Ray Jarvis, a reserve wide receiver who had been cut by the New England Patriots and two other teams in eight seasons without distinction, rebounded from an acute case of humiliation today and helped beat the Miami Dolphins.
The Patriots rallied from a 13-0 deficit in the first half and monopolized first place in the East Division of the American Football Conference with a 28-13 closeout of the Dolphins on a 14-point fourth quarter set in motion by Jarvis and quaterback Steve Grogan.
Grogan had been losing the trust of the Patriots fans in a crowd of 61,096 in Schaefer Stadium, though it was his recievers who had been making him look ineffective with their ineptness at holding his passes.
The worst was a flub by Jarvis in the end zone in the fourth period.
To Grogan's credit he appeared to do the magnanimous thing by going back to Jarvis on the very next play. And the 30-year-old journeyman made his statement of gratitude by hauling in a 15-yard toss for a touchdown that gave the Patriot defense a new incentive with a 21-13 lead and 9:13 remaining. Then Grogan's heroes became many.
Cornerback Mike Haynes intercented on Bob Giese to end a Miami threat at the New England 37-yard line and sideline Griese in favor of Don Strock on the next Dolphin possession.
Strock fumbled and defensive end Mel Lunsford recovered to deaden the Miami hope of a rally, then linebacker Mike Hawkins put the Dolphins out of their escalating misery by intercepting on Strock and running 33 yards for a touchdown.
The story of the turnabout was written on Don Shula's grim face as he took obscene taunts from some fans in the runway to the dressing room. The dolphin coach may be a bit attuned to them after four straight losses here, but that didn't make his team's third loss in its last tour games any easier to digest.
"I am disappointed and embrassed by our performance," he said.
"We came up here tied for first place (at 5-2) and hoped to go home up there alone. Now we have to go back and try to get something going. I thought we were ready to play, the way we started out. We were taking it to them on offense and defense. We missed a couple big opportunities and stopped playing."
Delvin Williams ran for 85 yards in nine carries in the first half, including a 39-yard sprint that was wasted when Larry Csonka fumbled the ball to the Patriots at the New England 11-yard line. Williams rushed only 14 yards in the second half, with four more carries.
Griese hit on five of six passes in the first half, when the Dolphins held a 13-7 lead, but at the finish he had completed only one pass to a wide receiver, Nat Moore losing five yards on the reception.
Griese's final figures, 10 completions in 18 attempts for 57 yards, including a 16-yard scoring toss to tight end Bruce Hardy, were respectable, but that was his longest connection.
Another time that he threw deep he was intercepted. He is 34 years old in his 13th season, no longer agile, and relatively short alongside the new breed of tall quarterbacks.
Shula was asked if he might shift to Strock but said, "this is not the time to make the decision."
Shula's option may be limited because Strock suffered an injured knee while completing one of seven passes for eight yards. Guy Benjamin, the second-year understudy, followed Strock at quarterback and managed to complete one of his two passes for seven yards.
Grogan connected on 16 of 24 passes, despite the drops, for 187 yards, the longest for 41 yards. His "extra dimension" produced 42 yards of rushing on 10 carries, two fewer than the Pats' leader, Horace Ivory, in 16 attempts.
Coach Ron Erhardt called it "Grogan's best game; it's got to be, I didn't hear any boos (a frequent occurrence here). It was really satisfying the way we came back. We made some adjustments at halftime. They're too hard to explain," he said, and added impishly, "Besides, we play the Dolphins again."