This time, Jimmy Johnson had nothing but nice words to say about his quarterback. This time, however, the quarterback was Damon Huard and not Dan Marino.
Huard, filling in after Marino left early with a sore shoulder, threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Pritchett with 23 seconds left this afternoon to give the Miami Dolphins a 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots.
"We believe in him. He played an outstanding game," Johnson said of Huard. Two weeks ago, Johnson criticized the 38-year-old Marino following a loss to Buffalo. Last week, the coach was lukewarm after Marino engineered a comeback victory in Indianapolis.
"But there's no quarterback controversy here. Dan's our quarterback. Dan's our starter," Johnson said.
Marino will have an MRI exam today.
The Dolphins (4-1) fell behind 14-0 on two interception returns by the Patriots--a 57-yarder by Andy Katzenmoyer off Marino and a 24-yarder by Ty Law on Huard's first pass.
But after that Huard settled down. He threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tony Martin and the final score to Pritchett, which capped a 59-yard drive in which he converted three third downs. He finished 24 of 42 for 240 yards and ran six times for 54 yards. In between, Olindo Mare kept Miami in the game with six field goals--breaking an NFL record by kicking four or more for the fourth straight game. They included a 53-yarder with 3 minutes 1 second left that set the stage for Miami's final drive.
Huard was sacked nine times by the Patriots--a Miami record for sacks allowed in a game. But by the final drive, he was able to scramble out of trouble or hit short passes in front of single coverage after the Dolphins got the ball back with 2:10 remaining. "We had a lot of time left," Huard said. "I just tried to keep the ball in front of me and go down the field slowly."
Meanwhile, the Patriots struggled offensively. New England (4-2) gained just 259 yards and had the ball just 19:53 to 40:07 for Miami. "We just can't get it moving on offense," said Coach Pete Carroll, whose team lost, 16-14, in Kansas City last week when Adam Vinatieri missed a 32-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds. "We're just not making the ball move."
"When your defense scores twice, there's no way you should ever lose the ballgame," said Bledsoe, who was 17 of 36 for 225 yards but did not complete a pass to Terry Glenn, his most dangerous receiver. "In this league you're going to play a lot of tight games and one or two plays will make the difference."