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Defense, Williams Pave the Way for Dolphins

September 16, 2002|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — The Miami Dolphins didn't need Ricky Williams to win a personal battle against Edgerrin James. They needed him to be his big, bruising self.

Williams ran for 132 yards and caught a touchdown pass, and the Dolphin defense stopped the Colts at the Miami two-yard line on the game's last play to preserve a 21-13 victory Sunday. It was Miami's fifth consecutive win in Indianapolis.

The Dolphins (2-0) forced three turnovers and rode Williams' running to victory, sticking to Coach Dave Wannstedt's plan.

The game featured two of the NFL's premier runners, and neither disappointed.

Williams, who was passed over by the Colts in favor of James in the 1999 NFL draft, carried 24 times and averaged 5.5 yards. He became the first Miami player with back-to-back 100-yard games since Bernie Parmalee in 1994. He's also the first Dolphin to open the season with two 100-yard games since Mark Higgs in 1991.

James also played well. In his first home game since Oct. 21, 2001, James cut sharply and ran hard--looking almost fully recovered from surgery on his left knee nearly 10 months ago. He finished with 30 carries for 138 yards, eight receptions for 82 yards, and broke Eric Dickerson's team record with his 25th career 100-yard game.

"It was fun watching him," Williams said. "He can run, can cut, he can stop on a dime. He can hit the seams."

While James outshone Williams, the Dolphin offense performed with more power and precision than the Colts (1-1)--and that proved to be the difference.

Williams gained much of his yardage by running inside, then breaking free into the Colt secondary. "I took it upon myself to make sure I did whatever I could to get back to my Texas days, where I did break a lot of runs," Williams said.

His performance was perfectly complemented by Jay Fiedler's short, accurate passing game.

Fiedler was 13 for 18 for 187 yards and two touchdowns--one to Williams, the other to Rob Konrad. The quarterback also ran for a one-yard touchdown.

It was an ugly home opener for the Colts, who spent much of the off-season trying to fix two major problems: a defense that allowed too many points and an offense that turned the ball over too frequently.

Things didn't look much different Sunday.

Peyton Manning was 26 for 45 for 289 yards and one touchdown, but threw three interceptions.

The defense also appeared to take a step back, giving up 342 yards and again struggling to stop the run. Miami averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

With the Colts trailing 21-3 at halftime, fans booed in disgust.

Things got worse early in the third quarter after the Colts drove to the Miami two. James was stopped on four consecutive plays even though one replay showed him scoring.

"I should have challenged the one on third down," Colt Coach Tony Dungy said. "It looked like he was laying in the end zone."

Indianapolis couldn't mount a rally until the fourth quarter.

Manning threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison with 9:11 left, and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 23-yard field goal with 2:54 to go, making it 21-13.

The Colts got one more chance, moving quickly from their 16 to the Miami two, but Manning's final pass fell incomplete.

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