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Miami runs streak to 11 in openers

©Associated Press
September 9, 2002

MIAMI -- For the Dolphins, plenty of points meant plenty of standouts, most of them newcomers.

Ricky Williams rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, offensive coordinator Norv Turner earned raves and the Dolphins won their opener for the 11th season in a row Sunday, beating the Lions 49-21.

Backup tailback Robert Edwards, playing his first game in four seasons, scored the Dolphins' final two touchdowns. Rookie tight end Randy McMichael turned acrobat on one catch and scored on another, and even 335-pound guard Jamie Nails won cheers by clearing the way downfield for Williams on a 37-yard run.

All were in their first game with the Dolphins, who had their best point total since beating the Jets 52-14 to open the 1995 season.

"We've got a lot of talented guys," Nails said.

Miami extended its home winning streak in August and September to 16. Opponents often wilt in the subtropical heat, but stamina wasn't a concern for the Lions because they trailed 21-0 after 20 minutes.

Detroit fell behind 21-0 in its opener last season against Green Bay, lost 28-6 and dropped its first 12 games on the way to a 2-14 record.

"I'm surprised about a lot of things, starting with the score," Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg said. "I expected our entire team to play better."

The Lions' Joey Harrington, the third pick in the April draft, made his debut with 101/2 minutes left. He directed a 77-yard touchdown drive and was 4-of-11 for 41 yards.

"I was happy to get into the game," Harrington said. "I would have liked it to have been a little different situation."

Mike McMahon went 7-for-17 for 133 yards and remains the starter, Mornhinweg said.

Jay Fiedler threw three touchdowns for the Dolphins but fans saved their biggest cheers for the newcomers, including Williams.

"They liked me okay," he said. "They cheered for us in New Orleans, but we never won games like this in New Orleans."

Williams, acquired from the Saints in March to bolster Miami's perennially poor ground game, put on a display of power and speed. He carried 20 times, scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards and set up another touchdown with his 37-yard run, the second-longest of his career.

Nails led the way on that one.

"When a defense knows Ricky is back there," Nails said, "not only do they have to worry about me running them over, but they have to worry about Ricky running them over."

Miami's streak of season-opening wins is the second-longest in history behind the Cowboys, who won 17 openers in a row from 1965-81. The Dolphins have won every opener since 1992, and this one ranked among their most impressive starts, even considering the overmatched opponent.

Turner directed an offense that totaled 27 first downs and 389 yards, including 245 in the first half.

"With Norv Turner's play-calling, it's a joke out there," tackle Mark Dixon said. "I knew after the first four or five plays that the Lions were in trouble. With all of our shifting and motion, they could not adjust."

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