CINCINNATI — Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins stayed cool under pressure Sunday, while the Cincinnati Bengals wilted--again.
The result was a 20-14 Miami victory that left Marino thinking the Dolphins have gotten over their habit of failing in the clutch.
"We were able to come up with the big plays, and we made the plays when we had to," Marino said. "Last year when we were in those situations, we weren't coming up with the plays to win. I think we've got it turned around in the right direction."
The Dolphins (4-4) turned aside a fierce pass rush and two Cincinnati scoring opportunities in the last two minutes to leave the Bengals lamenting another failure to perform in the clutch. The Bengals (2-6) have missed out on chances to win or at least tie their last four non-strike games in the closing minutes.
Marino's statistics weren't eye-popping--26 of 41 for 262 yards--but he managed to keep Miami drives alive with his precise throws despite a tough rush, helping the Dolphins convert 9 of 16 third-down plays. Marino, sacked just twice in his previous four games, was dropped three times by the Bengals.
"We definitely felt we could put pressure on him," said linebacker Reggie Williams, who had one of the sacks. "But he's a top-flight quarterback."
Marino's biggest play was a 30-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton that put Miami ahead, 17-7, with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
After Cincinnati got within striking distance on a six-yard touchdown run by Bill Johnson, Marino led the Dolphins on a time-consuming drive that set up Fuad Reveiz's second field goal, a 34-yard kick with 2:08 to play.
Cincinnati failed to keep a drive alive when Boomer Esiason managed just one completion in four passes, but Miami failed to run out the clock, punting to the Cincinnati 14 with 47 seconds left.
Esiason guided the Bengals to midfield, and threw a desperate pass into a crowded end zone as time ran out. The ball bounced off several hands, finally bouncing harmlessly off the foot of Cincinnati's Eddie Brown.
Cincinnati came up empty on one first-half drive when fullback Larry Kinnebrew fumbled inside the Miami 10.
Marino has thrown touchdown passes in 28 consecutive games, matching Seattle's Dave Krieg for the second-longest NFL streak. Johnny Unitas holds the record with 47.
Both teams lost key offensive players in the first half. Cincinnati running back James Brooks left the game early in the first quarter with a severely sprained ankle and didn't return. Miami receiver Mark Duper suffered a cracked rib in the second quarter when he was upended by cornerback Lewis Billups.