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The Dolphins and Thanksgiving

It has been more than a decade since the Miami Dolphins played on Thanksgiving Day, but maybe their new explosive offense will make them a more attractive option in 2023 and beyond

For the 11th consecutive season, the Miami Dolphins are not involved in any of the Thanksgiving Day games around the NFL.

The Dolphins last played on Thanksgiving in 2011 when they dropped a 20-19 decision against the Dallas Cowboys, and the current format calls for many more years of waiting — with a couple of possible exceptions.

One exception, of course, is the prime-time game, where the Dolphins have become a much more attractive option based on the explosive offense they've unveiled in 2022 thanks to Mike McDaniel, Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and company.

While there's no guarantee — or even maybe likelihood — the Dolphins will be chosen for the Thanksgiving prime-time game in 2023, let's just say it's a lot more likely than it was at the start of this regular season.

As mentioned before, based on the schedule rotation, the Dolphins are a long way from having a road game at Detroit or Dallas, the teams that host the afternoon games.

The Dolphins played at Detroit this season, but the NFL chose the Buffalo Bills instead to be the visiting team for the early Thanksgiving Day game and Miami won't be back at Ford Field until the 2030 season — unless it happens in 2024 when Miami is scheduled to visit the NFC North team that finishes in the same place in the standings for the so-called 17th game.

The Dolphins are playing at San Francisco for that 17th game this season and will play host to the NFC South team in the same place in the standings for the 2023 17th game.

The Dolphins' next scheduled game at Dallas will be in 2027.

The Dolphins have played in seven Thanksgiving Day games through the years and have done very well, putting together a 5-2 record in those games. The seven games is tied for 14th-most among NFL teams.




With that in mind, here's a quick look at the Dolphins' Thanksgiving Day games:



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On their way to a second consecutive Super Bowl championship, the Dolphins took a 9-1 record into their game at Dallas to face a 7-3 Cowboys team. The Dolphins rushed for 157 yards and used their punishing ground game to kill off the final 8:41 of the game with a drive that featured four third-down conversions. The Dolphins scored on a 1-yard run by Larry Csonka and a 45-yard pass from Bob Griese to Paul Warfield. Safety Jake Scott set up Csonka's touchdown with an interception and had a big tackle to complete a goal-line stand in the second quarter.

1977: DOLPHINS 55, ST. LOUIS 14

This game was memorable for a few reasons. First, it's one of only two Thanksgiving afternoon games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 hosted by somebody other than Dallas or Detroit, in this case the St. Louis Cardinals. Second, it was the game where Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese unveiled his glasses. Third was the game itself, which produced what remains to this day the biggest scoring output by one team on Thanksgiving as well as the biggest blowout. The Dolphins were on the positive side of both achievements as they left old Busch Stadium with a 55-14 victory. Griese set a franchise record (later tied by Dan Marino) with six touchdown passes, including three to wide receiver Nat Moore, but the Dolphins actually gained more yards on the ground than in the air that day (295-208).

1993: DOLPHINS 16, DALLAS 14

In one of the more famous Thanksgiving Day games in history, the Dolphins recorded an improbable victory at snow-filled Texas Stadium. The Dolphins seemed destined to leave Dallas with a 14-13 loss after Pete Stoyanovich's 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked in the final seconds, but that was before Leon Lett inexplicably attempted to fall on the loose ball after it had moved beyond the line of scrimmage. Lett slipped and knocked the ball forward, and Dolphins center Jeff Dellenbach recovered the loose ball at the 1-yard line with 3 seconds left. Stoyanovich then kicked an 18-yard field goal for a 16-14 Dolphins victory. Beyond the unusual weather conditions, the game had notable moments, such as Keith Byars' 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which he punctuated by doing a snow angel in the end zone.


This was the most painful Thanksgiving Day for the Dolphins by far. Dan Marino returned to the lineup after missing five games with an injury but simply had an off day. He completed only 15 of 36 passes and tied a career high with five interceptions in a 20-0 loss at Dallas. The first score of the game was an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Dexter Coakley. The Cowboys head coach that day, incidentally, was none other than Chan Gailey, who later would have two stints as Dolphins offensive coordinator.

2003: DOLPHINS 40, DALLAS 21

The Dolphins wore throwback uniforms for this late-afternoon game in Dallas, and they blew out the Cowboys 40-21 thanks to big performances by quarterback Jay Fiedler and wide receiver Chris Chambers. The two hooked up for three touchdowns to stake the Dolphins to a 37-14 lead through three quarters. Fiedler had almost as many TD passes (3) as incompletions (4) on the day when he posted a near-perfect 156.0 passer rating that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The defense chipped in with five sacks, including one by Adewale Ogunleye that produced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jason Taylor, and three interceptions, one of which was returned 70 yards by safety Sammy Knight.


This one was for Joey Harrington. Selected third overall in the 2002 draft by the Lions, Harrington returned to Detroit for this Thanksgiving Day game as the Dolphins' starting quarterback and enjoyed a happy homecoming. He threw three touchdown passes — two to Marty Booker and one to Randy McMichael — to lead the way to a 27-10 victory. The lone Detroit touchdown was scored by tight end Dan Campbell, the same Dan Campbell who would serve as Dolphins interim head coach for the final 12 games of the 2015 season.

2011: DALLAS 20, DOLPHINS 19

The Dolphins were riding a three-game winning streak following an 0-7 start to the season when they went to Cowboys Stadium and put up a good fight against a Dallas team that also was carrying a three-game win streak. Dallas won 20-19 on a 28-yard field goal by Dan Bailey on the last play of the game, the third lead change in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins got a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall along with four field goals by Shayne Graham.


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