Although the Dolphins and Seahawks only get together in election years (every four years), the former intraconference foes do have a history. Seattle's move to the NFC West in the realignment of 2002 bucked any future playoff meetings short of a potential Super Bowl clash.
The Seahawks pulled off the upset in the 1983 playoffs at the Orange Bowl to abruptly end Dan Marino's special rookie season. The greatest of all time would exact his revenge two times against Seattle, however – once the following year in 1984 and again on the backend of his career with a win in Seattle in 1999. Not only did the Dolphins end the Seahawks season, they literally closed down the Kingdome, which was demolished two months later.
"That was definitely the best game I had against those guys," O.J. McDuffie said. "I was dealing with a foot injury and playing on that artificial surface wasn't the best situation, but when it comes to playoff time you get ready to go no matter what the situation was."
Despite Seattle's move to the NFC, the intriguing contests continued. The Dolphins avoided disaster in 2008 against a struggling Seahawks team during an eventual AFC East championship season. Chad Pennington and the Dolphins offense were looking to close out at 21-19 game when the Miami quarterback was sacked, stripped and the ball recovered by Seattle. A challenge would give possession back to Miami for a Brandon Fields punt and a game-clinching defensive stand via four consecutive Seneca Wallace incompletions.
Due to a scheduling quirk, the Seahawks were back in Miami four years later. Normally, the two sides alternate home and home every four years. On the latest Fins Flashback edition of the Drive Time Podcast, former Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano pondered reasons why the sprinklers might turn on mid-game. Surely it couldn't have been the four-year rotation shift. Maybe it was tied to the Marlins move out of Sun Life Stadium, which occurred in March of that same season.
"That was a memory that lasted," Fasano said. "It was a typical 'what the hell is going on?' We always dealt with some adversity we had to overcome. I'm not sure if it was on the Marlins schedule or what it may be, but definitely a funny moment. I think the announcers were saying it was a plot to slow Russell Wilson down."
Getting hit by sprinkler water in late November is hardly an attractive thought in most parts of the country, but in South Florida, the cooling break was welcomed. Fasano made no bones about which players enjoyed the unexpected mid-game sprinkler shower.
"Definitely the fatties," Fasano said. "The big guys probably didn't avoid the water too much. Richie Incognito, for sure, was out there."
Intended or not, the sprinkler delay benefitted the Dolphins. Led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Davone Bess, Miami scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to seize victory. Tannehill found tight end Charles Clay on a wheel route into the corner of the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with five minutes to play.
Fasano and Clay complemented each other well at the tight end position. Clay, more of an H-back jack-of-all-trades, paired with Fasano, who contributed in the passing game, but made his hay as a punishing inline blocker.
"It was a role I was in and embraced pretty much my whole career," Fasano said. "I kind of liked it because I flew under the radar and you had the respect of your coaches and teammates for doing all the dirty work as that blocking tight end."
After the offense's fourth quarter touchdown, the defense bent but didn't break. Seattle drove into Miami territory before getting pushed back to the midfield stripe. After a 20-yard completion from Wilson to Anthony McCoy set Seattle up at the plus-40-yard-line, the Dolphins got tackles for loss from Koa Misi, Paul Soliai, and a sack from Jared Odrick to force the punt.
Then, Tannehill found Davone Bess for 19 yards, then scrambled for 15 on the following play. It was a 25-yard pass again from Tannehill to Bess that put the Dolphins at the plus-39-yard-line and a few plays later the game-winner from Carpenter.
"We had all the confidence in the world from Dan," Fasano said. "As an offense, you know you need to get to that 35-yard-line or close to it. We actually had a penalty when we were grounding the ball (Rishard Matthews lined up illegally). Those things usually kill you on those drives, so for us to overcome that was great."
The win gave Miami 10 over Seattle in the all-time series. The Seahawks would score a last-minute victory of their own over the Dolphins in 2016 to bring the all-time series to 10-5 in favor of the good guys.