Friday, December 21, 2007

The Greatest Meaningless Game Ever

Last Sunday Dolphin fans saw one of the greatest, most exciting, emotional wins in franchise history. Strange isn’t it to talk that way about a meaningless win in the worst season in team history? But who could deny it? We all saw the wild celebration, Huizenga’s tears, the whole bit. Clearly, the win wasn’t meaningless; it meant everything to the Dolphins. Honestly, it’s hard to think of any meaningful regular season games that ever resulted in the kind of emotional exhibition we saw from Dolphin fans and players. Remember, the game had no playoff implications whatsoever. It ain’t easy wringing great drama from a game between two bad teams. People care when the Patriots vs. Colts play a regular season game but that’s because they’re the two best teams in the league right now. Back in the Reagan administration that was your classic smashed windshield game. It was meaningful (I suppose) when Favre became the NFL’s leading passer last Sunday but honestly, who really cares? Even Favre didn’t cry (or threaten to retire). No, when playoffs aren’t involved the NFL’s most riveting games are often those played late in the season when one team is desperately trying to stave off history, fighting to avoid by becoming the first team ever to lose all 16 games. Everybody can relate to fear of failure and the desire to avoid laying claim to the title of Worst Team Ever.

Here’s the list of every 1-15 team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule:

1980, Week 15: New Orleans 21 New York Jets 20
1982, Week 2: Houston 23 Seattle 21
1989, Week 9: Dallas 13 Washington 3
1990, Week 2: New England 16 Indianapolis 14
1991, Week 11: Indianapolis 28 New York Jets 27
1996, Week 9: New York Jets 31 Arizona 21
2000, Week 13: San Diego 17 Kansas City 16
2001, Week 1: Carolina 24 Minnesota 13

You can see that only the 1980 Saints, the 1991 Colts, and the 2000 Chargers played deep into the season with fans dreading the possibility of immortal infamy. Also note that all three of those critical wins were hard-fought nailbiters. It’s just never easy to break that double-digit losing streak. Now, other teams besides those above have given their fans 0-16 nightmares, but they wound up winning more than a single game. Here’s the ones who gave it a good run:

1984, Week 12: Buffalo 14 Dallas 3 (Bills finished 2-14)
1986, Week 14: Indianapolis 28 Atlanta 23 (Colts finished 3-13)
2001, Week 13: Detroit 27 Minnesota 24 (Lions finished 2-14)

Again we see how hard it is to actually lose them all and how close that streak-breaking win usually is. So where does Miami’s 2007, Week 14 22-16 OT triumph over the Ravens fall among classic triumphs by previously winless teams? Well, only the 1980 Saints went longer than Miami did in making their fans wait for that first win. And that was a close hard-fought game, not decided until inside the final minute when Jets running back Bruce Harper stupidly stayed in bounds trying to get extra yardage even though New York was out of time outs. With the ball at the Saint’s 37-yard line the final eleven seconds ticked away before the Jets could try a field goal or one final pass to the end zone.

The only other team starved for a win as long as the 2007 Dolphins was the 1986 Colts and they also won in last second crazy fashion. The Colts blocked an Atlanta punt and returned it for the winning TD with 20 seconds left.

Three critical late-season triumphs. Three teams coming through with clutch victories to disappoint those rooting hard for 0-16. So which was the greatest game? You’ve got to go with last week don’t you. That’s the only overtime game! And think about the unique rollercoaster ride Miami put its fans through. Trailing by 10 at the half. Coming from behind. Seemingly winning the game with a late field goal. Allowing the Ravens to drive down to the Miami one-yard-line with seconds left. Baltimore choosing to play it safe and go to overtime. The ravens missing the game-winning field goal. And finally, catching lightning in a bottle with a 64-yard TD strike to a complete unknown, the big play that’s been missing the entire season!

Miami 22 Baltimore 16 OT. In the worst season EVER, one of the greatest wins in team history. You heard me. We’re not the worst team ever! It adds up to one thing: the greatest meaningless win in NFL history.

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Mike said...

And the traditionally lights out MAtt Stover no less. Ravens fans thoughtit was over. HA!

Greatest Dolphin game this year (no s&^t).