Dan Marino redeemed himself.
Criticized by Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson after a loss to Buffalo, Marino passed for 393 yards and hit Oronde Gadsden with two big passes in the closing minutes as the Dolphins beat the Indianapolis Colts today, 34-31.
"I don't always say the right things, but I say what I feel," said Johnson, who found little to fault Marino this time. "Danny was fantastic. After the first quarter, he did just a super job."
The winning touchdown came after an apparent sack and fumble by Marino were reversed.
On a challenge by Johnson, officials ruled Marino's arm was going forward and that it was an incomplete pass, keeping the drive alive for Miami (3-1) at midfield with 1 minute 16 seconds to go. After two more incompletions, Marino passed 48 yards to Gadsden to the 2. Two plays later Gadsden made a leaping catch in the end zone, barely keeping both feet inbounds, for the winning touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.
"The replay system is not going to be perfect, but it's better than nothing," Johnson said. "I'm sure glad it did work out."
After the Dolphins lost to the Bills, 23-18, last Monday night, Johnson said Marino became flustered by Buffalo's pass rush and was at fault on two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Neither Johnson nor Marino wanted to talk about that today.
"After 17 years, you don't know how long you're going to play. So you want to keep having fun. Throwing the winning touchdown with 27 seconds left is still big," Marino said. "We're playing our guts out. Give a lot of guys credit for hanging in like we did."
The Colts (2-2), who got three touchdown passes by Peyton Manning and a 97-yard kickoff return by Terrence Wilkins, had their final drive end on a pass interception by Terrell Buckley with 16 seconds left.
The Colts led 17-9 after the first of Manning's two scoring passes to Marcus Pollard, but Marino passed 28 yards to Tony Martin for a score early in the final period. After Wilkins's long touchdown return, Marino passed 23 yards to Martin to set up a 25-yard touchdown run by rookie Cecil Collins, the longest run by the Dolphins this season.
Colts rookie running back Edgerrin James then ran for 21 and 14 yards, and Manning passed 32 yards for the second touchdown by Pollard as Indianapolis went ahead 31-22 with 8:14 to go. The Dolphins, who drove inside the Indianapolis 10 four times without scoring a touchdown, reached the Colts 25 before Olindo Mare hit his fourth field goal, a 43-yarder.
The Colts were pinned near their own goal line on the next possession, and Manning deliberately ran out of the end zone for a safety, giving the Colts a free kick, still holding a four-point lead.
Marino started the Dolphins on their winning drive from their 36 with 1:50 left, completing two passes to Martin to midfield before the apparent fumble on a tackle by Shawn King. For the game, Marino was 25 for 38. Martin had 10 catches for 166 yards.
Miami drove inside the Colts 10 three times in the first half, once to the 1, but a holding penalty, an incomplete pass and a two-yard loss by Collins forced the Dolphins to settle for field goals of 37, 27 and 21 yards by Mare. Indianapolis, which scored early on a 41-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt, reached the Miami 1 midway through the first quarter before James fumbled after he was hit by Zach Thomas. Daryl Gardener picked up the ball and returned it 33 yards before Manning made a touchdown-saving tackle. Ten plays later, Mare's first field goal tied the game. They were the first points allowed by the Colts in the opening period all season.
Mare's second field goal put the Dolphins up 6-3, but Indianapolis moved 76 yards on the next drive, and Marvin Harrison beat cornerback Ray Hill along the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown reception, his seventh of the season.
Manning was 17 for 24 for 274 yards.