MIAMI, OCT. 7 -- Don Shula is a cautious man, not one to get too excited about a 4-1 start after 27 years in the business. He's seen too much to make plans for the playoffs in October.
But even he found reason to smile -- just a little -- late this afternoon at Joe Robbie Stadium after his Miami Dolphins, trailing by 13 points to the New York Jets at halftime, came back to win, 20-16, on Mark Duper's second touchdown reception of the day with 1:03 remaining.
"This is something we haven't done a lot the last couple of years," Shula said. "Coming back to win is a good feeling. I'm very happy right now about where we are."
All the principle players were in place for the Dolphins as they marched to their best start in five years and stayed in the AFC East lead before 69,678, the largest crowd to watch a regular season game at the 4-year-old stadium. Dan Marino, disgruntled and talking trade six months ago, threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns and led the team on an 80-yard, 5 1/2-minute drive to the winning touchdown.
Duper, who has been bothered by knee, ankle, groin and hamstring injuries the last few years, is healthy now and finally had the kind of game most expect him to play. He caught both of Marino's scoring passes: a 69-yarder in the third quarter that tied the game at 13, and the game-winner on third and seven at the New York 13.
He got away from the gambling Jets cornerbacks for five receptions for 125 yards, then got away from reporters before they reached the locker room, telling a team spokesman he wanted to see his family and chat with them about his game.
Duper, a former Pro Bowl regular who legally changed his middle name to Super a few years ago, hadn't had a touchdown catch in nearly a year, since Oct. 8, 1989. The last time he caught two touchdown passes in a game was Dec. 20, 1987, when the Washington Redskins lost here, 23-21.
"Duper's back, for you people who were wondering," Shula said. "We gave him about three or four years to get back on track."
Miami's heroics were a long time coming. In the first half, the Jets (2-3) built a 13-0 lead that should have been bigger. Twice, they drove the length of the field in the first half only to be stopped at the last moment, settling for Pat Leahy's field goals of 25 and 19 yards. The Jets' lone touchdown was Ken O'Brien's nine-yard toss to wide receiver Rob Moore early in the second quarter.
The Dolphins' only sign of life in the first half was a two-minute drive from their 20 to the New York 1. With three seconds remaining, Sammie Smith took a handoff from Marino and was tripped by linebacker Jeff Lageman for no gain as time ran out.
Instead of allowing that to be a negative, Shula tried to use it to his advantage in a halftime pep talk.
"That could have been a tremendous lift for them," he said. "I wanted to make damn sure this didn't affect us in the second half."
It didn't. Marino took over after the kickoff at his 10 and soon was standing at the Jets 45, thanks to a 15-yard spearing penalty on linebacker Joe Mott and a 25-yard pass interference call on cornerback Michael Mayes.
Five plays later, running back Marc Logan stormed into the end zone from 11 yards. Miami bobbled the snap on the extra point and was behind, 13-6, with 10:56 left in the third quarter.
Less than four minutes later, the score was tied. On Miami's first play after a punt, Marino eluded menacing defensive tackle Gerald Nichols and Duper, with a fake to the outside, broke away from cornerback James Hasty and sprinted down the sideline with the 69-yarder.
Leahy kicked a 30-yard field goal with 6:34 left to give the Jets the lead momentarily, 16-13. Miami then embarked on its classic drive as Marino completed four third-down passes, the last Duper's scoring catch.
"That was typical Marino there," Shula said.