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The 1997 Miami Dolphins finished with a winning record and made the playoffs. Only once that season, however, did Miami overcome a fourth-quarter deficit to win.
On this day 25 years ago, Miami used a late touchdown, a missed field and overtime to rally past the Tennessee Oilers, 16-13.
Setting the Stage
The Miami Dolphins were looking to start 2-0 for the fourth season in a row as they arrived at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 7, 1997. Miami was coming off a win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1.
In their first season in Tennessee, the Oilers were also Week 1 winners, topping the Oakland Raiders in overtime. The Dolphins had used a late field goal to beat the Houston Oilers on the game’s final snap the year before at the Astrodome, 23-20.
The Dolphins Find a Way
For three quarters, a 13-yard run by Tennessee’s Eddie George had accounted for the game’s only touchdown. Down 13-6, the Dolphins needed a spark late in the third quarter.
A solid kick return from Irving Spikes did just that and set Miami up at its own 37-yard-line. Multiple times on the drive, however, things looked bleak.
Facing 2nd-and-28 from his own 32-yard-line, Dan Marino hit a streaking O.J. McDuffie for 50 yards. On fourth down from the Tennessee 15, the Dolphins were bailed out by a pass interference call in the end zone. The very next play, Irving Spikes scored from two yards out to tie the game with less than 12 minutes remaining.
The teams exchanged punts before a 46-yard pass from Steve McNair to Chris Sanders put the Oilers in position to win the game. With 11 seconds left, Al Del Greco, who connected on each of his first two attempts, came on to try to win the game. His 43-yard field goal attempt, however, sailed wide.
Tennessee never saw the football again.
After Miami won the coin toss, Spikes’ 48-yard return set the Dolphins up in Tennessee territory. Completions from Marino to Bernie Parmalee and Fred Barnett, followed by a personal foul, ultimately set the Dolphins up inside the Tennessee 15.
Olindo Mare’s 29-yard field goal ended the contest as the Dolphins won 16-13 and moved to 2-0. George led all rushers with 106 yards in the loss. Marino passed for 324 yards in the Miami victory.
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The early-season contest played a key role in the playoff race. Miami finished 9-7 and in the postseason while the Oilers finished one game worse at 8-8 and on the outside looking in.
The contest between the teams would be the last before Tennessee changed its name to the Titans. It was a thriller that took place on this day a quarter-century ago.