De-fin-ding their turf
Three fourth-quarter TDs lead Dolphins to 21-10 winPosted: Sunday December 02, 2001 4:24 PM
Updated: Sunday December 02, 2001 11:38 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- The Denver Broncos were in control, and the Miami Dolphins were in trouble. Then, in the time it took 275-pound defensive end Kenny Mixon to run 56 yards with an interception, the game turned around.
"I saw the ball coming, and it was slow motion for a second," Mixon said. "I said, 'Uh oh, I've got to catch this thing.' It stuck in my mitts, and I took it to the house."
Picking off a pass that Brian Griese tried to throw away, Mixon scored the go-ahead touchdown on his first NFL interception during a remarkable sequence that helped the Dolphins beat Denver 21-10 on Sunday.
Miami improved to 8-3 and took sole possession of the AFC East lead. The New York Jets fell one game back by losing to New England 17-16.
Denver took a 10-0 lead into the final period, but two turnovers helped the Dolphins score 21 points in 4:46. They came from behind in the fourth quarter to win for the fifth time this season, including four of their past six games.
"There is a no-quit attitude on this team," head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Anyone who has been watching the games should see it."
The Broncos, sputtering again on offense with an injury-plagued receiving corps, fell to 6-6. Head coach Mike Shanahan said his team likely must win its final four games to make the playoffs.
"We figured out the math one week ago -- four out of four," Shanahan said.
The Broncos have never won in six games at Miami, and this defeat ranked with the most galling.
The Dolphins' offense mounted its only scoring march and cut the deficit to 10-7 with 13:45 left on Jay Fiedler's 11-yard touchdown pass to Chris Chambers. That ended a stretch of seven consecutive quarters at home without a point for Miami.
On Denver's next series, Griese tried to get rid of the ball on a blitz as he was hit by Jason Taylor, and the errant pass bounced off Mixon's left thigh and into his arms.
"One play changed everything, and it was my fault," Griese said. "If I take a sack, we probably win."
Mixon had enough of a head start up the field that the smaller, faster opponents giving chase couldn't catch him.
"It was reminiscent of Forrest Gump," teammate Derrick Rodgers said.
Mixon dived into the end zone for his first touchdown in four NFL seasons, and the first interception return for a score by a Dolphins lineman since Kim Bowkamper in 1983.
Things quickly got worse for Denver. Chris Cole fumbled on the ensuing kickoff when hit by Jeff Ogden, and the Dolphins' Scott Galyon recovered. Two plays later, Miami scored again on Lamar Smith's 1-yard run.
The stunning turnaround spoiled Griese's return to Miami and Terrell Davis' return to the Denver lineup.
Griese, playing his first NFL game in his hometown, worked again with inexperienced receivers and went 18-for-33 for 135 yards. The Broncos played without the league's leading receiver, Rod Smith, who sat out the game because of a sprained ankle.
Davis, making only his fourth start of the season because of knee injuries, carried 20 times for 97 yards.
"It felt like the first day of training camp," he said.
Following a punt-filled first half, the Broncos took the second-half kickoff and moved 75 yards in 13 plays for a 10-0 lead. They converted three third-down conversions during the drive, which ended with Griese's 4-yard touchdown pass to Desmond Clark.
That was Griese's 20th touchdown pass. He has thrown at least one scoring pass in every game this season.
But the Broncos lost even though they had the ball for nearly 35 minutes and limited the Dolphins to 218 yards.
"It hurts," Davis said. "We were putting some good drives together. Then in an instant we turn it over twice and we're down 21-10."
Notes: Chambers bruised his left ribs in the fourth quarter. He and cornerback Sam Madison, who sat out with a shoulder injury, are both expected to play next Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts, Wannstedt said. . ... Denver linebacker Lee Woodall strained his left hamstring and missed most of the second half. ... The Broncos lost for only the fifth time in their past 59 games when leading at halftime. ... The Dolphins have won six consecutive regular-season games against Denver, but the Broncos beat Miami in a playoff game three seasons ago.