Fielder rallies Dolphins to 18-15 victory against Raiders
Updated: Monday September 24, 2001 8:36 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- Only seconds remained when New York native Jay Fiedler dove for the end zone, holding the ball above his head like a rugby player and skidding across the goal line for the winning touchdown as the crowd erupted.
This was a return to normal -- at least as the Miami Dolphins define it.
Patriotic pregame pageantry produced plenty of cheers, but the biggest roar was reserved for Fiedler's 2-yard touchdown scramble with five seconds left to help Miami beat the Oakland Raiders 18-15 on Sunday.
The resumption of the NFL season following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks meant a day of mixed emotions -- especially for Fiedler, who grew up in Long Island.
"My brother lost a close friend," he said. "And I know a lot of people who were very close to people that were lost."
So it was good to play a game Sunday, and even better to win it. Fiedler overcame two costly interceptions, directing a 10-play, 80-yard drive in the final 1:41.
"You couldn't get a better ending," Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas said. "It was great for the fans especially, for everybody to go home happy and get back to normal."
Miami improved to 2-0, while Oakland fell to 1-1. The Dolphins are 28-4 in home openers since 1970 and haven't lost at home in September since 1993, when the New York Jets beat them 24-14.
An emotional pregame show paid tribute to victims of the Sept. 11 attack with prayer, songs and chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A." The ceremony prompted cheers and tears, with the only jeers reserved for the Raiders when they were introduced.
"You had to wipe the tears away and play football," Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said.
Oakland led most of the game and went ahead 15-10 thanks largely to a pair of interceptions, the second returned 26 yards by Anthony Dorsett for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Led by Thomas with 18 tackles, the Dolphins' defense kept the game close, allowing just six points and 216 yards. And the sunny, 88-degree weather, which sent some fans home before the finish, took a toll on the visitors down the stretch.
The Dolphins had no timeouts left when they started from their 20 with 1:41 to go. But Fiedler completed his next four passes, then hit Dedric Ward for 9 yards on fourth-and-3, giving Miami a first down at the 9 with 27 seconds left.
Fiedler ran for 7 yards, then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 12 seconds remaining.
On third down, Fiedler rolled right on a play designed as a run-pass option. When he failed to find an open receiver, he pumped and then broke for the end zone from the 10. Defensive end Trace Armstrong had the best shot, but Fiedler eluded him.
"I tried to turn him into the middle of the field," Armstrong said. "But he did a great job of getting away from me and getting into the end zone."
Said Fiedler: "I saw that patch of grass in front of me, and I knew I could make it."
Fiedler's heroics were all the more impressive because the Dolphins feared he was knocked out in a helmet-to-helmet collision with three minutes remaining. The team called timeout as its woozy quarterback struggled to his feet.
"Once I got up, I was fine," Fiedler said. He also scored on a 2-yard run with 16 seconds left in the first half.
The victory was a small measure of revenge for Miami, which lost 27-0 at Oakland in the playoffs last season, when Fiedler threw three interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. This time, two second-half turnovers nearly undid his good work.
The Dolphins were at their 20 nursing a 10-9 lead when Fiedler threw into double coverage on third-and-2. Dorsett stepped in front of the intended receiver for the interception and ran untouched for the score.
"He didn't make a bad play," Dorsett said. "I made a good play."
Oakland's Jerry Rice made his first reception with 10 minutes left, a 7-yard grab that extended his NFL-record streak of 226 consecutive games with a catch. That was his lone reception.
"It just didn't happen today," Rice said. "I have to be critical of myself. I didn't get the job done. I didn't do anything to help this team."
Notes: Oakland center Barret Robbins suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter, and head coach Jon Gruden said it appeared serious. ... Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad sprained his left ankle in the first period and missed the rest of the game. ... Dolphins defensive tackle Ernest Grant sprained his right ankle. ... Miami has won six of its past seven meetings against Oakland. ... Miami has won 15 consecutive home games in August and September.