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Updated: Monday, October 14, 2002 1:31 AM EDT
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Miami 24, Denver 22
MIAMI DOLPHINS
Miami Dolphins
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DENVER BRONCOS
Denver Broncos
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DENVER (Ticker) -- After John Mobley had the game slip right through his hands, Olindo Mare decided it with his right foot.

Mare drilled a 53-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to lift the Miami Dolphins to a dramatic 24-22 victory over the Denver Broncos in a battle between two of the AFC's top teams.

It did not look like Mare would get a chance to play the role of hero after Jason Elam boomed a 55-yard field goal with 45 seconds left to give Denver a 22-21 lead.

"They made the plays they had to make," Elam said. "You have to tip your hat to them. ( Olindo Mare ) is a great kicker, he's one of the best there is. I knew he'd have the distance, it was just a matter of where he was going to put it."

But with the benefit of two timeouts, the Dolphins had a chance to get into field goal position and got a little luck from Mobley - the Broncos' strong side linebacker.

At his own 26 with 40 seconds left, Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler threw two incompletions before finding rookie tight end Randy McMichael , who made a reaching catch, for 17 yards.

Following a timeout, Fiedler lofted a pass to the left side and Mobley appeared to have an interception in sight. But the ball went through his hands at the Denver 40 and to wide receiver Dedric Ward , who was tackled at the 35.

"It's one of those things where a guy gets two hands on it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Especially John and him missing it is just one of those things that happens."

Miami took its last timeout and called on Mare, who drilled the winning field goal with room to spare.

"To be honest, I didn't even see the end of it," said Mare, who missed from 48 yards earlier in the contest. "I was too busy running around like a maniac. "You just make sure your technique is good, and swing as hard as you can, and hey, it went in. We were kicking some in pregame, I think about 61 yards. Coach Wannstedt told me, `We might need that to win the game.'"

Mare's kick capped a 17-point fourth quarter for the Dolphins (5-1), who are tied with San Diego for the AFC's best record. Miami leads Super Bowl champion New England and Buffalo by two games in the East.

Fiedler admitted he engineered the winning drive with an injury to his throwing hand.

"It's a right thumb fracture, down near the joint," he said.

"Obviously this is a heck of a win from a team standpoint," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Our defense made a bunch of plays and kept us in the game tonight. It was a great team effort to come up here and play like this against these guys. It was a great win for us."

Elam had five field goals for the Broncos (4-2).

"We had a lot of opportunities in that game and we gave them away," Shanahan said. "Early in the game, we didn't take advantage of those opportunities and it came back to haunt us. Miami is a hard-nosed football team and they came out to play.

"I was at least pleased that when we got down, we at least found a way to fight back and appeared to get the job done. Now we have to go back and think about all the missed opportunities. We're obviously very disappointed."

A hard-hitting contest throughout, the Broncos carried a 12-7 lead into the fourth quarter and were driving to increase the lead when cornerback Sam Madison intercepted Brian Griese and returned the ball 15 yards to the Miami 48.

Fiedler turned the miscue into a positive, finding Oronde Gadsden with a 16-yard pass and James McKnight ran 16 yards on reverse to the Denver 9.

Two plays later, Ricky Williams ran over right guard for a two-yard touchdown, giving Miami a 14-12 lead with 9:48 remaining.

The AFC's second-leading rusher, Williams managed just 49 yards on the ground on 20 carries against the conference's second-best rush defense.

"For us, it's very easy to win at home," Williams said. "It's tough to go out on the road and get a win. Our defense came in playing very well and this is obviously a very big win for us."

Miami's secondary came up with another big play on the ensuing possession when cornerback Patrick Surtain intercepted Griese, who was looking for Ed McCaffrey over the middle. Surtain ran to the left and cut back to the middle before reaching the end zone for a 40-yard TD, making it 21-12 with 8:13 left.

"Our front four got pressure on Griese and I happened to be in the right place at the right time," Surtain said. "After that, we knew they were going to come back at us. We knew they weren't going to stop fighting.

"They got some big plays on us but you knew we just had to hold them to a field goal if we could. We were very opportunistic and were able to do that all night."

With the crowd at Invesco Field at Mild High showering Griese with boos following the miscues, the Broncos' signal-caller calmly engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive.

Griese capped the drive with a one-yard TD toss to fullback Mike Anderson with 3:37 left, pulling the Broncos within 21-19. Griese went 27-of-46 for 335 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The Dolphins had a chance to run out the clock and picked up a first down before being forced to punt.

Taking over at his own 20 with 1:51 left and without the benefit of a timeout, Griese had a 10-yard completion to rookie running back Clinton Portis and Miami committed a five-yard penalty on the ensuing play.

On the next play, Griese lofted a pass down the right sideline for first-round pick Ashley Lelie , who got behind Surtain, for a 35-yard gain to the Miami 35. Portis lost two yards on a run and Griese threw two incompletions, bringing on Elam, who booted his 25th career field goal of at least 50 yards.

Elam and the Broncos, however, left enough time on the clock for Fiedler, who completed an efficient night by getting his team into field goal range.

Fiedler went 19-of-29 for 210 yards with an interception. He also had to work without top wide receiver Chris Chambers , who was knocked out of the game in the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Kenoy Kennedy .

Kennedy drew a $10,000 fine for a similiar hit last week against San Diego and almost certainly will draw the NFL's ire for the pop on Chambers.

Elam converted field goals of 33 and 52 yards on the Broncos' two first-quarter possessions and he was good from 23 yards early in the second, giving Denver a 9-0 lead.

The Broncos' defense carried the play in the first quarter, holding the Dolphins to nine total yards and without a first down.

But Fiedler got the Dolphins moving on their first possession of the second quarter, leading an eight-play, 76-yard drive. He had an 18-yard connection with Gadsden on 3rd-and-11 to the Denver 45 and found Gadsden for 29 yards to the 16.

Williams capped the drive with a thunderous 10-yard run up the middle in which he plowed over safety Izell Reese at the 1 before landing into the end zone.

Denver attempted to answer on its next drive when Griese caught the Dolphins in a blitz and lofted a pass to Anderson, who raced 53 yards down the right sideline to the 1.

Portis recovered his own fumble at the 1 on first down. But on second down, defensive end Jason Taylor popped the ball loose from Anderson and defensive tackle Larry Chester recovered at the 1.

Another miscue cost the Broncos points on the final play of the first half when Elam had a 49-yard field goal nullified on a holding penalty on tackle Blake Brockermeyer .

But the Broncos got a huge defensive play on the first possession of the second half when end Trevor Pryce sacked Fiedler, jarred the ball loose and recovered the fumble at the 22. Pryce finished with six tackles and two sacks.

Madison appeared to have an interception on the next play in the end zone. But it was overturned when replay showed the ball hit the ground.

After getting that reprieve, the Broncos settled for a 40-yard field goal by Elam that made it 12-7.

Portis led the Broncos ground game with 75 yards on 18 carries. Rod Smith had nine catches for 88 yards.


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