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Remembering Dolphins great Nick Buoniconti

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Andrew Innerarity-USA TODAY Sports
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One of the iconic Dolphins of the 1970s passed away on Wednesday and the remembrances continue to flow in. Nick Buoniconti, who was part of the perfect 1972 season in South Florida and later became as recognizable for his role as an analyst on HBO’s weekly “Inside the NFL” show every fall, died at the age of 78.

Buoniconti (shown above in one of his last public appearances in 2015) had been in declining health, including suffering from dementia and other effects of head trauma from all of his years in the NFL:

One of his teammates, iconic receiver Nat Moore, remembered his friend and fellow Dolphin alumni at Wednesday’s training camp practice:

Another of Buoniconti’s teammates and arguably the most bruising back in all of the NFL in the 1970s, Larry Csonka, shared a special and rarely seen post Super Bowl VII moment with Buoniconti on social media, too:

Also the aging legendary architect of those great Dolphins teams in the 70s, Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, expressed his sadness but also fond remembrance to the Fins website on the impacts Buoniconti made on and off the field,

I am sad to hear of Nick’s passing. Nick was special to me in every way. He was someone I greatly admired. His love for his wife, Lynn, his children, grandchildren, friends, teammates, family and the community was evident. His groundbreaking work with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis has made a huge difference in the lives of so many people. I am thankful to have had Nick in my life. I will miss him.

As Shula referenced, Buoniconti’s work with severe spinal cord injuries after his son Mark was paralyzed in a college football game in 1985 has been legendary in South Florida for four decades. The Miami Project Foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research, family care and more for those injured and their familes. Nick Buoniconti continued to spearhead the Miami Project and fundraising up until the 2010s and his recent health issues.

Buoniconti’s former television employer, HBO, also early this year released a fascinating documentary on his football career, his work on their network, his life away from football, his work with the Miami Project and ultimately, the toll that football played in his declining health.

Here’s the documentary:

It’s not an overstatement to say that Miami has lost one of it’s “Sports Giants” with Buoniconti’s death.

Miami Dolphins

Pass interference overrule in Jets win over Dolphins shows flaws

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
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The inconsistent application and rulings of the new NFL pass interference replay policy was, again, on full display Sunday afternoon at The Meadowlands. And when the league’s officiating command center gave the Jets a first down on a pass interference call that wasn’t even made by their game officials, it helped New York kick the winning field goal to beat the Dolphins 22 – 21.

And, understandably, Dolphins coach Brian Flores was none too happy with the whole thing.

Although Flores refused to elaborate about why he went running after and arguing with the officials before his post-game handshake with Jets coach (and former Dolphins boss) Adam Gase, it was clear he was none too pleased with the ending to the game.

To reset the scene, the Jets were driving trying to retake the lead trailing 21 – 19. This was after Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders had made his seventh field goal  from 37 yrards for Miami to hold a two-point advantage.

Then on a 3rd and 18 play, Sam Darnold’s incompletion to Vyncint Smith may or may not have been enough contact to throw a flag. The on-field officials let it go.

But, that’s when the NFL supervisor of officials Al Riveron, his assistants and the command center initiated a replay review, as it was under two minutes remaining in the game.

Eventually Riveron overruled the on-field refs, and he  gave the Jets the pass interference call, a first down at the Miami 38, and it eventually led to Sam Ficken making the game winning field goal from 44 yards out with no time left.

Now, it was not the first time, even recently, that the NFL has done this in the final two minutes with the game on the line. In the Buccaneers win over the Arizona Cardinals last month, Riveron and the command center overruled the on-field officials having not thrown a flag. That’s when Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was clearly interfere with in the end zone, as Tampa Bay was looking for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Buccaneers got a first and goal at the one, scored  and won the game 30 – 27.

Further adding to the confusion and controversy is that the NFL has been so reluctant to overturn flags for pass interference, one way or the other, throughout this first year of using instant replay for pass interference.

However the command center in New York has now demonstrated, not just with the Evans situation but even another case in the Dolphins-Browns game a couple of weeks ago, that they will use replay to overrule their on-field officials and make a penalty call in the final two minutes of a half or game.

Our Jason Cole wrote that this aspect of the review mechanism is troubling and potentially only going to get worse. This is because the league is interjecting themselves rather than backing their guys on the field who didn’t throw a flag unless it is blatantly obvious.

Back to Sunday, Miami had numerous chances, especially early, to get touchdowns while moving inside the Jets 10 yard line. However, three times, Sanders kicked a field goal of 28 yards or less giving Miami only nine points at the half.

The Dolphins had plenty of struggles in losing to Gase/their AFC East rival, and the replay decisions out New York aren’t going to make anyone feel any better about it.

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“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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One of the great trick plays, not just of this NFL season but in recent pro football memory, has earned the Dolphins kicker who caught a touchdown pass Sunday AFC weekly honors.

The league announced Wednesday that kicker Jason Sanders, who became the first place-kicker to catch a touchdown pass in 42 years, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week:

Sanders also made his only field-goal attempt, as well as two extra points, earned the weekly honor for Miami’s 37 – 31 upset of the Eagles.

However, it is the play that is known as “Mountaineer Shot” that Sanders will forever be remembered for not just in Dolphin history, but NFL.

We wrote about the play on Monday, as head coach Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman implemented the direct snap to punter Matt Haack, while players were spread wide on either side of the formation.

Haack then, took the snap, rolled left and when the Eagles rushed at him, he flipped the ball to Sanders for the touchdown. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers. And, it’s something that Dolphins had been practicing regularly on and off for the past two months.

Furher, as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.

It is also the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that a punter has completed a touchdown pass to a kicker and the play will live on for years and years to come.

It is the second time that Sanders has won the AFC special teams player of the week award this season. He also got the honor for his two clultch 48 yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins 16-12 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in November.

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