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Dolphins slow Raider attack, seize AFC lead

©Associated Press
December 16, 2002

MIAMI -- As Ricky Williams played a supporting role Sunday, plenty of Dolphins had a big day -- even Dan Marino.

Relying on six defensive backs and a fierce pass rush, Miami slowed Rich Gannon's pursuit of Marino's league record for yards passing in a season and limited the league's top-ranked offense to 218 yards in a 23-17 victory.

Jason Taylor had three of Miami's five sacks, giving him a sack in a team-record seven consecutive games, and Patrick Surtain's interception ended Oakland's final bid for a comeback. Gannon was limited to 204 yards passing and needs 676 in the final two games to break Marino's record of 5,084 set in 1984.

"Dan should be happy," Taylor said. "I'll have to call him to buy me a bottle of wine."

Miami tied the Raiders and Colts for the best record in the AFC with two regular-season games to go. The Dolphins beat both and would own the top seed for the playoffs if the season ended today.

Williams had a relatively modest 101 yards rushing, ending his streak of consecutive 200-yard games at two. But Chris Chambers caught seven passes for a career-high 138 yards and Cris Carter caught his first touchdown since coming out of retirement.

"We knew coming out we were going to have to make some plays in the passing game," said quarterback Jay Fiedler, 7-1 this season as a starter. He threw for 237 yards and directed a 97-yard touchdown drive, the Dolphins' longest since 1989.

By snapping the Raiders' five-game win streak, the Dolphins took sole possession of first place atop the East. They're a half-game ahead of New England, which plays tonight at Tennessee.

The Dolphins won their fifth consecutive regular-season game against Oakland, and won for the 15th time in their past 16 regular-season games against the AFC West.

"We've got a chance to see these guys again, because they have an outstanding team," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Miami played mostly with six defensive backs and limited Gannon and the league's top passing attack to 162 net yards. Gannon completed 17-of-31 and had at least three passes dropped, including a potential touchdown to Tim Brown. The Dolphins limited Brown and Jerry Rice to three catches apiece for 30 yards.

"We were trying everything," Raiders coach Bill Callahan said. "They were physical. They were aggressive. They maul you on the line of scrimmage. They've got shutdown corners."

Two fourth-quarter turnovers sealed the Raiders' fate. Brown fumbled on a punt return when hit by Trent Gamble, setting up Olindo Mare's third field goal, a 41-yarder with 2:28 left. Surtain then stepped in front of Rice to intercept a long pass by Gannon and clinch the win.

Fiedler went 21-for-32, with completions of 40, 29 and 29 yards to Chambers. Carter made a one-handed 5-yard touchdown catch, his first with the Dolphins and 130th career.

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