In his 40th season covering the Miami Dolphins, Andy Cohen celebrates the 100th anniversary of the NFL by looking back at some of most memorable moments, players and performances in Dolphins' history.
Any time the Dolphins go to Dallas, as they do this week, my mind always races back to Thanksgiving of 1993.
I had been to Dallas many times before then and have returned many times since, but that day and that game against the Cowboys will always stand out above all others, the most bizarre ending to a football game I have ever witnessed.
When I woke up in my Dallas hotel room on the morning of Nov. 25, 1993 I was surprised to learn that snow was in the forecast. Little did I realize it would have such an enormous impact on the game nor did I ever imagine I would still be writing about that game 26 years later.
Who will ever forget that ball bouncing harmlessly in the snow at the 10-yard line, the Cowboys having just blocked a Pete Stoyanovich field goal that would have won the game with 15 seconds left, the Dolphins facing sure defeat.
Until Leon Lett inexplicably entered the picture, trying to recover that bouncing ball. Why Leon? Don't you know the rules? Leave it alone and the Cowboys win. Even today Lett calls it "the dumbest play of my life."
The rest, as they say, is history. Dolphins' center Jeff Dellenbach recovers the ball that Lett had touched, and Stoyanovich knocks in a chip shot from 18 yards out as time expired, giving the Dolphins a remarkable 16-14 victory.
Then Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson confided years later that it was the most crushing defeat of his career. In the other locker room, Don Shula said it was among his sweetest.
I'll never forget the stunned silence in the stadium that day as the Dolphins players danced in the snow, reveling in a victory that would turn out to be their final one of the season. Ironically, Dallas would not lose another game, finishing the year with a Super Bowl victory. Nonetheless, the bitterness of that Thanksgiving Day loss, and the remarkable way it unfolded, will always remain a sore spot for Cowboys fans, regardless of the end result of that season.
So much still sticks out from that day. Even the ride to the stadium was bordering on surreal. I was on the media/staff bus and the players and coaches were on the other two. Five officers on motorcycles escorted the three busses. And then, as if I was experiencing an episode right out of "The Twilight Zone", one of the officers took a spill. A few minutes later another one did the same.
That prompted one of the great lines of all time by former Dolphins color analyst Hank Goldberg, who was sitting just behind me on the bus.
"Now I know how Jack Ruby got through," Goldberg bellowed, referring to the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas after the JFK assassination.
The packed bus broke up in laughter. Fortunately, both officers were fine. I should have realized right then, though, that something strange was in the cards.
Up until that final play, the most memorable play was a 77-yard touchdown run by Keith Byars, not necessarily because of the run – though it was outstanding – but more because of the celebration, Byars lying on his back in the end zone, making a Snow Angel.
"Sunshine is nice," Byars would say afterward. "but when the elements come into play, that's when we find out which players can step up and play."
But that run by Byars would become a distant afterthought, replaced of course by that wild game-ending scene punctuated by Lett's mistake and Dellenbach's recovery.
"Nothing much to it," Dellenbach said that day. "I just fell on the ball."
Nothing much to it except escaping with one of the most improbable victories in team history.
I realize there are no direct correlations between this Dolphins' team playing in Dallas on Sunday and the events that occurred in the early evening hours of Nov. 25, 1993. I mean we're talking about 26 years ago. Most of these current Dolphins weren't even born then.
But for those who were there, for those who remember relishing in the Sounds of Silence in that stadium and for those who will forever be grateful to Leon Lett, we'll always smile just a little bit more when these two teams play. And, of course, we'll always know why.