Posted: Tuesday January 11, 2000 02:11 PM
SEATTLE (Ticker) -- Dan Marino closed the Kingdome in style to the chagrin of the Seattle Seahawks.
Marino completed four passes for 84 yards to set up a two-yard touchdown run by rookie J.J. Johnson with 4:48 left as the Miami Dolphins rallied for a 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in an AFC wild card game.
The Dolphins (10-7), who had lost six of their last eight games and barely made the postseason, will meet the AFC Central champion Jacksonville Jaguars (14-2) in the divisional playoffs on Saturday.
"Heck yes, I am excited," Marino said. "I didn't smile as I was walking off the field because there was no one there to smile at except some cameras. It's not just on my back to win on the road but it was a big win for this team to come all the way to Seattle and play in front of a hostile crowd. It is as loud as it gets anywhere here in the Kingdome."
Appearing in the postseason for the first time since 1988, the AFC West champion Seahawks (9-8) also struggled down the stretch with five losses in their last six games.
The win was especially sweet for Marino, who missed five games this season and struggled to recover from a pinched nerve in his neck that weakened his throwing arm. But after passing for only 28 yards in the first half, Marino made numerous big throws in the second half, when he engineered three scoring drives and rallied the Dolphins from a 17-10 deficit.
The NFL's most prolific quarterback was in vintage form on the winning 11-play, 85-yard drive, hooking up with Tony Martin three times.
"Tony made three great catches in man-to-man coverage," Marino said. "In that kind of coverage, he is simply going to beat your guy. I think he will do that against anybody. All I had to do was get the ball to him."
On 3rd-and-17 from his own 8, Marino rifled a 23-yard pass to Martin, who made a leaping catch over the middle. On the following play, Marino quickly recognized a blitz and hit Martin with a 17-yard sideline pass to the Miami 48.
Two plays later, the duo connected again with Martin making a leaping 20-yard catch over the middle in front of cornerback Willie Williams at the Seattle 29.
Facing a 3rd-and-10, Marino had a free play when Seattle rookie end Lamar King jumped offside. He took full advantage, lofting a 24-yard pass over the middle to Oronde Gadsden to the Seattle 5.
"I just came up with a catch but Dan put the ball where only I could catch it," Gadsden said.
Two plays later, Johnson scored on a two-yard run off left tackle to put Miami ahead for good.
"That drive was unbelievable that Dan was able to do that," said Dolphins guard Kevin Donnalley. "I think he needed to have a game like this. It is a big confidence builder."
Jon Kitna, who was 14-of-30 for 162 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions, was sacked twice on Seattle's next possession, forcing the Seahawks to punt. Overall, Kitna was sacked six times, including three by veteran defensive end Trace Armstrong.
After a 25-yard return by Nate Jacquet, the Dolphins took over at the Seattle 39 with 2:52 left. However, rookie Autry Denson lost six yards on three carries and Miami was unable to run out the clock.
Rookie Charlie Rogers, who accounted for Seattle's offense in the second half with an 85-yard touchdown on a kick return, made a fair catch of a punt at the Seattle 12 with 65 seconds left.
Operating with no timeouts, Kitna threw three straight incompletions in the face of a heavy pass rush. However, on a 4th-and-10 play, Kitna threw a 17-yard pass over the middle to Sean Dawkins to the Seattle 29.
After a quick spike to stop the clock with 35 seconds left, Kitna threw an incompletion. On the following play, Kitna attempted to hit Joey Galloway near the sideline, but cornerback Terrell Buckley cut in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass at the Seattle 42 to seal the win.
"It is disappointing to lose, and I am as disappointed as anybody," Kitna said. "Hopefully, this will be a learning experience."
Appearing in his 17th playoff game, the 39-year-old Marino completed 17-of-30 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Miami had lost its last seven road playoff games since a win at Pittsburgh in the 1972 AFC Championship game at Pittsburgh.
"One win can do a lot of things, especially a win in the playoffs," said Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson. "One win in the playoffs, since the Dolphins haven't done it in 28 years, goes a long ways."
The Kingdome, hosting its first NFL playoff game since 1984, will be razed after the season. The Seahawks won their only two previous home games.
"It was the last game in the Kingdome and I wish I could have closed it out with a win," said Seahawks 10th-year defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, who played in his first playoff game.
"You have to give the Dolphins credit. They won the game. It's tough to take right now."
Making his first postseason appearance, Kitna played like a playoff veteran in the first half, completing 10-of-16 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown with an interception as the Seahawks built a 10-3 lead. Meanwhile, Marino managed to complete 5-of-9 passes for only 28 yards in the first half.
But Marino came out firing in the second half, completing his first six passes for 56 yards and capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown to Gadsden to tie the game at 10-10. O.J.
McDuffie caught two passes for 38 yards in the drive, including a 27-yard reception on a 3rd-and-7 play.
However, Rogers returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to snap the tie. He muffed the kick at the 7, but picked up the bouncing ball at the 15 and dodged two Miami defenders who overpursued. Rogers raced to the right sideline and eluded kicker Olindo Mare, who fell for an inside fake and was unable to catch Rogers.
"I bobbled the ball and had to make a play on it," Rogers said.
"Once I saw the kicker I knew it was over. I wasn't going to let the kicker catch me especially with some room on the sideline."
"The guy runs a 40 in the low 4s, and that makes it tough (to catch him)," Mare said. "I was just trying to trip him up."
Miami pulled within 17-13 on a 50-yard field goal by Mare with 2:22 left in the third quarter. Denson broke off runs of 17 and 11 yards to set up the kick.
Bothered by a sore hamstring in the latter part of the season, J.J. Johnson produced 86 yards on 27 carries for Miami.
"It's easy to run when people block like that," J.J. Johnson said. "As a team we stood together. People wrote us off."
Seattle's Ricky Watters, a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last five seasons, was hampered with a sprained knee ligament and managed just 40 yards on 19 carries.
"I'm not blaming it on his injury, but the Ricky Watters I've seen in the past, when he was in Philadelphia and San Francisco, wasn't the same Ricky Watters out there today," said Dolphins linebacker Robert Jones. "Our defense is very good against the run, but he wasn't the same Ricky Watters today."
Kitna hit Dawkins with a nine-yard touchdown with 6:18 left in the first quarter to open the scoring. Mike Pritchard caught two passes for 29 yards before the touchdown.
Brock Marion returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to help ignite Miami. A 17-yard pass by Marino to McDuffie and a seven-yard run by J.J. Johnson helped set up a 32-yard field goal by Mare with 2:05 left in the quarter.
Todd Peterson kicked a 50-yard field goal with 45 seconds left in the half for Seattle.
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