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Mare's Kick Gives Dolphins Slim Victory

His 53-yard field goal with six seconds remaining gives Miami a 24-22 win over Denver and a two-game lead in the AFC East. Fielder is injured.

October 14, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- Miami's Olindo Mare met with Denver's Jason Elam at midfield before Sunday's AFC showdown, and the two kickers held a can-you-top-this contest. First, they boomed field goals from 60 yards, then 63, then 65. What looked to be an absurd exercise in bravado turned out to be a worthwhile experiment.

In one of the wildest finishes of the NFL season, Elam kicked a go-ahead 55-yard field goal with 45 seconds remaining, setting the stage for a game-winning 53-yarder by Mare with six seconds left.

The 24-22 victory gave the 5-1 Dolphins a two-game lead in the AFC East, but the team also suffered a significant loss: quarterback Jay Fiedler sustained a broken right thumb on the second-to-last series and will be out indefinitely. Ray Lucas will replace him.

Despite the injury, Fiedler moved the Dolphins 39 yards in five plays -- using only 39 seconds -- to set up the winning field goal. He connected with tight end Randy McMichael for a 17-yard gain on third and 10, then threaded a 22-yard pass to Dedric Ward to silence the packed house at Invesco Field.

The next play was sweet redemption for Mare, who had missed four field-goal attempts in five games, including a 48-yarder Sunday. So confident was Mare that his winning kick was true, he turned, raised his arms and sprinted the other way as it sailed through the uprights. "I don't even know if I saw it go through," he said. "I was kind of excited."

That goes double for his teammates, considering the Dolphins matched Oakland for the league's best record. The Broncos (4-2) dropped their sixth consecutive regular-season game to Miami.

"We had a lot of opportunities in that game and we gave them away," Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Early in the game, we didn't take advantage of those opportunities, and it came back to haunt us."

The Broncos had a 12-7 lead after three quarters, but were unable to hang on after two Brian Griese passes were intercepted in the fourth. Both of those miscues led to touchdowns -- one directly, when Patrick Surtain picked off a pass and weaved his way 40 yards into the end zone to give the Dolphins a 21-12 advantage.

Earlier in the quarter, Miami's Sam Madison intercepted a pass and tore off a 15-yard return. That drive ended with a two-yard touchdown by Ricky Williams, his second of the game.

Trailing, 21-12, the Broncos responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that Griese culminated with a one-yard touchdown pass to Mike Anderson. That put them within a field goal of victory.

Denver's No. 2-ranked rushing defense, which has allowed only Baltimore's Jermaine Lewis to run for more than 50 yards this season, limited Williams to a season-low 49 yards in 20 carries. But Williams did his damage, scoring touchdowns of 10 and two yards.

"The fact that we didn't get frustrated and we just kept after it, things just started to open up for us in the fourth quarter," said Williams, who has rushed for more 100 yards four times this season.

Williams acknowledged the mood changed among the Miami players in the second quarter, when Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy knocked receiver Chris Chambers cold with a helmet-to-helmet hit. It was the third time this season Kennedy has landed an illegal blow -- the first two coming against Isaac Bruce of St. Louis and Fred McCrary of San Diego -- and there is a good possibility the league will suspend him for at least a week.

"It got our guys fired up," Williams said.

"We don't like when guys do our players like that."

Dolphin guard Jamie Nails was more forceful in his condemnation, not only of Kennedy's hit but of linebacker Al Wilson's tendency to take a roundhouse swing at Williams from time to time.

"They were doing some cheap things," Nails said. "The helmet-to-helmet thing was cheap; I was pretty hot about that. But the entire game we didn't stoop to that. They were doing a lot of stuff out there that is not football."

Williams said the Dolphins won an important game before a national TV audience.

"It's big to come on the road and play like we did today, beat a good team in a tough place to play," he said.

"That says a lot for our character. Everyone knows how well we play at home. But I think it's great to come on the road and get a win like this."

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