The Miami Dolphins’ rivalry against the Boston Patriots — New England Patriots from the 1971 season on — began when the Fins were one of two expansion teams in 1966.
Playing only once in their inaugural season, Miami lost the meeting 20-14 against the Patriots. Still, even as Miami struggled as a young team in the newly merged NFL, they found early success against the division foe, winning four straight versus New England from 1967 to 1969.
70’s and 80’s edge: Miami
When Miami got their footing under new head coach Don Shula, New England’s wins against the Dolphins grew a little harder to come by. Miami went 23-17 from 1970 to 1989 vs. the Patriots, including a 28-13 victory in the 1983 playoffs.
However, on a sour note, December 12th, 1982 at Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts was… ‘The Snow Plow Game.’
A game that still irked coach Shula well into his retirement saw then Patriots head coach Ron Meyer call on snowplow operator Mark Henderson to clear a spot for N.E. placekicker John Smith.
Initially, it was thought to be called by a game official, who are the only ones permitted to call for the use of the snowplow. Miami helplessly looked on at what seemed like a routine clearing for a measurement. When in reality, snow plow operator Henderson took a left turn towards Miami’s goal post, clearing a perfect 4′ area for Patriots holder Matt Cavanaugh.
Subsequently, after a scoreless game with only 4:45 left in the fourth quarter, Smith’s field goal was successful. New England went on to win 3-0.
Afterwards, coach Schula met with commissioner Pete Rozelle a few days later, who agreed with the Dolphins head coach that the use of the snowplow gave New England an unfair advantage. Though the commissioner had the power to overturn a game result, Rozelle stated he had never changed the outcome of a game and wasn’t about to start doing so for any reason.
No one would ever accuse the Patriots of unfair play though… right?
2000’s Patriots take control:
Miami fans saw an emergence of a new regime up north after William Stephen Belichick was named head coach of the Patriots after a short stint with the Cleveland Browns.
Belichick and the Patriots soon would select a lightly regarded prospect from Michigan with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft. That pick began a dominant and controversial run unlike any the league has ever seen. For the most part, the Patriots have dominated the NFL, winning 6 out of 9 Super Bowls since 2000.
Regardless, the duo of Belichick and Tom Brady have collected more losses in Miami than any other team in the league (7-9). No matter how unstoppable the Patriots seem or how necessitous the Dolphins appear to be, the yearly contest in South Florida is always dangerous for New England.
From Wild Cats to Wild Finishes:
Miami has seen some incredible and improbable wins against the Patriots in the time the two have been AFC East rivals. From the ‘Miracle in Miami’ to the Wild Cat that left Belichick’s Pat’s stunned in the third game of the 2008 season, the Dolphins always seem to have a way of disappointing Patriot nation.
One could easily argue Miami is the reason New England won only 6 of 9 titles and not 8 of 9, as they robbed Belichick’s squad of home-field advantage twice.
The Dolphins and New England are the only two teams in the Super Bowl era to finish the regular season undefeated. Miami, however, was able to add the postseason as well to cap off its 72′ perfection whereas New England fell short to the New York Giants in 2008 after going 16-0 in the regular season, thus keeping the champagne flowing down south even longer for the Dolphin faithful.
The Dolphins lead the all-time series 56-53. With Brady now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unclear how decade three of the 21st century will sway.
One thing is for sure, as scary as the ice, snow and freezing cold may be in Foxborough, the warm sun, sand and beaches of South Florida send chills down the spine of all of Patriots nation every year.