25-Year Phiniversary: Nedney’s Kick Wins It in Dolphins’ Final Trip to Astrodome

by Mike Ferguson

Photo via YouTube

The Miami Dolphins and Houston Oilers played some pretty memorable games before the franchise packed up and moved to Tennessee.

That’s not to say that the trend hasn’t continued against the franchise that is now the Tennessee Titans. Houston however, was the location where the Dolphins won their first road game and their second Super Bowl.

With the city now being home to the Houston Texans, the Dolphins have been back to the city multiple times. Their last win in the old Astrodome however, took place on this day 25 years ago. Joe Nedney’s short field goal as time expired lifted Miami to a 23-20 victory.

Setting the Stage

The Nov. 17, 1996 contest was an important one for two teams fighting for their playoff lives. Miami was just 5-5 as it arrived and had just snapped a 3-game losing streak.

After a 5-2 start, the Oilers were trying to avoid their third loss in four games. For a large portion of the day, they appeared to be in good shape.

Nedney Wins It

Houston raced to an early 14-0 lead, thanks to Chris Chandler touchdown passes to Derek Russell and Frank Wycheck in the first quarter. Miami however, scrapped back into it. Thanks to a touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Irving Spikes and two field goals from Nedney, the Dolphins trailed just 17-13 after three quarters.

The final period was a little more than four minutes old when the Dolphins went ahead for the first time. The go-ahead touchdown however, wasn’t thrown by Marino, but instead, Chandler.

With less than 11 minutes to play in the final period, Miami rookie linebacker Zach Thomas stepped in front of Chandler’s throw and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins led 20-17, but after an exchange of punts, Houston drew even.

Al Del Greco’s second field goal of the game knotted the contest at 20 with 3:20 remaining. But as he had so many times in his career, Marino made clutch throws with the game on the line.

On the third play of the ensuing drive, Miami faced 3rd-and-12. Facing pressure, Marino hung in and delivered a 20-yard strike down the middle to O.J. McDuffie to keep the march alive. Two plays later, a short pass to tight end Troy Drayton wound up going for 51 yards to the Oilers’ 5-yard-line.

Miami needed to do nothing else except melt the clock. Three straight runs set the stage for Nedney to try a 29-yard field goal. On the game’s final snap, Nedney split the sticks.

In Hindsight

Marino had an efficient day, going 21-for-28 passing for 237 yards and a touchdown pass. McDuffie led all receivers with eight catches for 86 yards. Houston’s Eddie George led all rushers with 60 yards.

The win for the Dolphins put both teams at 6-5, but both would finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. The thrilling win served as the last time all season that Miami had a winning record. It also served as the Dolphins’ last trip to the Astrodome.

It came on this day a quarter-century ago.

References

Pro Football Reference
Associated Press

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

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