Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
The 1983 NFL Draft will forever be known for the quarterbacks selected.
In the first round, six were taken, including three eventual Hall of Famers. The No. 1 overall pick was John Elway. Picked last among signal-callers in the first round was Dan Marino.
Although he was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, Elway was traded and spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos. Marino spent all 17 seasons in the NFL with the team that drafted him — the Miami Dolphins.
The two met for the first time on this day 35 years ago. Both put up impressive numbers, but Marino and Miami were just a bit better in a 30-26 victory.
Setting the Stage
Both teams were 2-1 as they arrived at Mile High Stadium on Sept. 29, 1985. Both were on 2-game winning streaks after losing their season openers.
The Dolphins had reached the Super Bowl the year prior and were popular picks to do so again in the AFC. With Elway under center, the Broncos were coming off a 13-3 campaign.
The Quarterbacks Duke it Out
The first meeting between Marino and Elway did not disappoint. Marino passed for 390 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the win. Elways finished with 250 yards passing and an interception.
The contest saw the lead change six times, including four in the first half.
Denver’s Gene Lang got the scoring started with a 10-yard touchdown run, but before the first quarter was over, Miami responded. Marino’s 69-yard touchdown pass to Nat Moore tied the game after one.
In the second quarter, Sammy Winder found the end zone for the Broncos from seven yards out. That was sandwiched around a pair of field goals by Miami kicker Fuad Reveiz.
The Dolphins regained the lead, 20-14, when Marino found Joe Rose for a 24-yard scoring strike. A Rich Karlis field goal cut the Dolphins’ lead to 20-17 at halftime.
Winder’s second touchdown with more than 10 minutes remaining in the third put Denver back in front, 23-20. With less than 90 seconds to play in the third quarter, Miami went ahead for good on Marino’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Vince Heflin.
Reveiz’s third field goal pushed the Miami lead to seven midway through the fourth quarter. With 3:20 to go and Denver with 4th-and-10 at the Dolphins’ 16-yard-line, the Broncos elected to kick a field goal and try to get the ball back. Karlis’ 33-yard make cut the deficit to 30-26, but the Broncos would get just five more plays before time expired.
With the ball shy of the Denver 40-yard-line, Miami’s Bud Brown stepped in front of an Elway pass for the clinching interception. For the Miami offense, both Moore and running back Tony Nathan finished with more than 100 yards receiving. Winder led all rushers with 103 yards on the ground for the Broncos.
It was hard to envision at the time, but the loss likely cost Denver a playoff spot. The Broncos finished 11-5 and tied with the New York Jets and New England Patriots for the Wild Card spots. The Jets and Patriots got the nod while Denver sat home for the postseason.
The Dolphins would finish 12-4 and one game better than both New England and New York. New England would end up beating Miami in the AFC Championship however, 31-14.
As for Marino and Elway, the two would duel just three times during the NFL careers with Miami winning twice — both of the regular-season match-ups. Marino passed for more than 350 yards in both of those Dolphins’ wins. The first came on this day 35 years ago.