5-Year Phiniversary: Dolphins Stop Kaepernick Short of Goal Line to Preserve Win Over 49ers

Late in his career, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick had become a controversial figure. What the Miami Dolphins were reminded of on this day five years ago however, was that he was still very talented.

Kaepernick had a stellar individual effort in his final game in South Florida. In the end however, Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso combined to stop him just shy of the end zone to preserve a 31-24 Miami victory.

Setting the Stage

The Miami Dolphins were red hot as they arrived at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 27, 2016. After a 1-4 start, Miami had won five straight games and were heavy favorites to make it six.

In their first year under head coach Chip Kelly, the 49ers were in the midst of a season to forget. San Francisco arrived with a record of 1-9, but thanks to Kaepernick, gave the Dolphins all they wanted.

Dolphins Survive

Early on in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Dolphins might cruise to victory. With less than 12 minutes to play, Ryan Tannehill’s third touchdown pass of the day — a 15-yard strike to Leonte Carroo — had given the Dolphins a 31-14 lead.

Kaepernick however, would not let the 49ers roll over. San Francisco answered with a touchdown drive as Kaepernick found Torrey Smith for the 1-yard score to cut the lead back to 10.

The next two Miami possessions resulted in 3-and-outs. Kaepernick, who finished with 296 yards passing, 113 yards rushing and three touchdown tosses, carved up the Dolphins’ defense.

Miami would bend but not break on the next drive as the 49ers settled for a David Akers’ field goal. Down 31-24, the 49ers would get one more possession from its own 38-yard-line with less than two minutes remaining.

The Dolphins’ defense was in a good spot as San Francisco faced 3rd-and-21 on its first set of downs. A 10-yard completion to Carlos Hyde and a 17-yard strike to Smith however, moved the chains and the 49ers into Miami territory.

Three plays later, San Francisco faced 3rd-and-long again and again, Kaepernick found a way to convert — this time with his legs. His 20-yard scramble moved the 49ers inside the 25-yard-line. A 18-yard completion to Jeremy Kerley put the ball on the 6 with six seconds to go.

Following an incomplete pass, the 49ers were down to one play. On the game’s final snap, Kaepernick was forced to scramble. As he made his way toward the end zone however, Suh and Alonso combined to deliver a punishing blow at the 2-yard-line.

The game was over.

Miami had survived.

In Hindsight

Kaepernick had a monster day for San Francisco in the loss, but Tannehill also had a solid day for Miami. He passed for 285 yards and threw touchdowns to three different receivers. Jay Ajayi also rushed for a score in the victory.

Miami’s Kenny Stills led all receivers with 72 yards and a touchdown. Dion Sims also caught a touchdown in the victory. In addition to Smith, Hyde and Garrett Celek were also on the receiving end of Kaepernick touchdown passes for the 49ers.

Alonso’s game-saving tackle was among a game-high 11 stops for the Dolphins. He also came down with the game’s only interception.

The win for the Dolphins was their sixth straight, but that streak ended the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. Miami would follow that loss up by winning its next three games. The Dolphins finished the year 10-6 before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game.

San Francisco would win just once more in 2016 to finish 2-14. Against Miami however, it took a game-saving tackle for the Dolphins to preserve the victory. It came on this day five years 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.