appeared on paper to be a good matchup, but the Dolphins came in with a clear handicap.

Four days before facing the Bears, the Dolphins lost not one but two quarterbacks in a victory over Tennessee, forcing them to go with third-stringer Tyler Thipgen against the fierce Chicago defense.

With Chad Pennington on injured reserve and Chad Henne as the third quarterback, Thigpen wasn’t able to move the offense consistently.

The Dolphins could have gotten a big lift right from the start after Nolan Carroll returned the opening kickoff 46 yards to the Chicago 47, but the drive went backwards after it reached the Bears 35-yard line.

The defense, which got an interception by Benny Sapp and sacks from Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby and Quentin Moses, kept the Dolphins in the game most of the way, but Chicago broke open a 6-0 game with a field goal and touchdown in the third quarter.

The Dolphins rebounded from the loss to Chicago to win two of their next three to get to 7-6, but for the second consecutive year the season ended with a three-game losing streak.

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