Posted: Tuesday December 28, 1999 02:03 AM
MIAMI (Ticker) -- First-year starter Ray Lucas continued to play like a seasoned veteran and surefire Hall of Famer Dan Marino continued to look like anything but one in what may have been his final game in Miami.
Lucas threw two of his three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as the New York Jets rallied to beat the Dolphins for the second time in 15 days, further spoiling Miami's playoff hopes with a 38-31 victory.
Lucas, a third-year signal caller out of Rutgers, has looked impressive since taking over at the helm for an ineffective Rick Mirer on November 15 in New England. The 6-3, 214-pound former special teamer completed just 11-of-23 passes for 190 yards, but was brilliant when his team needed him most and did not throw an interception.
He found Wayne Chrebet with a 50-yard scoring strike with 10:41 remaining that put New York ahead to stay, 31-28, then followed a missed field goal by Olindo Mare by hitting Dedric Ward on a perfectly thrown 56-yard bomb that made it 38-28 with just under nine minutes to play.
"He just gets better each week," New York coach Bill Parcells said. "If he learns how to throw the ball long, he'll be very dangerous. We hit big plays throughout the game. Ray made some good throws and Wayne and Dedric had some big catches."
"That's probably the time when I'm trying to let the game come to me," Lucas said. "And early in the game, it's a lot harder for me to do that. In the fourth quarter I know that any one play can ruin the game for us. The first thing that I try to do is take care of the ball. The second thing is not to press the game and let it come to me."
Lucas outplayed Marino two weekends ago at Giants Stadium, leading the Jets to a 28-20 victory by tossing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Keyshawn Johnson, who also snared a first-quarter TD tonight.
Lucas further emphasized his solid performance by hitting Johnson with a crucial first down completion on 4th-and-2 with under a minute to play, extinguishing any of Marino's hopes for a last-minute comeback.
"I don't want to put the ball back in Marino's hands," Parcells said. "I figure if we run it, maybe we get them with the sprint out and we did."
"To beat this team with all these playoff implications, you're just glad things worked out the way they did," Johnson added. "That's what we're about, trying to put them in a position where they're at home with us (for the playoffs)."
The Dolphins had pulled within 38-31 with 2:20 remaining after Mare kicked a 37-yard field goal. It was Mare's 38th field goal of the season which established an single-season record, breaking John Kasay's mark set in 1996 with Carolina.
Marino, who failed in his bid to match John Elway for career victories as a starter (148), was 29-of-52 for 322 yards and three TDs. But unlike Lucas, he threw three interceptions, two of which resulted in 14 points for the Jets.
With rumors running rampant that this may be his final NFL season, the NFL's all-time leading passer made some costly mistakes in what could have been his swan song at Pro Player Stadium. Miami will travel to NFC East champion Washington next weekend.
Marino's first misguided pass landed in the hands of safety Marcus Coleman, who rumbled 98 yards for a touchdown to give the Jets a 17-7 lead with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
"It's just special because it's a play that helped us win," Coleman said. "You don't try to make big plays, in this game big plays come off mistakes."
"I thought I was throwing a touchdown to O.J.," Marino added.
"It seemed like he guessed right and he made a heck of a play."
He also fired an interception from his own end zone which Jets linebacker Roman Phifer returned to the 1, setting up Curtis Martin's TD plunge that put New York back ahead, 24-21, midway through the third quarter.
"I'm not really thinking about (retirement) that much right now and I have got enough to do trying to think about wins and you never know what life brings," Marino said.
Miami (9-6) has lost five of seven since a promising 7-1 start and will need help on the final weekend to secure the AFC's final wild card spot. Buffalo (10-5) clinched the second wild card with the Dolphins' loss.
The Jets (7-8) already had been eliminated from postseason contention, but continue to relish their role as the spoiler, winning six of their last eight games and beating playoff contenders Miami, Dallas, Buffalo and New England along the way.
They will get a chance to spoil AFC West leader Seattle's season on Sunday at home.
"They've got good players, everybody wants to think they're a bad football team because they lost (starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde) three months ago," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said.
"They are talented and they are going to make plays."
Having already beaten the likes of Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe and Doug Flutie, Lucas began his second game against Marino by marching the Jets 65 yards in 12 plays. He capped the drive with a four-yard TD pass to Johnson that gave New York a 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.
The Dolphins responded as J.J. Johnson rumbled 34 yards to the Jets' 1 on the ensuing drive, which Marino finished off with a one-yard TD pass to backup tight end Ed Perry with 5:37 left in the period. The catch was Perry's first of the season.
Unfazed, Lucas completed three passes for 36 yards on New York's next drive, which culminated in John Hall's 48-yard field goal, giving the Jets a 10-7 lead with seven seconds remaining in the opening period.
Miami began the second quarter by marching 84 yards in 11 plays before Marino shortarmed a pass to O.J. McDuffie just in front of the goal line. Coleman stepped in front of the receiver and coasted down the right sideline to give New York a 10-point bulge with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
Marino went right back to work, however, connecting with fullback Stanley Pritchett on a 36-yard pass to begin another long drive that culminated in the two hooking up for a three-yard TD with 2:46 left in the first half.
The Dolphins went ahead, 21-17, in the third quarter when Marino found Tony Martin with a 32-yard touchdown pass just under four minutes into the second half.
But the 38-year-old, 17-year veteran threw his third and most costly pick on a 3rd-and-10 from his own end zone into the arms of Phifer. Martin made him pay for it, going in off left tackle on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 with 7:01 left in the third quarter to give the Jets a 24-21 lead.
J.J. Johnson, who rushed for 83 yards on 18 carries, gave Miami its last lead of the night, 28-24, 1:28 into the fourth quarter with a one-yard TD run.
Marino was brilliant on that drive, completing 7-of-8 passes for 78 yards, but Lucas had also saved his best for last and needed just two big passes to spoil Marino's night.
Tony Martin had 102 yards on six catches and McDuffie finished with 79 yards on seven grabs for the Dolphins, who can clinch a spot before playing on Sunday if Seattle (9-6) and Kansas City (9-6) both lose its respective games earlier in the day.
New York has won four straight against Miami to take a 33-32-1 lead in the all-time series.
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