The snap was high. Pete Stoyanovich's kick veered off to the right. With it went Dan Marino's last legitimate chance for a Super Bowl championship.
With Stoyanovich's errant 48-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the divisional playoff game in San Diego, the 1994 season landed on the scrap heap of Dolphin disappointments.
"I thought that was the team that could actually get Danny to the Super Bowl and win it for him,'' said O.J. McDuffie, a second-year receiver that season. "It was just a tough year. A lot of really good players and not a lot of really good results at the end of the day."
The final game was a mirror of a season that started with spectacular promise but ultimately unraveled.
The star-crossed 1994 season began with Marino passing for 473 yards and five touchdowns to defeat New England in his first game after missing most of 1993 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Marino would go on to become the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year after throwing for 4,453 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Along the way he authored one of his signature moments with the now-famous "clock play" to complete a comeback victory against the New York Jets. With time running out and the Dolphins trailing by one point, Marino faked a clock-stopping spike into the ground that would have set up a field goal attempt and instead fired a surprise pass to Mark Ingram for the winning touchdown.
Defensive tackle Tim Bowens won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. But as often happened during Marino's storied career, the Dolphins' defense and running game couldn't provide enough support to get him back to the Super Bowl.
"I think that '94 team was the best Dolphin team I played on," defensive end Jeff Cross said. "I know for that team, watching that Super Bowl was tough."
After a win over Kansas City in the first playoff game, Marino led the Dolphins to a 21-6 lead in San Diego with three touchdown passes. But the defense couldn't stop the Chargers in the second half. San Diego scored a touchdown with 35 seconds to go to take a one-point lead.
When the final drive stalled, hope rested with Stoyanovich, who had 11 game-winning kicks and in 1991 kicked a 58-yard field goal that still stands as a playoff record. But the high snap disrupted Stoyanovich's timing, and the kick never had a chance. Season over.
"It was very hurtful and it certainly was a down point in my career," said Stoyanovich, who owns a sports bar with his brother in Canton, Mich. "I think I'd make that kick nine out of 10 times. I just wish I had another crack at it."
The Chargers lost to San Francisco in the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the failure of 1994 was the beginning of the end for another Dolphins legend, Don Shula, who coached one more season before retiring.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-802-8959, or Twitter @CraigDavisRunsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun