Over the years, the Miami Dolphins have been on both sides of some pretty memorable comebacks. The biggest comeback victory in franchise history however, came on this day 45 years ago.
The Dolphins had already clinched the AFC East crown as they arrived at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 15, 1974 to play host to the New England Patriots. Miami was 10-3 while New England was 7-6 and hoping to notch a winning season. The Dolphins didn’t seem to have all that much to play for, but that Sunday afternoon would be one for the ages as they erased a 24-point deficit in a 34-27 victory.
From the start, it looked like it would be the Patriots’ day. New England got the scoring started when offensive lineman John Hannah fell on a fumble in the end zone to make it 7-0. That lead quickly doubled after New England’s John Sanders intercepted Miami quarterback Earl Morrall and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown.
Jim Plunkett would add a touchdown pass to Mack Herron late in the period to make it 21-0 after the first quarter. New England added a 46-yard field goal from John Smith early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 24-0, but Miami would get back in the game before heading to the locker room.
The Dolphins responded with 17 straight points to close the period. After a short touchdown run by Don Nottingham broke up the shutout, Morrall found Melvin Baker on a 37-yard scoring strike. Garo Yepremian knocked home a 28-yard field goal late in the half to cut the deficit to seven at 24-17.
Miami would draw even in the third quarter on another long touchdown pass from Morrall to Baker — this time for 46 yards — but New England would not go quietly. Smith’s 34-yard field goal early in fourth quarter put the Patriots back in front, 27-24.
Nottingham’s second short touchdown run of the day would ultimately put Miami ahead for good. Yepremian added a 40-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
Morrall would overcome three interceptions, including two to Sanders, to pass for 288 yards for Miami in the victory in place of a resting Bob Griese. For New England, Plunkett finished with 234 yards passing. Baker led all receivers with 121 yards on four catches. Herron finished with a game-high 124 yards from scrimmage in the loss.
The victory gave Miami at least 11 wins for the third straight season, but it would ultimately fall to the Oakland Raiders in a heartbreaking Divisional playoff game, 28-26. The final win for the Dolphins during the 1974 season however, remains the biggest comeback victory in franchise history. It took place on this day 45 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.