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Over the years, the Miami Dolphins have had some pretty memorable season-opening wins over the New England Patriots.
That was especially true when the legendary Dan Marino was behind center. One of those took place on this day 30 years ago as Miami rallied from 15 points down to top New England, 27-24.
The 1989 season was neither a great one for the Dolphins nor Patriots. After starting 8-6, Miami lost its final two games to miss the playoffs. The Patriots had finished last in the AFC East with a record of 5-11.
Early on at Foxboro Stadium on Sept. 9, 1990, it looked as though Miami’s rough end to 1989 may be spilling over into 1990. New England raced to a 21-6 first-half lead, but a touchdown pass from Marino to Mark Clayton and a touchdown run from Sammie Smith had the Dolphins within striking distance.
With less than seven minutes to go in the game, Miami took over at its own 20, but went 3-and-out. Thanks to an untimely drop from Sammy Martin, New England returned the favor.
Down 24-20, the Dolphins took over at the New England 48-yard-line with four minutes to play. Needing a touchdown to win the contest, Miami would do just that.
The final possession for Miami began with a productive run from Smith for 10 yards. After a solid run by Marc Logan, Marino found fullback Tony Paige who moved inside the 25-yard-line.
Another nice run by Logan moved the ball to the 15-yard-line, which was followed by a Marino completion to Fred Banks set the Dolphins up with goal to go. On the very next play, Marino was flushed right before firing across his body to a diving Paige for the go-ahead 7-yard touchdown with less than two minutes to play.
So Close, but Yet So Far
Despite letting a 15-point lead evaporate, New England wasn’t done. The Patriots marched inside the Miami 35-yard-line, but a critical sack of quarterback Steve Grogan by Miami’s Karl Wilson pushed New England back to the 40-yard-line.
With time ticking away, Jason Staurovsky trotted on to attempt a 57-yard field goal. The kick fell short as Miami prevailed.
Marino overcame three interceptions to pass for 255 yards in the Miami victory. Smith led all rushers with 159 yards on 23 carries. Jeff Cross tallied a pair of sacks for the Miami defense.
Grogan finished with 217 yards passing and two scores for New England in the loss. New England wide receiver and future Dolphin, Irving Fryar, led all receivers with 79 yards to go with a touchdown grab. Ronnie Lippett came down with a pair of interceptions for the New England defense.
Despite the highly-competitive opener, Miami and New England couldn’t have been further apart when the regular season ended. The Dolphins would finish 12-4 and reach the Divisional round of the playoffs. The Patriots finished just 1-15 with 14 straight losses to close the year.
The first of many losses for New England and the first of many wins for Miami in 1990 came in a thriller. It happened on this day three decades ago.