Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




Classic Rewind: Aerial Show At The Meadowlands

Posted on October 31, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Each week, Sports Then and Now picks one NFL matchup and looks through the history books to find an intriguing past meeting between the two teams. We recap the game and hopefully help reintroduce (or introduce for you younger readers) you to some of the greats (and in some cases not so greats) from the history of professional football.

As rivals in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have played some memorable games through the years.

Many of those memorable games, including the game we will feature, included Dan Marino firing passes for the Dolphins.

In 30 career games against the Jets, Marino connected on 58.3% of his passes for 8,651 yards and 72 touchdowns. Those numbers are by far the most of his career against an individual opponent.

Marino passed for 521 yards and three touchdowns in a 1988 game against the Jets, but also had five interceptions as the Jets won 44-30.

The two squads have met in the playoffs only once, with Miami posting a 14-0 shutout in the 1982 AFC Championship Game.

Our Classic Rewind looks at a matchup in 1986 when both Dan Marino and fellow member of the 1983 quarterback class Ken O’Brien were both at the top of their games. The result was an offensive explosion that still ranks among the greatest in NFL history.

The Matchup: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

Series Record: The Jets and Dolphins have met 87 times with New York holding a 46-40-1 advantage, including victories in eight of the last 11 meetings.

The Game: September 21, 1986, The Meadowlands

Team Records: Dolphins 1-1, Jets 1-1

Overview: A year after posting a 12-4 record, but losing in the AFC Championship Game to the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins were off to a 1-1 start. They allowed 50 points in losing their season opener to San Diego before rebounding to post a 30-10 win over the Colts. The Jets were also 1-1 after defeating the Bills and losing to the Patriots. The Jets were looking to build on their 11-5 record from the previous season.

Coaches: Miami – Don Shula (17th year with Dolphins, 24th overall); New York – Joe Walton (4th year)

Notable Dolphins: Dan Marino (qb), Lorenzo Hampton (rb), Mark Clayton (wr), Mark Duper (wr), Jim Jensen (wr), Nat Moore (wr), Bruce Hardy (te), Roy Foster (og), Dwight Stephenson (c), Bob Baumhower (nt), Bob Brudzinski (lb), John Offerdahl  (ilb), William Judson (cb), Glenn Blackwood (ss), Fuad Reveiz (pk), Reggie Roby (p)

Notable Jets: Ken O’Brien (qb), Johnny Hector (rb), Dennis Bligen (rb), Tony Paige (fb), Al Toon (wr), Wesley Walker (wr), Mickey Shuler (te), Joe Fields (c), Dan Alexander (og), Marty Lyons (de), Joe Klecko (nt), Mark Gastineau (de), Kyle Clifton (ilb), Lance Mehl (ilb), Jerry Holmes (cb), Russell Carter (cb), Lester Lyles (ss), Pat Leahy (pk), Dave Jennings (p)

Interesting Notes: The Dolphins entered the game having scored 28 or more points in six straight regular season games. In the 1983 NFL Draft, the Jets passed over Marino to take Ken O’Brien out of Division II California-Davis with the 24th pick in the draft. The Dolphins selected Marino with the 27th pick.

The Game: What would ultimately be the highest scoring meeting ever between the Jets and Dolphins began innocently enough with a first quarter field goal by Pat Leahy to give New York an early lead.

Before the period ended, Miami answered with a six-yard touchdown pass from Marino to James Pruitt to give the Dolphins a 7-3 advantage.

Dan Marino tossed a career-high six touchdown passes against the Jets.

Dan Marino tossed a career-high six touchdown passes against the Jets.

The second quarter was more of a track meet than a football game.

Johnny Hector scored on scoring runs of one and eight yards to give the Jets a 10-point advantage at 17-7.

However, the edge didn’t last long as two Marino touchdown passes gave the Dolphins a 21-17 lead.

In the final minutes of the second quarter, O’Brien and Wesley Walker connected on scoring passes of 65 and 50 yards that allowed the Jets to enter the locker room with a 31-21 lead.

While the 31 points for the Jets in the first half was an impressive total, it was actually 10 points fewer than New York had recorded a year earlier against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The combined total of 42 points in the quarter was seven points beneath the NFL record of 49 points in a quarter set in a 1963 game between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers.

A 46-yard touchdown pass from Marino to Mark Duper cut the lead to three points and then a 44-yard field goal by Fuad Reveiz tied the score.

Miami regained the lead when Marino connected with Bruce Hardy on a one-yard scoring strike.

Duper’s final numbers of seven touchdowns for 154 yards and two touchdowns were impressive, but actually paled in comparison with his numbers against the Jets in a memorable encounter the previous season.  After missing eight games with a broken leg, Duper returned to the lined against the Jets on November 10, 1985 and caught eight passes for a career-high 217 yards and two scores. Duper eclipsed the 100-yard mark against the Jets six times during his career.

Ken O'Brien passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Miami.

Ken O'Brien passed for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Miami.

A seven-yard touchdown run by Dennis Bligen again knotted the score at 38-38.

It wasn’t tied for long as Marino tossed a four-yard scoring pass to Mark Clayton to put Miami back in front 45-38 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. The touchdown was the career-high sixth of the day for Marino. He also finished the game with 448 yards passing as Marino completed 30 of 50 passes, including two interceptions. Clayton also had a big day catching eight passes for 174 yards.

It looked like the Dolphins were going to pull out the victory when they stopped the Jets on a fourth down play in Jets territory on their next possession. Miami regained possession at the New York Jets 45-yard line with 1:57 remaining.

However, Miami could not get a first down and the Jets regained possession following a Reggie Roby punt on their 20-yard line with 1:04 remaining.

Ken O’Brien quickly moved the Jets down the field but time proved to be his greatest foe. The Jets were on the Miami 21-yard line with five seconds remaining in the game and needing a touchdown to force overtime.  Despite pressure in the pocket, O’Brien hung tight and hit Walker with a 21-yard scoring bullet in the front of the end zone as time expired.

New York won the coin toss to start overtime, but almost squandered the opportunity, as it appeared that returnman Michael Harper had fumbled the opening kickoff. Fortunately for the Jets, Harper was ruled down and New York maintained possession.

As it would turn out, Marino and the Miami offense never got the opportunity to take the field in overtime.

O’Brien converted all three of his pass attempts in the overtime, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Walker to give the Jets an improbable 51-45 victory.

Wes Walker scored four touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime.

Wesley Walker scored four touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime.

The Jets quarterback out-dueled his fellow member of the quarterback class of 1983 as he converted 29 of 43 passes for 479 yards and four touchdowns. Walker finished the game with six catches for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Combined, the two quarterbacks totaled 884 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers are still NFL records for the most combined passing yards and touchdowns by two quarterbacks in a game.

Post Script: The victory sparked a nine-game winning streak for the Jets as they raced to a 10-1 record. However, they lost the final five games of the regular season and reached the playoffs as a wild card squad with a 10-6 record. They defeated Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs before losing in overtime to the Cleveland Browns.

Miami enacted a bit of revenge when the two teams played again on November 24th. The Dolphins ended the nine-game winning streak for the Jets with a dominating 45-3 victory. However, Miami finished only 8-8 on the season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1980.

O’Brien remained with the Jets through the 1992 season and posted a 50-55-1 record as a starter. He passed for 24,386 yards and 124 touchdowns with the Jets.

Marino quarterbacked the Dolphins through the 1999 season and registered a 147-93 record as a starter. He retired as the NFL’s career leader in touchdown passes and passing yards.


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