MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — When you finish shoveling your driveway and tune in to watch the Patriots kicking off in sunny southern Florida Sunday, remember this . . .
This is where some of the goofy and great moments have happened for the Patriots through the years.
This is where the Patriots lost 18 consecutive games in the Orange Bowl, starting in 1967.
This is where Patriots creator/owner Billy Sullivan pulled his coach out of the locker room before the regular-season finale in 1978. Nearing the end of a successful season, Sullivan learned that coach Chuck Fairbanks had struck a deal to coach at the University of Colorado and was actively recruiting high school players while still coaching the Patriots. New England was 11-4 when it got to Miami for “Monday Night Football.” Sullivan had dinner with Fairbanks in Miami Sunday, then decided to replace Fairbanks with offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt and defensive coordinator Hank Bullough as co-head coaches. Fairbanks never got the memo and showed up at the Orange Bowl to coach his team Monday. Sullivan burst into the locker rooom, told Fairbanks to leave, and instructed Erhardt and Bullough to address the squad. After the chaos, the Dolphins crushed the Patriots, 23-3. Sullivan reinstated Fairbanks before the playoffs, but Bum Phillips’s Houston Oilers spanked the Patriots, 31-14, in Foxboro. New England would not win another playoff game until 1985.
This is where Patriots linebacker Nick Buoniconti was traded in exchange for a couple of guys named Kim Hammond and John Bramlett. A five-time AFL All-Star with the Pats, Buoniconti’s work in Miami made him a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
This is where Holy Cross running back Eddie Jenkins went to play for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in the history of the National Football League.
This is where the Patriots were getting ready to kick a potential game-winning field goal on “Monday Night Football” on Dec. 8, 1980, when Howard Cosell informed the world that John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his home in New York City. “An unspeakable tragedy,’’ said Cosell, seconds before the Dolphins blocked John Smith’s field goal attempt. Miami beat New England, 16-13, in overtime.
This is where the Patriots finally “Squished the Fish,” breaking their Orange Bowl losing streak, defeating young Dan Marino’s Dolphins, 31-14, on Jan. 12, 1986, to advance to the first Super Bowl in franchise history. The Pats ran for 255 yards, recovered four Dolphin fumbles, and intercepted Marino twice, winning their first AFC Championship game. New England went on to lose Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears, 46-10. Two days later, the Patriot franchise was disgraced by disclosure of a massive drug scandal.
This is where Channel 4 sports anchor Steve Burton tried out for the Dolphins, signed a two-year contract, and was released by Don Shula in 1988. Burton’s dad, the late Ron Burton, was the Patriots’ first-ever draft pick in 1960. Both played at Northwestern.
This is where Tom Brady made the second start of his NFL career, in 2001. The Dolphins beat the Patriots, 31-10.
This is where the 2-11 Dolphins defeated the defending Super Bowl champion, 12-1 Patriots on “Monday Night Football” in 2004. Late in the 29-28 loss, Brady threw a brutal interception while in the grasp of Jason Taylor.
This is where the Patriots were humbled, 21-0, in 2006. One year later, this is where the Pats beat the Dolphins, 49-28, on the path to perfection. Brady completed his first 11 passes and threw five touchdown passes in the first half as New England roared to a 42-7 lead at intermission. This is when fans across the nation started to accuse Bill Belichick of running up the score.
This is where Mercury Morris and friends popped champagne when the Patriots lost the Super Bowl and their undefeated season in Glendale, Ariz., in February of 2008.
This is where Bill Parcells made his last stop on the way to the Hall of Fame, from 2008-10. Miami was 1-15 the year before the Tuna took over as vice president of football operations. In Parcells’s first season, the Dolphins went 11-5 and unseated the Patriots as champions of the AFC East.
This is where, on Sunday, the Patriots will assume their spot as the top-seeded team in the AFC. As “The Waltz of the Tomato Cans” plays over the loudspeakers at Sun Life Stadium, the Patriots will win the AFC East for the 10th time in 11 seasons.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.