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ReadJack’s favorite (and least favorite) Bears-Dolphins games

WCG historian Jack M Silverstein takes a look back at the best and worst Bears games of his life against our upcoming opponent: the Miami Dolphins.

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Miami Dolphins vs Chicago Bears - November 5, 2006 Photo by Warren Wimmer/Getty Images

Last time, I called them our existential crisis.

That did not make it better.

Yes, our beloved Bears take on the Miami Dolphins this Sunday, and I’m just hoping that our 14th game against the Dolphins comes out better than the 13th. That was Week 6 of 2018, a game that became emblematic of our season when Cody Parkey missed a 53-yard potential game-winning field goal in overtime.

The Dolphins took over at their own 43, and after five plays, with three seconds standing between us and our first tie since 1972, Miami’s kicker nailed a 47-yard game-winner, handing the Bears our second loss of the season and, incredibly (or not?), our 9th loss in 13 games against Miami.

We should not be this bad against a football team from Miami.

Yet here we are, with a mere four wins to our name since our first battle in 1971 (a loss). Those measly victories:

  1. 34-7 in 1988, our first win in five tries
  2. 17-14 in 1994, delivered on a 40-yard winner from Kevin Butler, followed by a game-ending blocked field goal from Big Cat Williams
  3. 36-33 in 1997, a madcap 4th quarter comeback (see below) that gave us our first win of the season after an 0-7 start
  4. 16-0 in 2010, the third of a five-game winning streak that pushed us into playoff contention

As I noted in my 2018 piece, there is no good reason why “the big bad Midwestern Bears-weather get-off-the-bus-running-and-let’s-get-grimy charter franchise (does not) mop the floor with a football team from Florida born in the AFL.”

But we don’t.

And there we are.

Here, then, is my look back at my favorite, and least-favorite, Bears-Dolphins games of my life.

BUT FIRST! Every Bears-Dolphins starting quarterback matchup:

  • 1971: Bob Griese over Bobby Douglass
  • 1975: Bob Griese over Gary Huff
  • 1979: Don Strock over Vince Evans
  • 1985: Dan Marino over Steve Fuller
  • 1988: Jim McMahon over Dan Marino
  • 1991: Dan Marino over Jim Harbaugh
  • 1994: Steve Walsh over Dan Marino
  • 1997: Erik Kramer over Dan Marino
  • 2002: Jay Fiedler over Chris Chandler
  • 2006: Joey Harrington over Rex Grossman
  • 2010: Tyler Thigpen over Jay Cutler
  • 2014: Ryan Tannehill over Jay Cutler
  • 2018: Brock Osweiler over Mitch Trubisky (weird sports thing alert!)
  • 2022: Justin Fields vs. Tua Tagovailoa

Okay, let’s get to it.

Favorite Bears-Dolphins game

1997: Bears 36, Dolphins 33 (overtime)

1997 is high in the running for the worst Bears season of my life. So you better believe that this miracle win at 0-7 against a playoff-bound Phins squad is my favorite Dolphins game of my life. (Admittedly, as we’ve noted, there is not much to choose from.)

I still remember the buzz at school the next day — the second such day that we all showed up at school buzzing about a sporting event at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium, in fact.

That’s because Sunday night, Oct. 26, was Game 7 of the World Series, which the Marlins won 3-2 in the bottom of the 11th. That game ended just past midnight local time (in other words, early Monday morning), and then at 9 p.m. Monday night, the Bears and Dolphins kicked off a Monday Night Football battle that was originally scheduled for Sunday. The game wasn’t officially moved from Sunday to Monday until Saturday the 25th, when Cleveland beat the Marlins 4-1 in Game 6 to force Game 7.

Two results of the late move:

  • Dolphins in white, not aqua. In 1997, the Dolphins normally wore aqua jerseys for big-time television games such as Monday Night Football. But the NFL asked them to pick a jersey before the Bears left for Florida so that the Bears would not have to pack two jerseys. The Dolphins picked the normal white jerseys, and when Cleveland won Game 6, the Bears-Dolphins game was bumped to Monday night, leaving the Dolphins in their white unis, not their special aqua ones. (Here they are in those jerseys on MNF later that season.)
  • Monday Night Football’s second unit. Both the Bears-Dolphins game and the regularly scheduled Packers-Patriots game were broadcast with the “Monday Night Football” brand, with the Packers-Patriots game getting the #1 MNF broadcast crew (Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf) and Bears-Dolphins getting the backup crew of Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann. The Chicago and Miami markets saw Bears-Dolphins while the rest of the country saw Packers-Pats. (This was the second time that there were two MNF games in one week — it happened in 1987 for the same reason, with Game 7 of the World Series between Twins and Cardinals bumping a Sunday afternoon Vikings-Broncos game at the Metrodome to Monday night.)

If the Bears-Dolphins game wasn’t quite as exciting as the Marlins-Cleveland game, that’s only because one was Game 7 of the World Series and the other featured an 0-7 club. But that is the only reason, as the winless Bears gave us all a thrill, staking a 15-point 4th quarter comeback led by Erik Kramer, who tossed TDs to Bobby Engram and Bears record-setter Chris Penn in the 4th and a game-tying two-point conversion to Engram following the Penn TD.

The Bears forced Miami to punt on their ensuing drive, sending the game to overtime, lost the coin toss and then forced Miami to punt again!

And then, naturally, we had to punt, giving the ball back to Dan Marino and the Dolphins...

