MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- There was a time in the 1970s and '80s when the Miami Dolphins were a consistently great franchise. Hall of Famers such as quarterback Dan Marino and tailback Larry Csonka were among the most recognizable players and Miami was one of the league's marquee teams.
On a night when Miami donned its throwback uniforms and honored many of its great players from the past, the Dolphins produced a throwback performance in a 27-20 upset victory over the New England Patriots. This was by far the Dolphins' most impressive win of the season, which has otherwise been filled with distractions and inconsistency.
One has to wonder if the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (10-3) were thinking ahead to next week's matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) that could determine home-field advantage for the AFC playoffs. It also did not help New England that All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski served his one-game suspension for a late hit last week against the Buffalo Bills.
New England looked lethargic for three quarters against Miami (6-7), which in contrast was energized and treated Monday's contest like its personal Super Bowl. The Dolphins improved to 1-3 in prime-time games this season after being outscored 112-45 in the three prior night games.
"We gave them a taste of their own medicine," Dolphins Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry said. "We found ways to make plays. We found ways [to show] our will is stronger than yours."
In an unexpected occurrence, Miami quarterback Jay Cutler significantly outperformed Patriots counterpart and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Cutler was the cooler, more effective quarterback and handled a Patriots defense that's played well in recent weeks. He threw for 263 yards, three touchdowns and had a 112.1 passer rating.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ defense rattled Brady early and often. He did not complete his first pass until the second quarter and threw a pair of interceptions to Miami cornerback Xavien Howard, who now has four interceptions in the past two games. Brady, who has had rough games in South Florida in the past, finished with 233 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He had a 59.5 passer rating.
With two straight wins, the Dolphins quietly placed themselves back in the playoff hunt. Miami, which is one game below .500, has an important road game next week against the Bills (7-6), who currently hold the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The Dolphins will play the Bills twice in the final three weeks of the season.
"That's what this team is: resilient," said Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, who rushed for a game-high 114 yards. "Just because everybody else probably counted us out, we as a unit, as a team, as an organization, we always stick together and we're going to continue to stick together."