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NFL Classic Rewind: Pats End Orange Bowl Jinx To Advance to First Super Bowl

Posted on September 08, 2011 by A.J. Foss

In 1985, the New England Patriots pulled off one of the most shocking runs to the Super Bowl as they won three straight road games in the postseason to win the AFC Championship.

The third and final road victory was a 31-14 win over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game that not only clinched the Patriots their first Super Bowl berth, but was the first time the Patriots defeated the Dolphins in their home stadium, the Orange Bowl.

The 1985 season was the first full season for head coach Raymond Berry, who had taken the head coaching reins midway through the 1984 season after Ron Meyer was fired because of a rift between Meyer and the players.

The Patriots got off to a slow start in 1985 as they dropped three of their first five games for a 2-3 record.

But after Steve Grogan replaced starting quarterback Tony Eason who separated his shoulder in the sixth game, New England went on a six-game winning streak until Grogan broke his leg in an overtime loss to the New York Jets in the twelfth game of the season.

Eason once again became the starter and helped New England to wins in three of their last four games to finish the season with an 11-5 record and a Wild Card playoff berth.

Tony Eason only completed 10 passes in the AFC Championship Game, but three of them were for touchdowns.

Behind a defense that forced four turnovers and sacked quarterback Ken O’ Brien five times, the Patriots knocked off the Jets 26-14 in the AFC Wild Card Game, then traveled to Los Angeles where they scored 17 points off six Raiders turnovers to knock off the AFC’s #1 seed 27-20 to advance to their first ever AFC Championship Game.

But most experts believed that New England’s Cinderella run would come to an end in the AFC Championship Game as they traveled to the Orange Bowl, a stadium where their record was 0-18 as heading into their match-up with the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were the defending AFC Champions and with quarterback Dan Marino at the helm, Miami was one of the preseason favorites to win the Super Bowl in 1985.

However for the first half of the season, the Dolphins did not have the look of a Super Bowl team as they were mired in third place in the AFC East with a 5-4 record.

But the Dolphins turned it on in the last half of the season as they won their last seven games of the regular season which included a 38-24 win over the Chicago Bears, handing Chicago their first and only loss of the 1985 season.
Miami ended the season with a 12-4 record to win the AFC East title for the fourth time in five seasons.

In the divisional playoffs, the Dolphins played the Cleveland Browns and fell behind 21-3 early in the third quarter before they scored 21 unanswered points to pull out a 24-21 comeback victory and a spot in the AFC Championship Game.

It appeared for Dolphins fans that things were lining up for a second straight trip to the Super Bowl after their comeback win over the Browns and the Raiders’ loss to the Patriots which gave Miami the home field advantage for the Championship Game against the Patriots, who had never beaten the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl in 18 tries.

But instead for the Dolphins, they would be ambushed by the Patriots.

On the Dolphins’ first play from scrimmage, running back Tony Nathan fumbled the ball when he was hit by Patriots linebacker Steve Nelson.

Garin Venis recovered the fumble for New England at the Dolphins’ 20-yard-line, leading to a 23-yard field goal by Tony Franklin that gave the Patriots an early 3-0 lead.

Late in the opening quarter, the Dolphins began an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Marino to tight end Dan Johnson early in the second quarter that put Miami ahead 7-3.

Dan Marino could not let the Dolphins past the Patriots and back to the Super Bowl.

The Patriots responded to the Miami touchdown with one of their own as they drove 66 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Eason to Tony Collins, with the key play on the drive being a 45-yard run by Robert Weathers, to put New England back on top 10-7.

Three plays after the touchdown, the Patriots got another turnover when Marino fumbled a snap from center and the Patriots recovered the ball at the Dolphins’ 36-yard-line.

Once again, the Patriots converted a turnover into points as Eason hit Derrick Ramsey for a one-yard touchdown pass that increased the Patriots’ lead to 17-7 with 5:25 left in the first half.

The Dolphins squandered an opportunity to cut the lead to three points before the end of the first half when tight end Dan Johnson dropped a potential 16-yard touchdown pass.

Miami would pay the price for Johnson’s drop as kicker Fuad Reviez would miss a 31-yard field goal and the first half would end with New England ahead 17-7.

Things only got worse for the Dolphins after Lorenzo Hampton fumbled the opening second half kickoff after a hit by Patriots running back Mosi Tatupu, with Greg Hawthorne recovering the ball at the Miami 25-yard-line.

Six plays later, the Patriots were faced with a 4th-and-1 at the Dolphins’ two-yard-line.

With a chance to put Miami in a bigger hole, Berry decided to go for the first down.

Eason took the snap and found Weathers for a two-yard touchdown that increased the Patriots’ lead to 24-7, just 3:02 into the third quarter.

The Dolphins responded with a drive from their own 25-yard-line to the New England 16-yard-line in hopes of scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to 10 points.

But disaster struck when Marino was picked off by free safety Fred Marion and returned it 21 yards to the Patriots’ 25-yard-line killing the Dolphins’ chance to cut into the lead.

The Patriots then took off 7:57 off the clock by running 12 consecutive running plays for a total of 51 yards, only to have Franklin miss a 41-yard field goal with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

The Dolphins finally got a break early in the fourth quarter when they recovered a fumbled punt at the Patriots’ 10-yard-line.

On the first play following the fumble, Marino found Nathan for a 10-yard touchdown that trimmed the lead to 24-14.

Hopes of a second straight miracle comeback for Miami appeared on the horizon after they forced a Patriots punt after the touchdown.

But those hopes were dashed when running back Joe Carter fumbled the ball at his own 45-yard-line and defensive end Julius Adams recovering the fumble for the Patriots.

New England would then put the game away by taking 5:43 off the clock and getting a touchdown on a one-yard run by Tatupu that made it 31-14 with 7:34 left in the game.

The Patriots carry head coach Raymond Berry off the field following thier 31-14 triumph in the AFC Championship Game.

In total, the Patriots ran the ball 59 times for 225 yards and forced six turnovers which were converted into 24 points in their 31-14 triumph over the Dolphins for their first victory in Miami and sending them to their first ever Super Bowl.

The Patriots became the first team to win three straight road playoff games to advance to a Super Bowl.

But their Cinderella run would come to a screeching halt as the Patriots were routed by the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

Since this surprising run to the Super Bowl, the Patriots have made five more trips to the Super Bowl, with New England winning three of them under head coach Bill Belichick.

Following their win in the 1985 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots would win their second straight game in the Orange Bowl, a 34-27 to clinch the AFC East for New England in the last Dolphins game ever played in the Orange Bowl.

In 1987, the Dolphins moved to Joe Robbie Stadium, a stadium where the Patriots have had more success against Miami by winning nine of the 24 meetings between the two teams at Joe Robbie.

While a lot of that might have more to do with the overall team success the Patriots have had over the last decade, perhaps there is a little carry-over from their historic victory in the Orange Bowl in the 1985 AFC Title Game.

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