30-Year Phiniversary: Higgs’ Late TD Lifts Dolphins Past Browns in MNF Opener

Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins aren’t scheduled to play on Monday Night Football in 2022. In 1992, however, the Dolphins opened their season on a Monday night.

For Miami and football fans in general, they didn’t disappoint.

After squandering a big fourth-quarter lead, the Dolphins went 84 yards for a touchdown to win. Mark Higgs’ 1-yard touchdown run was the difference in a 27-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Setting the Stage

Fresh off an 8-8 season, the Dolphins arrived at Cleveland Stadium for their season opener on Sept. 14, 1992. It marked the third straight season that Miami opened on the road.

Cleveland had already played a game in 1992 and was 0-1. The Browns managed just a field goal in a season-opening 14-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Dolphins Find a Way When it Matters

A field goal was all the Browns managed through three quarters as Miami was in control. With a 20-3 lead entering the final period, the Dolphins looked well on their way to 1-0. The Browns, however, made sure things didn’t come easy.

In a span of less than six and half minutes, Cleveland scored three touchdowns to take the lead. After Bernie Kosar found Michael Jackson for a 6-yard score, David Brandon returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17. With just over a minute to go, Kosar capped a 77-yard touchdown drive with a 3-yard pass to tight end Mark Bavaro.

With 1:18 left, the former University of Miami quarterback had given the Browns a 23-20 lead. That turned out to be too much time for the Miami Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino.

Pinned at his own 16-yard-line, Marino needed just four passes — all completions — to move the Dolphins to within inches of the goal line. Two of those completions, totaling 40 yards, went to Fred Banks. A roughing the passer call on Cleveland didn’t help the Browns cause.

With seven seconds left, Miami’s only run play of the drive ended in the end zone. Higgs leaped over the top of the pile to put the Dolphins in front for good.

It was Higgs’ second touchdown of the night as he finished with a game-high 90 yards rushing. Marino passed for 322 yards in the win and tossed the game’s first touchdown to Mark Duper. In the loss, Kosar threw for 230 yards.

Stats:
Miami Dolphins Communications

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In Hindsight

The thrilling victory would be the start of a memorable season for the Miami Dolphins. Miami won the AFC East at 11-5 and reached the AFC Championship where they fell to the Buffalo Bills. The Dolphins haven’t been back since.

Cleveland bounced back from an 0-2 start and held a winning record in December before dropping its final three games to finish 7-9. Over the course of the season, the Browns suffered four losses by four points or less. The first came to Marino and the Dolphins on this day three decades ago.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.