Photo credit: Rod Boren/Associated Press
During his prime, Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Dan Marino was a sight to see. At the time of his retirement, Marino was the NFL’s record holder in virtually every major passing category.
On this day 35 years ago, Marino put on a show for the Los Angeles crowd. He threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns. That included the game-winner as the Dolphins topped the Los Angeles Rams in overtime, 37-31.
Setting the Stage
At 7-7, the Miami Dolphins were clinging to slim playoff hopes and desperate for a win as they arrived at Anaheim Stadium on Dec. 14, 1986. Miami had overcome a 1-4 start and was looking to get over .500 for the first time.
The Los Angeles Rams were 10-4 and had a 1.5-game lead over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. With a trip to San Francisco on the horizon, the Rams needed to win to clinch the division.
Back and Forth
The contest was a thriller as both offenses shined. Through one quarter however, the game was scoreless.
Eric Dickerson rushed for 128 yards in the win, but the game’s first points came on one of his fumbles. Dickerson was trying to power his way to the end zone when he was stripped and offensive lineman Tom Newberry recovered for the Rams’ touchdown.
Down 7-0, Marino would lead Miami to 21 straight points. Sandwiched around a 69-yard touchdown pass to Mark Duper and a 43-yard strike to Mark Clayton was a 6-yard touchdown toss from Marino to James Pruitt.
Down 21-7 at the break, the Rams drew even with touchdowns on each of their first two third-quarter possessions. Jim Everett, who passed for 251 yards, found Henry Ellard for a 19-yard touchdown and Kevin House for a 23-score.
Before the period was over however, the Dolphins regained the lead as Marino connected with Duper again — this time for a 5-yard touchdown. Fuad Reveiz’s short field goal early in the fourth again made it a 2-score game, but again, Los Angeles answered with consecutive scoring drives.
After Mike Lansford connected on a 32-yard field goal, Dickerson scored a 1-yard touchdown with just 50 seconds left to knot the score at 31. To overtime, the teams went. The Rams would never see the ball in the extra period.
On a day where Marino passed for more than 400 yards, it was a 35-yard run by Ron Davenport that put the Dolphins in field goal range. The Dolphins however, never needed to send the kicker onto the field.
Four plays after Davenport’s long run, Marino put the contest away. With the defender’s back turned, Marino found Duper for their third touchdown connection of the day. Duper made the catch in the end zone for the 20-yard touchdown that ultimately ended the contest.
Miami finished with 506 yards of offense in the win. In addition to Marino’s big day, Duper led all receivers with 145 yards on four catches, including the three touchdowns.
Ellard had a big day receiving for the Rams, catching eight passes for 121 yards. Los Angeles’ Vince Newsome had the game’s only interception. Fred Robinson led the Miami defense with two sacks.
The contest at Anaheim Stadium ended in thrilling fashion, but that wouldn’t be the case for either team. The Dolphins fell to the New England Patriots in the regular-season finale to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 1980.
As for the Rams, they would fall to San Francisco in a contest that would decide the NFC West. Following a 10-6 finish to the regular season, the Rams fell to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Wild Card.
Although the teams’ seasons ended in disappointing fashion, they put on a show head-to-head. That contest was decided by Marino’s fifth touchdown pass on this day 35 years ago.