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Dolphins Flatten the Jets and a Streak

Using Ricky Williams to control the clock, they win, 21-10, at Giants Stadium for the first time in six tries.

September 15, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One week after their run of 11 consecutive opening-day victories came to an embarrassing end, the Miami Dolphins happily drove a stake through another streak Sunday.

They posted a 21-10 victory over the New York Jets, winning at Giants Stadium for the first time in six tries and temporarily quieting speculation that Dolphin Coach Dave Wannstedt was on his way out.

"You never really find out what's inside us as individuals until you're squeezed," said Wannstedt, whose team suffered the indignity of losing its opener at home to the second-year Houston Texans. "Our football team responded."

It was a timely victory for a team that missed the playoffs after a strong start last season, came into Week 2 having lost three in a row and faced its first 0-2 start in 15 years. The fate of Wannstedt has been talk-radio fodder for months, and the loss to Houston was one of the more humiliating moments in his four seasons as coach.

"There's a lot of lessons that we all learned last week," he said. "Trust me."

Wannstedt put his trust in running back Ricky Williams, who rushed for 125 yards in 34 carries with a two-yard touchdown run. Miami took a 21-3 lead in the first half and wound up winning the time-of-possession battle by more than 11 minutes.

"That's the advantage of having a good running game," Williams said. "When you jump on a team like we did in the first half, you have the ability to put them away in the second."

Then again, putting away the Jets hasn't been too difficult lately. New York has a struggling defense, almost no running game and a 39-year-old quarterback in Vinny Testaverde who was forced into action when starter Chad Pennington suffered a broken and dislocated wrist in the exhibition season.

"We couldn't muster anything as far as scoring more points than that," said Coach Herman Edwards, whose 0-2 Jets bore no resemblance to the team that routed Indianapolis, 41-0, in the playoffs last season. "It was almost like last week [in a 16-13 loss at Washington]. The first half got off to a slow start, and the second half we tried to catch them. We aren't good enough to catch anybody."

New York finished with 21 yards rushing in 11 carries -- including an 11-yard loss on an ill-fated end-around by Santana Moss -- and rolled up a lot of their 373 yards passing between the 20s.

"You can't move it down there and not get it in the end zone," Edwards said.

The Jets had their chances in the second half. They moved deep into Miami territory midway through the third quarter but walked away with nothing after going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the three. They passed up the chance for a chip-shot field goal, a decision they wound up regretting.

Had the Jets kicked that field goal, they would have been within eight points of a tie when Testaverde threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Moss early in the fourth quarter. As it was, they trailed after that touchdown, 21-10.

These Dolphins have blown some big leads in recent years. They were up by 11 with five minutes remaining in a do-or-die game at New England last season and wound up losing, bowing out of the playoff picture.

Two years ago, Miami had a 17-0 halftime lead on the road against the Jets and wound up losing, 20-17.

But the worst one came in 2000, when the Dolphins blew a 30-7, fourth-quarter lead at the Jets on "Monday Night Football" and lost in overtime, 40-37. To the Jets, that game will forever be known as the "Monday Night Miracle," even though it ended on Tuesday morning.

Miami linebacker Zach Thomas came upon a replay of that game on ESPN Classic Saturday night. As if gawking at a roadside accident, he couldn't avert his eyes.

"Just seeing [former Jet lineman] Jumbo Elliott stare at the screen and smile, that kind of dug in," Thomas said. "But that's the past. You turn the page."

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