In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
A freak Thanksgiving snowstorm and a puzzling play by Leon Lett contributed to the Miami Dolphins beating the Dallas Cowboys 16-14 at Texas Stadium. With time winding down, the Dolphins lined up for a game-winning 41-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich that was blocked. However, after Lett touched the ball, Miami got a second chance, with Stoyanovich kicking the game-winner from 19 yards.
Snow and Dallas are two things that are an uncommon pairing, as the North Texas City averages only an inch a year in annual snowfall. So, when an ice storm rolled through on Thanksgiving, it was a significant surprise. The Dallas Cowboys, coached by Jimmy Johnson, were the NFL’s it team, having won Super Bowl XXVII; they were well on the way to making it two straight, as they entered Thanksgiving at 7-3. The Cowboys had come into the game after a 27-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Miami Dolphins had come into the game with an 8-2 record despite losing Dan Marino in the season's fifth game. The Dolphins were also without backup Scott Mitchell, who was injured two weeks earlier. Doug Pederson led the Dolphins off the bench to a win against the Philadelphia Eagles in that game that saw Don Shula become the NFL all-time winningest coach. Not satisfied with Pederson, Miami signed veteran journeyman Steve DeBerg who led them to a win over the New England Patriots.
With their aqua uniforms looking beautiful against the white field, Miami got off to a fast start as Keith Byers broke a 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. However, the Cowboys answered in the second quarter as Kevin Williams caught a four-yard pass from Troy Aikman to even the score. Williams later gave Dallas the lead with a Dale Hatcher punt 64 yards for a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Cowboys had been a ten-point favorite but saw their high-powered offense bogged down in the second half as the field conditions worsened. Turnovers played a key role as Miami coughed the ball up four times, with the Cowboys losing it twice. The Dolphins sliced into the Cowboys lead with a 20-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich. In the fourth quarter, Stoyanovich hit a second field goal to pull Miami to within one at 14-13. The Dolphins' defense continued to frustrate Dallas and had one chance to win the game as time was winding down. Stoyo lined up once again on an icy field to win the game but had his 41-yard field goal attempt blocked. The Cowboys celebrated as the kick should have ended the game—the ball landed just short of the Cowboys goal line, with Miami looking on helpless. However, inexplicably Leon Lett slid on the ground and touched the ball. Like a muffed punt, Lett’s touching allowed the Dolphins to get a second life as Jeff Delenbach recovered the ball. This time Pete Stoyanovich attempted a 19-yard field goal which was dead center perfect to give the Dolphins a stunning 16-14 win.
The win propelled the Dolphins to 9-2 on the season. However, injuries continued to mount, and the Dolphins did not win another game, finishing 9-7 as they missed the playoffs. After the game Leon Lett hid in his locker, fearful of getting cut, and he had previously fumbled at the goal line in Super Bowl XXVII. Still, his team rallied around him, and the bonehead play became a footnote to another Lombardi Trophy as the Cowboys did not lose again, finishing 12-4 and beating the Buffalo Bills in the big game for the second year in a row.