'It was a melee': Dolphins kicker looks back on Leon Lett's Thanksgiving blunder


Pete Stoyanovich played the role of hero for the Miami Dolphins nearly three decades ago, when he drilled a game-winning field goal in the snow during a 1993 Thanksgiving game against the Dallas Cowboys. But Stoyanovich's kick wouldn't have occurred without one of the NFL's most infamous blunders.

With 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Stoyanovich attempted a 41-yard field goal that was blocked by Cowboys' Jimmie Jones. When the ball landed on the frozen turf, Leon Lett mistakenly ran toward it, and accidentally slipped and kicked it back into play. A Dolphins lineman then recovered the loose ball, which allowed Stoyanovich to attempt another game-winning kick.

"The conditions were not good, the field was slippery. And luckily, we got another shot at it," Stoyanovich told The DA Show on Tuesday. "After it was blocked, at that point in time, I really didn't know what was going on. All I knew was, the kick was blocked and the ball was trickling down near the goal line. And at that point, I was just assuming the game was going to end the way it was going to end, with a blocked field goal...

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Pete Stoyanovich looks back at Thanksgiving 1993
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"It was a melee, to be honest with you. I didn't know what was going on... We were scraping snow and ice off the mark to line up for my field goal attempt, and nobody really knew what the heck was really going on... As it turned out, we got the ball at the one-yard line. I think there were two seconds left, and I got another shot at it and converted this time. It was a fantastic finish. It was a great ending and a way to start the Thanksgiving weekend."

Following the Dolphins' 16-14 win, Lett addressed the gaffe, telling reporters that his costly decision to run toward the ball was "just a big mistake and at the wrong time." After speaking, Lett reportedly stayed in the training room, crying and wondering if the Cowboys were about to cut him.

Believe it or not, Lett's slip-up in the snow wasn't the first primetime error of his career. Ten months earlier, during Super Bowl 27 against the Buffalo Bills, Lett recovered a fumble, lumbering toward the end zone. Before he crossed the goal line, he started to showboat, sticking his arm out with the football. Bills receiver Don Beebe managed to catch up to Lett, and stripped the ball out of his hand. The play resulted in a touchback.

The Dolphins, which improved to a commanding 9-2 after Stoyanovich's kick, surprisingly didn't smile much that winter. They proceeded to lose five straight games, and missed the AFC playoffs at 9-7. As for Lett and the Cowboys, they ultimately returned to the Super Bowl and destroyed the Bills for a second consecutive season.

The entire conversation between Stoyanovich and DA can be accessed in the audio player above.

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