IRVING, Tex. — Once the Dallas Cowboys took Dan Marino out of his game, they weren't ready for Troy Stradford.
Stradford, a rookie from Boston College, rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown Sunday night to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 20-14 victory over the Cowboys to get a piece of a five-way tie for first place in the AFC East.
"You just kind of dream about a game like this," Stradford said. "I'm enjoying it. I kept thinking Dallas would adjust. I was just taking pitchouts and reading the defense. It was real simple."
Miami (5-5) was 15th in the NFL in rushing going into the game.
"The running game came alive when we needed it," Miami Coach Don Shula said. "We had to have it.
"We have a chance now to take care of what is ahead of us in the division."
Shula added that the Dallas defense did the best job of the year against Marino, who completed 22 of 39 passes for 265 yards.
The Cowboys (5-5) kept Marino, who has thrown a scoring pass in 30 consecutive games, out of the end zone until he hit James Pruitt with a two-yard scoring toss for the game-clincher with 8:42 to play.
"We had a hard time throwing," Shula said. "The Dallas defense wasn't giving us anything. We knew we had to have this game."
The winning touchdown came after Marino's 41-yard pass to Mark Clayton. Cornerback Ron Francis seemed to have an interception, but the instant replay showed the ball bounced off his body and into Clayton's arms.
Instant replay official Norm Schachter backed up the officials' original ruling on the play.
"Mark made an incredible catch," Shula said. "He took it right away from Ron Francis."
Dallas Coach Tom Landry said "It was hard to tell on the play. It might have been an interception."
Dallas' Steve Pelluer, who replaced sore-wristed Danny White at quarterback, hit Timmy Newsome with an 18-yard scoring pass to get the Cowboys close with 5:18 left, but Marino and Stradford ran out the clock.
Pelluer also hit Newsome with an eight-yard touchdown pass that gave Dallas a 7-0 lead.
"Steve handled himself well, but he didn't throw well to our outside receivers," Dallas Coach Tom Landry said.
Pelluer completed 12 of 18 passes for 134 yards, but 11 of his completions went to running backs.
"I was rusty," Pelluer said. "But I was getting some confidence and felt good on our last touchdown drive."
Miami tied the score, 7-7, on Stradford's 19-yard scoring run and Fuad Reveiz kicked a 26-yard field goal after a 51-yard run by Stradford to give the Dolphins a 10-7 halftime lead.
A 34-yard pass from Marino to Stradford set up a 33-yard field goal by Reveiz for a 13-7 Miami lead after three quarters. Stradford, who had 17 carries, caught 6 passes for 83 yards, including a four-yard reception that gave Miami a vital first down with 2:20 left.
"Our defense held 'em to 20 points and should have given us a chance to win," Landry said. "We had plenty of chances but never got going on offense. Stradford was tough. He kept running the same play and we couldn't handle him."
Stradford ran 37 yards to the Dallas 21 with 45 seconds left in the game to seal the Dolphins' victory and give him the third-highest total ever for a Miami runner in a game.
Herschel Walker gained 82 yards in 19 carries for Dallas.