MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It’s appropriate that in a contest that featured a kid running from the stand to the field during one of two lengthy lightning delays and two kickoff return touchdowns, the Tennessee Titans–Miami Dolphins matchup set a record for the longest game in NFL history. The game, which resulted in a 27-20 Miami win, lasted seven hours and eight minutes. That cruised past the previous long of Baltimore Ravens–Chicago Bears (5 hours, 16 minutes) on November 17, 2013.
The first lightning delay occurred with 1:11 left in the second quarter. It lasted 1 hour, 57 minutes. The second lightning delay occurred with 6:47 left in the third quarter. It lasted 2 hours, 2 minutes.
“I have never ever seen anything like that in my life,” said receiver Jakeem Grant, who had a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown in the fourth quarter after the second delay to put the Dolphins up 17-10. “We told each other, ‘Whoever comes out with the most energy after this delay is going to win the game.’ I felt like we had more energy than they had.”
Players did their own thing, from hopping on the bike to lying down to listening to music to watching tape.
“We ran out of snacks in the locker room,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “Lots of peanut butter and jelly [sandwiches] and turkey sandwiches gone. Lots of carbs, so we will do some conditioning tomorrow.”
The Dolphins were a team that wilted under much adversity last season, including a Week 1 hurricane that postponed a game and a video leaking revealing an assistant coach snorting a white powder substance. They responded to their most recent dose Sunday.
“When adversity strikes, we fight through it. That’s what this year’s team is about,” cornerback Bobby McCain said. “At any time, you put something in front of us. We’ll embrace it, and we’ll take the challenge how it is.”
Wake added: “There’s no manual for that.”
What started as a sluggish, out-of-rhythm battle from both sides was a completely different game after the second lightning delay, which seemed to wake both offenses and special-teams units. Miami and Tennessee combined for 10 points in the first 38-plus game minutes before erupting for 34 points in the final 21-plus minutes. Among the highlights in the aftermath of the delays was a kickoff return touchdown by both teams: Jakeem Grant for the Dolphins and Darius Jennings for the Titans.
“I went untouched. That’s a credit to my coverage team,” Grant said. “You gotta find a spark plug. When you’re down in the dumps, somebody gotta make a play.”
It was a disaster day for the Titans, who lost Marcus Mariota, Taylor Lewan and Delanie Walker for at least the game due to injury. The injuries to Mariota and Lewan happened after the first lightning delay. Walker’s injury, which appears to be the most serious, occurred after the second lightning delay.
The first delay was treated as an extended halftime by both teams, as they kept getting false start alarms. In the second delay, they were told it was likely to be at least an hour and a half. The NFL told them 10 minutes before they went out for warm-ups that it was time to resume play.
The Dolphins put a message on the video board in the fourth quarter thanking the fans — approximately 7,000 to 10,000 — who stayed until game’s end for “being a part of history.” Miami rewarded those who stuck it out by inviting all fans to move into the lower bowl, which had been vacated by many departed fans.
All of the afternoon NFL games, early and late, finished before the Titans-Dolphins game concluded.
“I’m ready to go home. You’ve got to stop asking questions,” coach Adam Gase said to wrap it up.