EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., SEPT. 23 -- The Miami Dolphins now have a running game; the Miami Dolphins even have a defense. No matter, the Miami Dolphins are still Dan Marino. And the New York Giants, playing defense the way they did in their 1986 championship season, forced Marino into his fourth-worst game as a pro.

Marino completed only 16 of 30 passes, covering just 115 yards. No touchdowns, two interceptions. Some statistics lie; Marino's tell the complete truth about the Giants' 20-3 domination of the Dolphins at Giants Stadium this afternoon. Only 13 times in Marino's eight-year career has he failed to throw at least one touchdown, but the Dolphins have lost 11 of those games, including today's.

He was sacked only once -- of course Lawrence Taylor was in on it -- but was hurried and harassed just about every other dropback by a Giants team that is now 3-0. "We didn't challenge at all," Dolphins Coach Don Shula said of his 2-1 team. "Offensively, we didn't generate anything. We had nowhere to run. We didn't make any plays. It was an education for our offensive line."

The only downer for the Giants is that Taylor pulled a hamstring on the last play of the game, trying to sack backup quarterback Scott Secules. Why he was even on the field with his team leading by 17 points went unexplained. While Taylor, who had to be helped off the field, took a back-door exit from the locker room, Coach Bill Parcells left only hints. "I can't think for everyone around here," he said.

It was tough to figure whether Parcells was talking about Taylor or an assistant coach who might have been in charge of such a thing. The extent of Taylor's injury will be determined later; fortunately for the Giants, they play the lowly Cowboys next week and are idle the following week.

With Taylor playing as well, perhaps, as ever, the Giants' defense executed a well-conceived game plan to near perfection.

"Dan's always operated on pre-snap reads," new Giants safety Dave Duerson said. "He has a tendency to bite on a certain look. But when he lined up against us, what he saw at first wasn't real. We showed him something we weren't really running, and as a result he threw into coverages a lot."

The Giants' secondary also played almost exclusively zone defense so that the defensive backs wouldn't have to turn their heads, as they would in man-to-man defense. When the quarterback has a lot of time against a zone, his receivers can find the soft spots, especially when those receivers' names are Mark Clayton and Mark Duper.

But when the front seven of the defense includes linebackers Taylor, Carl Banks and Pepper Johnson, the receivers don't have time to improvise. "It's simple," another new Giants defensive back, Everson Walls, said. "If you give Dan time to throw he'll pass you to death. Our front seven didn't give him very long."

Except for a brief stretch at the start of the second half (which to Miami's only points, a 51-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich), Marino rarely was able to complete two consecutive passes. "I just didn't make very much happen today," he said. "Neither did anybody else. We just couldn't put two and three good plays together. Then we tried to go downfield {deep routes} and that didn't work either."

Part of Marino's problem was he wasn't on the field very much. Three plays the entire first quarter. For the game, the Giants held the ball more than 40 minutes and ran 80 offensive plays to the Dolphins' 44. The first long New York drive -- it lasted 10 minutes -- produced only a field goal, a 22-yarder by Raul Allegre, after Lewis Tillmon was dropped for a loss on third and goal from the 3.

Late in the second quarter, the Giants livened up the offense a bit, using a flea-flicker -- Phil Simms to Ottis Anderson back to Simms, then 26 yards to Mark Ingram -- to get inside the Dolphins 10. Anderson, whose 72 yards rushing enabled him to move past Earl Campbell into the No. 8 spot for all-time rushing yardage, went in from the 1 on third and goal to make it 10-0 with two minutes to play in the half.

The Dolphins caught a tough break to start the fourth quarter when a field official -- supported by a television replay official -- ruled Clayton fumbled after catching a pass at the Miami 10. It looked very much like Clayton never had possession of the ball. "One bad call didn't make the game," Clayton said, "but what's the use of instant replay if they are not going to use it right? I didn't have control. They were blowing calls all day."

Regardless, a diving Taylor beat a diving Marino to the loose ball, leading to Anderson's two-yard touchdown run for the 17-3 lead.

A two-touchdown deficit might not be insurmountable for Marino against most defenses, but the Giants kept him guessing -- incorrectly. And even when Marino did guess right, a stiff wind took an apparent touchdown away from him. A long pass to a streaking, wide-open Duper held up in the air too long, and was picked off by free safety Myron Guyton, who pitched back to Walls for a 40-yard return.

"It was a great play by Guyton to play navigator," Walls said. "Every pass {Marino} threw was blowing back, so he played it perfectly."

That's the kind of defensive game it was for the Giants, one which had Duerson comparing it to his former team, the '85 Bears under Buddy Ryan, and Walls to the Cowboys' Doomsday outfits of the early '80s. The Dolphins rushed for 39 yards, and if you discount Secules' 16-yard scramble on the second-to-last play of the game, the backs ran 10 times for 23 yards. Marino's longest completion was 20 yards.

"During the week when we were studying film," Walls said, "Buffalo pretty much gave up" against Miami in last week's 30-7 loss. And in the opener against "New England, the secondary didn't play up to its ability, which was surprising considering they see Miami twice a year. No way that was going to happen to us. With the guys we have up front, we don't have to play pass defense for very long."