Steven Stremus ran down the concourse at the southwest entrance at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday night screaming at the top of his lungs following the Miami Dolphins’ home opener.
“History,” Stremus, 25, said. “History in the making.”
He wasn’t exaggerating.
Two lightning delays totaling just less than four hours made Miami’s 27-20 win over the Tennessee Titans the longest NFL game since at least the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The game, from the opening kickoff to the Dolphins’ kneel down to end it, lasted 7 hours and 8 minutes.
Some 5,000 of the 65,184 fans stayed until the finish, and their excitement echoed through the concourses as they exited the stadium.
“We know who the true Dolphins fans are,” Stremus said.
After all, those who stayed battled not only Mother Nature, but the frustrations and questions about when — or even if — the game would resume.
“It was so unknown,” Kendall resident John Riley, 66, said. “I even Googled ‘How long can a game go on?’ And the answers are apparently forever. ... We didn’t want to leave. You have to have some bodies in the stadium. It’s still the Dolphins. You still support them.”
Kendall resident Terry Medina, 65, added: “If we were to leave and this turns around and becomes a wonderful game — which turned out to be true — we would be kicking ourselves,”
It all started at 2:13 p.m., with 1:11 left in the first half, when officials announced the game was suspended because lightning was detected within a mile of the stadium. The Dolphins led 7-3 at this time.
Rain trickled in and out during the delay, but lightning was the true deterrent. Any time a strike occurred close to the stadium, the teams had to wait a minimum of 30 minutes before the game could restart.
“We didn’t think it was going to take that long for the game to restart,” said Daniel Ginestra, a 29-year-old season-ticket holder from Miami. “It actually went further than we expected because they projected something on the Jumbotron that it ... True fans man. We don’t leave. We’re still here.”
At 4 p.m., the Dolphins’ kicker, punter and long snapper returned to the field, greeted by rowdy applause from the fans. Ten minutes later, action resumed. The first delay — one hour, 57 minutes — was in the books.
The game reached halftime at 4:17 p.m., three hours and 15 minutes after it began. With the first weather delay taking place so close to the intermission, the break between the second and third quarter was shortened to 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Both teams stayed on the field during that time.
The second delay occurred at 4:53 p.m., with 6:47 left in the third quarter. The announcement ushered through the stadium moments after quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw an interception in the end zone and the Dolphins still holding onto a 7-3 lead.
Players once again made their way to the field at 6:45 p.m. for a 10-minute warm-up period. Fans who were sitting in the upper levels of the stands and stayed through both delays were allowed to move down to 100 level seating.
At 6:55 p.m., the game resumed for a third time following a delay of two hours and two minutes with a flurry of action. The Dolphins intercepted two passes, scored two touchdowns and connected on two field goals.
And in the end, it was a win for the Dolphins, a historical win for the Dolphins.
“That game had a little of everything,” Riley said. “... It was one of the highlighted games, despite the fact that it lasted almost seven-and-a-half hours.”