MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Marino. Duper. Clayton. Moore. Nathan. Those 1984 Miami Dolphins that re-wrote the NFL record books? Get me rewrite. They never scored more than 45 points in a game.
These Dolphins kissed that number good-bye in Sunday’s third quarter.
Csonka. Kiick. Warfield. Morris. Griese. The 17-0, Perfect Season Dolphins? Ha! Those guardians of greatness never scored more than 52 points in a game.
These Dolphins zoomed by that one play into fourth quarter.
With 33 seconds left, they led Denver 70-20. Seventy! The scoreboard wanted to do a stock-split the number was so high. That’s when Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, the history major from Yale who looks like a history major from Yale, stared down some big-game NFL history.
A fourth-down, 45-yard field goal would give these Dolphins the most points in a regular-season NFL game.
“It felt like chasing points and chasing a record, and that’s not what we came in the game to do,” McDaniel said after the game.
Reserve quarterback Mike White took the snap and kneeled down to give Denver the ball.
“That’s called karma,” McDaniel said. “We try to keep good karma with the Miami Dolphins.”
Some fans booed, but in a mock-boo kind of way, because everyone was intoxicated simply by seeing 70 points scored. Should the scoreboard convert to Celsius?
“I will be fine getting second-guessed by turning down NFL records,” McDaniel said.
The only second-guess here is why hotel reservations aren’t being safeguarded for Las Vegas in February for the Super Bowl. Sunday underlined what the first two weeks of the season suggested. This team is for real. No one cared about some NFL record everyone had to google during Sunday’s fourth quarter to find.
Besides, look what history did happen:
— Most points in a game in the franchise’s 57-year history (passing 55 by the ’77 Dolphins);
— Most rushing yards (350) in franchise history;
— Only NFL team to ever score five rushing and five passing touchdowns in a game.
“Obviously that was embarrassing and tough to watch,’’ Denver coach Sean Payton said to start his post-game talk.
Do you know how many decades of Dolphins coaches could have said that? For that matter, Payton could have been the Dolphins coach saying that now if things had worked out how team ownership and front officials plotted.
Maybe some grand karmic bin helped there, too. Instead of Payton and Tom Brady they got McDaniel who resurrected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The rest is history in the making.
Tagovailoa was near-perfect again completing 23-of-27 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns. One 54-yard touchdown came on the third play of the game when receiver Tyreek Hill was somehow wide open just as he often is.
The touchdown that summed up what’s at work right now was a measly 4 yards. Tagovailoa gave a no-look shovel pass to De’Vone Achane that attending Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sees in his game. You don’t see that in NFL games.
“When I did it in practice, everyone thought that was super cool, especially with the helmet cam you can watch it again,” Tagovailoa said. “They’re like, ‘You’ve got to do that in a game. I’m like, all right.’ So we did it.”
I’ve used this terse, traditional football word to describe McDaniel’s Dolphins this year: Whee! It applied again Sunday. It’s part of the culture he’s brought that runs counter to NFL norms.
“I think that part of what we try to do with the Dolphins is work relentlessly hard, but in that process try to have fun doing it,” he said.
Let’s not forget the defense. It gave up 13 points Sunday (a late touchdown Denver kickoff return). But when you score a number that’s a speed limit, the day’s about the offense.
“No, never,” Achane said
OK, he doesn’t count. He’s a rookie. But he ran for 203 yards on Sunday, which was — more history — a franchise record for a rookie. His taking four game balls for touchdowns scored had to be another record.
Three games in, the Dolphins are 3-0 and showing they can not only play into the deepest part of this NFL season but be the kind of team that makes history.
There was McDaniel, explaining why he didn’t go for that field goal to score the most point in NFL history. Or to look at it the proper way: The Dolphins scored more than any Marino team, any Super Bowl Dolphins team or any NFL team had in the past 57 years. You don’t have to be a history major from Yale to know that covers a lot of good history.