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Reborn Marino Keeps Dolphins Unbeaten

AFC: Quarterback celebrates 35th birthday with three touchdown passes and 36-27 victory over winless Jets.

September 16, 1996|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Those who thought that Dan Marino's skills would rust after Jimmy Johnson took over as coach of the Miami Dolphins got an eyeful Sunday at Pro Player Park.

Marino completed 13 of 23 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns as the Dolphins defeated the New York Jets, 36-27.

Marino, who was celebrating his 35th birthday, shook off Aaron Glenn's early 100-yard interception return and rallied the Dolphins.

"Winning is the best birthday present you can get," Marino said.

The Dolphins fell behind, 14-0, then scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. The comeback began with Marino's 74-yard scoring-pass play to rookie fullback Stanley Pritchett. Backup tight ends Frank Wainright and Brett Carolan made the first touchdown receptions of their careers.

"Dan has confidence in everybody," Wainright said. "It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a six-year veteran."

Rookie Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 124 yards in 23 carries, with touchdown runs of four and seven yards for the Dolphins, who scored 33 unanswered points.

"Obviously, you don't want to get in a shootout with Dan Marino," said Jet quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who completed 25 of 44 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, but also had three passes intercepted.

The Dolphins looked sloppy at times but improved to 3-0 under Johnson.

"If you can make that many mistakes in a game and still win it," Johnson said, "it says something about what you can do when you eliminate the mistakes."

The Dolphins overcame costly breakdowns in the secondary, two turnovers leading to New York touchdowns and a missed field-goal attempt and extra point by Joe Nedney.

The Jets, who spent about $70 million on new contracts during the off-season, still have nothing to show for their numerous off-season changes.

"I never thought we'd be in this position," said O'Donnell, the team's most prominent newcomer. "We have to look at the positive because everyone is going to write us off. I'd like to say we're close, but nobody wants to hear that, either."

The Jets trailed, 33-14, with eight minutes left before O'Donnell connected on touchdown-pass plays of 78 yards to Jeff Graham and 29 yards to Keyshawn Johnson.

"I feel a lot of pressure to do things in this offense," said Johnson, the NFL's top draft pick in April, who had six receptions for 59 yards. "Sometimes I feel like a truck is on my back. I'm ready to win. I don't like being 0-3. This is really frustrating, but nobody quit out there."

The Dolphins then drove 63 yards--all on the ground--and clinched the victory on Nedney's 29-yard field goal.

Wainright, the Dolphins' long snapper, broke a 14-14 tie in the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown catch, his first reception since 1992 and the first score in his six-year career.

Marino threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Carolan, a third-year pro with four previous career receptions.

Glenn's interception return was the longest in franchise history, breaking Erik McMillan's record of 92 yards against the Colts in 1989.

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