New York Jets top Miami Dolphins 51-45 in 1986 week three in overtime

2 Dec 1990: Quarterback Ken O''Brien (Getty Images)
2 Dec 1990: Quarterback Ken O''Brien (Getty Images) /

We look back at this date twenty years ago, when the New York Jets played an epic game against the Miami Dolphins.

The New York Jets entered the 1986 season with expectations. They made the playoffs in 1985 (lost Wild Card game). The team had a solid mix of veterans and rookies. Let’s take a trip down memorial lane.

We go back because not only is it “Throwback Thursday”, but this took place 21 years ago today. The date was September 21, 1986 and it was week three of the NFL season. The Jets were playing host to the Miami Dolphins, and both teams entered with a 1-1 record. New York was coming off of a poor performance the previous week, losing 20-6 to the New England Patriots and were looking to get back on track.

What they got, and the rest of the world got was one of the most exciting football games in NFL history.

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Before we get into the game, we have to talk about Jets quarterback Ken O’Brien. He is part of this situation and his arrival with the Jets is relevant. For anyone who doesn’t know, he was a member of 1983 quarterback class, along with Miami quarterback Dan Marino.

O’Brien was selected earlier than Dan Marino, and nobody has let the team forget it. He still turns up on the Jets top ten worst pick scenarios. The Jets have been known for their draft-day mistakes (Warren Sapp anyone?) and O’Brien was at or near the top of those lists.

Every time the Jets faced the Dolphins during this era, O’Brien played like he had something to prove. Maybe he wanted to prove everyone wrong in their assessment of him, maybe he needed to prove it to himself. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it made for a game for the ages.

It was a slow start for both teams, with the first quarter ending with the score of 7-3 in favor of Miami. That is when all heck broke loose.

A combined total of 42 points were scored in the second quarter alone. 26 for the Jets and 14 for the Dolphins. Johnny Hector scored twice and Ken O’Brien hit Wesley Walker for two of his FOUR touchdowns to ignite New York. Marino threw touchdowns to Dan Johnson and Mark Duper to break things up. But the Jets had established a presence and were up 31-21 . They had established that they could stick around with the high-powered Dolphins offense.

In the third quarter, however, the Dolphins stormed back with 17 unanswered points. Marino threw his four and fifth TD passes of the day, his second to Mark Duper and one to Bruce Hardy. That and a Fuad Reveiz 44 yard field goal put the Dolphins up 38-31 at the end of three quarters.

In the fourth, Dennis Bligen tied it up with a seven yard touchdown scamper. Then a Mark Clayton touchdown seemed to end the game, but not for the Jets. Ken O’Brien led the team on a furious drive that ended with the third touchdown pass of the game to Wesley Walker. He scored from 21 yards out to tie the game and send it to overtime. Incidentally, Walker wasn’t even set to be in on the play, Ken O’Brien signaled for him to come back out. Good call!

in overtime, O’Brien hit Walker for the fourth time, a 43 yard scoring strike to give the Jets the 51-45 win. Check out all four of his touchdowns:

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On this historic day, Dan Marino and Ken O’Brien combined to throw for ten touchdowns and the net passing yards were 884. There was no running attack to speak of, as Johnny Hector led all running backs with 82 yards on 22 carries. It was all on the right arms of Marino and O’Brien. On this date in Jets history, O’Brien told the critics what they could do about calling him a draft day mistake.