Mark Duper, who missed seven games because of a broken leg, returned today and caught eight passes for 217 yards, including a 50-yarder with 41 seconds left that gave the Miami Dolphins a 21-17 victory over the New York Jets.
Quarterback Dan Marino had intended to call a running play, but switched to the pass on an audible. Just two plays earlier, the Jets had gone ahead, 17-14.
Duper, who said before the game his leg was about 70 percent as strong as normal, ran past cornerback Bobby Jackson and caught the ball about the 20-yard line. He continued untouched into the end zone.
"When I saw him in front of me and looked back and saw the ball, I knew it was trouble," Jackson said. "I just got beat on the play. I talked to Duper during the game and he said he still wasn't 100 percent. Whether he's 100 percent or 80 percent, it was good enough to win."
"I had a running play called," Marino said, "but anytime you have the receivers we've got, and they're in the bump and run, you got to go for it. I knew we had to get the field goal, but they had the blitz on and single coverage and we had a chance to make a play."
Duper's 217 yards broke the team record of 210 set by Nat Moore against the Jets in 1981.
"I think you now understand how much we missed Duper on offense," Coach Don Shula said. "This would have been a devastating loss. Thanks to Marino and Duper it wasn't. Everyone realized it was a game we had to have. Hopefully, this will start a string for us."
"In my own mind, I didn't think I could run the way I did today," Duper said. He said he ran the same pattern on an earlier 60-yard touchdown pass play on which he had beaten Jackson.
At 6-4, the Dolphins' playoff hopes are renewed; they had lost three of their previous four games. The Jets (7-3) fell into a tie with the New England Patriots for the AFC East lead.
Marino had thrown only 13 touchdown passes this season. Through nine games last season -- with Duper playing -- he had thrown 27. Likewise, Mark Clayton, the Dolphins' other star wide receiver, had been double-teamed while Duper was out.