The Dan Marino era saw the Miami Dolphins pull out a plethora of thrilling victories. But on this day two decades ago, Marino was forced to leave the contest with bone spurs as the Dolphins were rallied by an unlikely source.
The Dolphins were 3-1 as they headed to Foxborough on Oct. 17, 1999 for a critical AFC East match-up with the New England Patriots, who stood at 4-1. At the end of the day, Miami prevailed 31-30 thanks to the heroics of backup quarterback Damon Huard.
Miami had never led in the contest before Huard marched the Dolphins 59 yards in 14 plays and less than two minutes. Huard put his team ahead for good with a 5-yard touchdown pass to fullback Stanley Pritchett with 28 seconds remaining.
Marino got the start for Miami, but after allowing Ty Law to return a pick 57 yards for a touchdown, it was clear the future Hall of Fame gunslinger wasn’t himself. Marino threw just three passes before the switch and for Huard, the results were the same early on.
Trailing 7-0, Huard’s first pass was intercepted by New England linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer and returned 27 yards for a score. Miami found itself down 14-0 less than seven minutes in, but began to chip away.
After a pair of field goals from Miami kicker Olindo Mare cut the lead to eight, Huard and wide receiver Tony Martin connected on a 69-yard touchdown. After that, Mare and New England kicker Adam Vinatieri mostly exchanged field goals.
The Patriots’ only offensive touchdown of the day came on a 29-yard strike from Drew Bledsoe to Tony Simmons with 23 seconds remaining in the first half to go up 24-16. Despite little time on the clock, the Dolphins were able to add a 45-yard field goal from Mare, thanks in part to a long scramble from Huard.
The second half saw the kickers exchange a pair of field goals before the Dolphins forced a pair of incomplete passes and a punt with just over two minutes to go. Down 30-25 with the ball at his own 41-yard-line, Huard would go 10-for-14 on the final drive with six of those completions going to Pritchett, including a key 11-yard connection on 3rd-and-10.
After a pair of misfires, Huard found running back J.J. Johnson for 16 yards on 3rd-and-10 to set Miami up with goal to go. After two more incomplete passes, Huard and Pritchett hooked up for the winning touchdown.
The 2-point conversion was no good with 28 seconds remaining, leaving the Patriots time to drive for a winning field goal. New England would get only as far as its own 41 before a Hail Mary ended the game.
Entering the day, Huard had thrown just nine career passes before finishing with 240 yards passing and 54 yards rushing. Martin finished with seven catches for 118 yards to lead all receivers. Patrick Surtain had an interception and defensive end Lorenzo Bromell had two sacks in the victory. Mare made a team-record six field goals in the win with a long of 53 yards. Bledsoe passed for 225 yards for the Patriots in the loss.
Huard would start the next five games for Miami, going 4-1 as a starter, which included a second win over New England in South Florida. The victory would serve as a big one as the Dolphins secured the final playoff spot in the AFC with a 9-7 record — one game better than the Patriots’ 8-8 mark. That win 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.