MIAMI (AP) -- Only seconds remained when New York native Jay
Fiedler dove for the end zone, holding the ball above his head like
a rugby player and skidding across the goal line for the winning
touchdown as the crowd erupted.
This was a return to normal -- at least as the Miami Dolphins
Patriotic pregame pageantry produced plenty of cheers, but the
biggest roar was reserved for Fiedler's 2-yard touchdown scramble
with five seconds left to help Miami beat the Oakland Raiders 18-15
The resumption of the NFL season following the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks meant a day of mixed emotions -- especially for
Fiedler, who grew up in Long Island.
"My brother lost a close friend," he said. "And I know a lot
of people who were very close to people that were lost."
So it was good to play a game Sunday, and even better to win it.
Fiedler overcame two costly interceptions, directing a 10-play,
80-yard drive in the final 1:41.
Where does Jay Fiedler rate among the gutsiest quarterbacks in the NFL?
This was certainly a gutsy performance by Fiedler. Anytime you orchestrate a comeback -- and especially against a good team like the Raiders, with a good defense -- it qualifies as a gutsy performance. What was especially impressive was that he didn't just direct the comeback, he made the plays to win the game. He ranks up there with the gutsiest guys in the league. Fiedler hasn't led as many comebacks as Brett Favre, but what he did Sunday was Favre-esque.
ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.
"You couldn't get a better ending," teammate Zach Thomas said.
"It was great for the fans especially, for everybody to go home
happy and get back to normal."
Miami improved to 2-0, while Oakland fell to 1-1. The Dolphins
are 28-4 in home openers since 1970 and haven't lost at home in
September since 1993, when the New York Jets beat them 24-14.
An emotional pregame show paid tribute to victims of the Sept.
11 attack with prayer, songs and chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A." The
ceremony prompted cheers and tears, with the only jeers reserved
for the Raiders when they were introduced.
"You had to wipe the tears away and play football," Dolphins
defensive end Jason Taylor said.
Oakland led most of the game and went ahead 15-10 thanks largely
to a pair of interceptions, the second returned 26 yards by Anthony
Dorsett for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Led by Thomas with 18 tackles, the Dolphins' defense kept the
game close, allowing just six points and 216 yards. And the sunny,
88-degree weather, which sent some fans home before the finish,
took a toll on the visitors down the stretch.
The Dolphins had no timeouts left when they started from their
20 with 1:41 to go. But Fiedler completed his next four passes,
then hit Dedric Ward for 9 yards on fourth-and-3, giving Miami a
first down at the 9 with 27 seconds left.
Fiedler ran for 7 yards, then spiked the ball to stop the clock
with 12 seconds remaining.
On third down Fiedler rolled right on a play designed as a
run-pass option. When he failed to find an open receiver, he pumped
and then broke for the end zone from the 10. Defensive end Trace
Armstrong had the best shot, but Fiedler eluded him.
"I tried to turn him into the middle of the field," Armstrong
said. "But he did a great job of getting away from me and getting
into the end zone."
Said Fiedler: "I saw that patch of grass in front of me, and I
knew I could make it."
Fiedler's heroics were all the more impressive because the
Dolphins feared he was knocked out in a helmet-to-helmet collision
with three minutes remaining. The team called timeout as its woozy
quarterback struggled to his feet.
"Once I got up, I was fine," Fiedler said. He also scored on a
2-yard run with 16 seconds left in the first half.
The victory was a small measure of revenge for Miami, which lost
27-0 at Oakland in the playoffs last season, when Fiedler threw
three interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. This time
two second-half turnovers nearly undid his good work.
The Dolphins were at their 20 nursing a 10-9 lead when Fiedler
threw into double coverage on third-and-2. Dorsett stepped in front
of the intended receiver for the interception and ran untouched for
"He didn't make a bad play," Dorsett said. "I made a good
Oakland's Jerry Rice made his first reception with 10 minutes
left, a 7-yard grab that extended his NFL-record streak of 226
consecutive games with a catch. That was his lone reception.
"It just didn't happen today," Rice said. "I have to be
critical of myself. I didn't get the job done. I didn't do anything
to help this team."
Oakland center Barret Robbins suffered a knee injury in
the fourth quarter, and coach Jon Gruden said it appeared serious.
... Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad sprained his left ankle in the
first period and missed the rest of the game. ... Dolphins
defensive tackle Ernest Grant sprained his right ankle. ... Miami
has won six of its past seven meetings against Oakland. ... Miami
has won 15 consecutive home games in August and September.
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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