...only to see Barry Minter sack Marino and force a fumble that we recovered!

We took over at the Miami 17, and after one run to Darnell Autry (Go Cats!) to set up the field goal, (with former Bear Trace Armstrong and future Bear Shane Burton teaming up for the tackle), Jeff Jaeger nailed a 35-yard field goal to send the Bears away as winners in that warm Miami night.

(And if you get a chance, ask our friend Silvy of Waddle and Silvy about this incredible three-day stretch in Miami. He was at Games 6 and 7 covering his first-ever World Series, and then stayed to cover the Bears game. Fun stuff!)

Chicago Tribune via

Least favorite Bears-Dolphins game

2006: Dolphins 31, Bears 13

My Bears brain is superstitious, illogical and full of patterns. So naturally when we started 7-0 in 2006, and a friend of mine invited myself and another friend to this Week 9 showdown with the 1-6 Dolphins, I figured this was either revenge time for ‘85 or a double-down (nonsensical, yes) of ‘85, when the Dolphins beat the 12-0 Bears to prevent us from continuing our run at an undefeated championship season, only done by the ‘72 Dolphins, themselves defeaters of both the ‘34 and ‘42 Bears, the only teams to that point to finish the regular season undefeated.

The tiebreaker in my dumb, dumb Bears brain was that the game was Nov. 5, the day before my birthday, and I was under the impression that the Bears always performed well around my birthday, no matter our record. Leading up to 2006:

  • Nov. 6, 2005 — Bears beat the Saints 20-17 on rookie Robbie Gould’s first ever GW FG
  • Nov. 7, 2004 — Bears dominate the Giants 28-21 in our three-game “vision” streak
  • Nov. 2, 2003 — Bears handily defeat the Chargers 20-7
  • 2002 — we did not have a 2002 season so nothing happened. we did not play any games. it was very relaxing.
  • Nov. 4, 2001 — The MFing Browns Game baby!
  • Nov. 5, 2000 — The 1-7 Bears upset Peyton Manning and the Colts 27-24
  • Nov. 7, 1999 — Love you Walter. (And you too, B-Rob.)

So I arrived at Soldier Field on Nov. 5, 2006 confident in a Bears victory.

Instead, after a 3-0 Bears lead in the first quarter, the Dolphins went on a rampage to end our undefeated campaign. Ex-Lion Joey Harrington opened the second quarter with a decent drive to the Dolphins 47, but the Dolphins had to punt on 4th and 20 — AND DEVIN HESTER MUFFED THE PUNT... and a guy named EDDIE JACKSON recovered it for Miami at the 6.

Three plays later, Harrington hit... drum roll please... MARTY BOOKER for a touchdown and a 7-3 Dolphins lead.

Adrian Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff 16 yards (remember, we didn’t make Hester our kick returner until Week 12), and on the first play, Rex Grossman threw a pass to Jason Taylor. And I mean, TO Jason Taylor. Right to him. Taylor — who went on to win Defensive Player of the Year that year — walked fairly easily into the endzone for a 20-yard pick-six.

The Bears did get on the board later in the quarter to make it 14-10 at the half with the kickoff coming back to us, but then on a 17-yard gain from Rex to Justin Gage, Gage fumbled to Miami, and the Dolphins ran the fumble back 33 yards to our 12, scoring on a six-yard pass three plays later to Wes Welker.

Rex was intercepted again (his third turnover, including a 2nd quarter sack-strip by Taylor), though a Nate Vash pick helped set up another Gould field goal to send us into the 4th quarter with hope, down only 21-13.

But Rex’s fourth turnover was an interception again in our own territory, and Harrington hit Chris Chambers on 1st down for a 24-yard TD. Miami got on the board again with just over a minute to play and won 31-13.

Happy birthday indeed.

Bears-Dolphins game I wish I saw

1985: Dolphins 38, Bears 24

I turned four years old about a month before this game, and since it was a Monday nighter, the chances are good that I was asleep. But even if I’d been awake, I didn’t really know what I was looking at as a sports fan until probably 1988.

And because every Bears win over the Dolphins has taken place in my lifetime, this is the most interesting Bears-Dolphins game for which I would have liked to be a Conscious Sports Fan.

Favorite Bear who also played for the Dolphins

With apologies to Trace Armstrong, Dez Clark and Marty Booker, I’ll take my fellow Indiana University English major Adewale Ogunleye. The undrafted Hoosier played just seven games for the Dolphins his rookie year before coming into his own in 2002, starting all 16 games and posting 9.5 sacks. In his third season he became a power, finishing second in the NFL with 15 sacks and making the Pro Bowl.

When the Bears hired Lovie Smith as head coach before the 2004 season, the team shocked its vets by trading the well-liked Booker for the sack man known as Wale. Recalled Jason McKie:

“We were like, ‘Man, they traded one of our guys on offense and they got another guy on defense?’ Our defense was already stacked. We were like, ‘Man, this guy better come in and get some sacks and produce.’ And he did. He definitely did.”

Here is the full head-to-head Bears-Dolphins log. Refresh your memory and tell me in the comments:

What is your favorite Bears-Dolphins game?




Jack M Silverstein is Chicago’s sports historian, Bears historian at Windy City Gridiron, and author of the forthcoming “6 Rings: The Bulls, The City, and the Dynasty that Changed the Game.” His newsletter, “A Shot on Ehlo,” brings readers inside the making of the book, with original interviews, research and essays. Sign up now, and say hey at @readjack.