Throughout the course of his illustrious career, Dan Marino was the winning quarterback in more than 150 games for the Miami Dolphins. That included eight playoff victories.
The last of those came on this day 20 years ago.
In his 17th and final season, Marino had suffered through the worst year of his career in 1999. After a 7-1 start, the Dolphins limped into the playoffs at 9-7 with six losses in their final eight regular season games. As Miami headed to the Kingdome for the Wild Card playoffs on Jan. 9, 2000 to take on the Seattle Seahawks, Marino showed that he still had a bit of magic in his right arm, rallying the Dolphins to a thrilling 20-17 victory.
Through one half of football, Seattle had the game’s only touchdown. The Seahawks got the scoring started midway through the first quarter when Jon Kitna and Sean Dawkins hooked up for a 9-yard touchdown. From there, a 32-yard field goal by Miami’s Olindo Mare and a 50-yard make by Seattle’s Todd Peterson accounted for the remainder of the scoring in the first 30 minutes.
Down 10-3, Miami took the second-half kickoff 60 yards in 10 plays while melting more than six minutes off the clock. On the drive, Marino was 6-for-6 passing for 54 yards, capping the march with a 1-yard touchdown toss to Oronde Gadsden on a slant to knot things at 10 apiece.
It took Seattle just 18 seconds to regain the lead.
Despite being unable to catch the ensuing kickoff cleanly, Seattle’s Charlie Rogers found a seam and raced 85 yards for a touchdown. That would serve as the final score of the day for the Seahawks.
With more than two minutes remaining in the quarter, Miami was able to take advantage of a pair of first down gains for running back Autry Denson as Mare connected from 50 yards out to cut the lead to 17-13. After that, head coach Jimmy Johnson would reach into his bag of tricks as the Dolphins surprised Seattle by recovering an unexpected onside kick.
The Dolphins were unable to capitalize on the possession however as Tom Hutton and Seattle’s Jeff Feagles exchanged punts until just before the 9-minute mark in the final quarter. After a 51-yard punt by Feagles, Miami took over at its own 15-yard-line, down four. After running back J.J. Johnson was stuffed in the backfield, an incomplete pass from Marino and a false start, it looked as though it would be another empty series for the Dolphins as they faced 3rd-and-17 from their own 8-yard-line.
Desperately needing to avoid a 3-and-out, Marino reared back and found a diving Tony Martin for 23 yards and a first down out past the Miami 30. Marino’s next two passes would again be completions to Martin for first down yardage as the two connected on throws of 17 and 20 yards to move inside the Seahawks’ 30.
After back-to-back incomplete passes, Marino and the Miami passing attack again came up big on 3rd-and-long. Facing a 3rd-and-10, Marino found Gadsden, who carried defenders for a gain of 24 to set the Dolphins up with 1st-and-goal from the 5.
The Dolphins had rode the arm of Marino from one end of the field to the other, but used J.J. Johnson’s legs to cap the drive. Johnson carried the ball on the next two plays for Miami, capping the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes to play.
From there, the defense did the rest. The Dolphins sacked Kitna on the next two plays with Trace Armstrong getting to the veteran quarterback on first down and then Rich Owens and Jerry Wilson combining for the sack of second down. The Seahawks had gone 3-and-out, but after a nice punt return by Nate Jacquet gave the Dolphins the ball inside the Seattle 40, Miami quickly returned the favor.
Down 20-17 with just over a minute to play, Seattle had one last chance as it took over from its own 12-yard-line with no timeouts. After three straight incomplete passes, Kitna was able to keep the Seahawks alive with a 17-yard completion to Dawkins, but that would prolong their hopes for just three more plays. Following two more incomplete passes, Miami cornerback Terrell Buckley stepped in front of a Kitna pass for Joey Galloway on the sideline for the interception to seal the victory.
Brock Marion also had an interception for Miami as the game featured just two turnovers. Armstrong tallied three sacks for a Dolphins’ defense that came away with six and held Seattle to just 171 yards of total offense in what would be the final game ever at the Kingdome.
Marino passed for 196 yards in the win with almost all of the production coming in the second half. Johnson rushed for 86 yards for a Dolphins team that totaled 299 yards. Miami’s O.J. McDuffie was the game’s top receiver with five catches for 82 yards.
The season for Miami and the legendary career of Marino would end six days later as the Dolphins were blasted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional round, 62-7. But facing 3rd-and-17 from inside his own 10-yard-line in a 4-point game, Marino found it in himself one more time to provide one more fond memory for those who had the opportunity to watch the eventual Hall of Fame quarterback’s decorated career. That memory came on this day 20 years ago.
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for The Grueling Truth, covering Florida sports and sports history. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. To keep up with all of his work, like his Facebook page.
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