Miami had been 5-0 in AFC championship games. Then, in 1985, they met the Patriots. And, well, here's the story:
The 1985 Patriots were shaping upto be a good team with a young quarterback, running back and receiver to complement an attacking defense. However, the Patriots' appeared to be the 'same old Patiots' when the struggled early. Tony Eason, who would have garned more attention for his sophmore season if not for Dan Marino's record breaking season, looked more like the rookie Tony Eason as the team stumbled out of the gate. After a 2-1 start back-to-back losses to the Raiders (35-20) and Cleveland (24-20) dropped the team to 2-3.
Already two games behind division leaders Miami and New York, the season appeared to be lost as Tony Eason was lost to injury. In stepped fan favorite and much maligned Steve Grogan to the rescue. Led by the veteran quarterback, the Patriots went on a six game winning streak, including wins over division leaders New York (20-13) and Miami (17-13), and propelled themselves into the playoff hunt with a 8-3 record. The Jets would end the winning streak at six with a 16-13 victroy. The teams would continue to fight out and all three teams headed into week 15 with 10-4 records. The Jets would lose at home to the Bears setting up the Dolphins/Patriots Monday night game for the division title. The Dolphins raced out to an early lead and led 17-7 at halftime. They led 27-13 in the fourth when a little Patriots magic struck. After a Mosi Tatupu touchdown cut the defeicit down to 7 at 27-20, Cedric James picked up a Dolphins fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned is 15 yards to tie the score. The Dolphins would win the game 30-27 on a late field goal, but the Patriots showed they might be a team to reckon with in the playoffs. The Patriots would wrap up their first playoff berth in a non-strike season with a 34-23 win over the Bengals. The Patriots traveled to New York for a wildcard game against division foe Jets. After falling behind 7-3, the Patriots defense stymied the Jets' offense and forced four turnovers enroute to a 26-14 victory. Their first playoff victory since 1963. The Patriots next traveled to Los Angeles to face the Raiders. After taking an early 7-0 lead, the Raiders took control and scored the games next 17 points. The Patriots rallied to close the gap to 20-17 at halftime behind a Craig James TD and Tony Franklin field goal. After a second Tony Franklin field goal tied the score at 20, Jim Bowman recovered a fumble in the endzone, one of six Raider turnovers on the day for a 27-20 lead. The Patriots would hold onto the 7 point lead through a scorless 4th quarter and set-up a rematch with the Dolphins in Miami for the AFC Championship.
The Orange Bowl had long been a place Patriots' teams went to lose, 18 straight games dating back to 1966. Like the previous two playoff wins, the Patriots' capitalized on the other teams mistakes and a vaunted running game. The Patriots' struck first after a Dolphins turnover and led 3-0 behind a Tony Franklin field goal. After the Dolphins went ahead 7-3 the Patriots' regained the lead on a Eason to Tony Collins touchdown pass and then stretched the lead to 17-7 after another Dolphins' turnover led to a Derrick Ramsey touchdown. The Dolphins had a chance to cut into the Patriots' 17-7 haltime lead, but turned the ball over early on their opening drive of the second half. Robert Weathers capped the short drive with a 2 yard touchdown run pushing the Patriots' lead to 17 at 24-7. The Dolphins would close the gap to 10 at 24-14, but the Patriots' rushing attack, which grinded out 255 yards on 59 carries, would clinch their first Superbowl trip when Mosi Tatupu scored a one yard plunge to seal the 31-14 victory.