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Fish fly past Pats

Dolphins improve to 4-1 with 26-13 win

Posted: Sunday October 06, 2002 4:16 PM
Updated: Monday October 07, 2002 1:06 AM
  Ricky Williams Ricky Williams has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in all four of the Dolphins' wins. AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Zach Thomas busted his chin strap tackling Kevin Faulk, one in a series of jarring hits that helped the Miami Dolphins knock the New England Patriots out of first place.

The Dolphins sacked Tom Brady three times, pressured him into mistakes, pounded the middle with Ricky Williams and handed the Patriots their second loss in a row Sunday, 26-13.

The victory left Miami (4-1) alone atop the AFC East, while the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (3-2) fell a game back.

"They have something we want," Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain said. "We want to get where they were last year."

Surtain led a resurgent defense that rebounded from a 48-30 loss at Kansas City a week ago. Miami took a 16-0 lead in the first half, when New England totaled just 26 yards and committed two turnovers, and the Dolphins finished with a 20-minute advantage in time of possession.

Williams lost a fumble for the second week in a row but topped 100 yards rushing for the fourth time in five games. He gained 105 tough yards on 36 carries, a team regular-season record.

Jay Fiedler threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, all on third down.

"We were embarrassed last week with what happened," Miami head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "To see our team bounce back in every phase was rewarding."

The Patriots fell to 0-13 in Miami in September and October. They can take some consolation that Sunday's loss was similar to a 30-10 drubbing in Miami a year ago, when Brady threw for just 86 yards. The Patriots recovered from that defeat, their worst of the season, and went on to win the Super Bowl.

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    This time Brady passed for 240 yards, including touchdown throws of 34 and 25 yards to David Patten. But much of his success came in the final eight minutes against a defense that played much better after giving up five touchdown passes to Kansas City's Trent Green a week ago.

    "We made too many mistakes in the first half and dug ourselves a hole," New England head coach Bill Belichick said.

    Surtain and end Jason Taylor, both of whom have been hobbled by knee injuries, sparked Miami's defense. Taylor had two sacks and forced a fumble by Brady to set up the game's first score, and Surtain's interception led to the next score for a 13-0 lead.

    The Patriots' first 21 plays netted 17 yards -- just 29 inches per play.

    "A lot of things went wrong early," Brady said. "They kept a lot of pressure on us with their front seven."

    Fiedler went 17-for-27 for 190 yards with no turnovers. Miami converted nine of 17 third-down situations, including both of Fiedler's touchdown passes -- 7 yards to Chris Chambers and 1 yard to Randy McMichael.

    "It's probably the most complete game I've seen from the Dolphins in all phases since I've been here," said Fiedler, who is 26-13 as Miami's starter. "Ricky was running the ball and the defense was stopping them, and when those things are going it's a lot easier for me."

    Despite Miami's dominance, the fumble by Williams almost let New England back in the game. The Dolphins led 16-0 and were at the Patriots 33 when Tedy Bruschi jarred the ball loose and Victor Green recovered. New England then mounted its first drive, moving 68 yards in five plays to score.

    Thomas broke his chin strap during the series, and he had to leave the game while it was fixed. He vented on the sideline in frustration as Patten caught a touchdown pass.

    "I grabbed [teammate] Robert Edwards' helmet, but I didn't get out there in time," Thomas said. "It fit, though."

    A 74-yard scoring drive by Miami ended the comeback. Fiedler hit James McKnight for 35 yards to the 3, then lobbed to McMichael in the corner of the end zone for 23-6 lead.

    And now the Dolphins lead their division. Said Fiedler: "We've just got to keep it going and separate ourselves from the pack."

    Notes: Miami reserve defensive end David Bowens sprained his left knee in the third period and missed the rest of the game. Reserve safety Shawn Wooden strained his left hamstring. ... Patriots receiver Troy Brown (knee) was inactive for the second consecutive game. Dolphins tackle Mark Dixon (ankle) was also inactive. ... Playing against his former team for the first time, Edwards carried four times for 13 yards and caught one pass for 10.

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