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Day of the Defense for Dolphins

December 07, 1998|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — Sometimes there are advantages to being a relatively little guy in a big man's position.

Zach Thomas, an undersized linebacker at 5-foot-11, strolled about six inches with an interception for a touchdown as the Miami Dolphins defeated the Oakland Raiders, 27-17, Sunday to stay tied with the New York Jets atop the AFC East.

Donald Hollas, making his sixth start for the injured Jeff George, was scrambling in the end zone when he lofted a pass right to Thomas a few inches from the goal line.

"He didn't see me, I guess, because I'm so short," Thomas said. "I guess that helps sometimes."

Miami linebacker Robert Jones also returned an interception for a touchdown and Miami turned four first-half turnovers into 24 points.

Thomas and Jones each had another interception in the second half and the Dolphins had a team record-tying six overall, raising their NFL-leading total to 26.

The Dolphins (9-4), who play the Jets (9-4) next Sunday in Miami, had only nine first downs in the game-- compared to 20 for Oakland--and hardly seemed to need Dan Marino, who was 22 for 33 for 170 yards with no interceptions.

"Our defense was able to force them to make crucial mistakes," said Marino, who had a 19-yard touchdown pass to Oronde Gadsden in the first quarter. "They've carried us for several games."

Olindo Mare kicked field goals of 47 and 25 yards for the Dolphins, who were missing three injured offensive line starters, but still did not allow a sack of Marino for the second game in a row.

"To know that your offense is banged up, we needed the defense to step up," said Jones. "That's what we talked about all week."

Hollas, also sacked eight times and later replaced by Wade Wilson, had a seven-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown, and Greg Davis kicked a 40-yard field goal for the Raiders (7-6), who have lost four of five--including two in a row at home--and are struggling to stay in contention for their first playoff spot since 1993.

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