Disgusted Minnesota wideout Randy Moss, who criticized Sherman's play-calling earlier in the season, fell just short of doing so again. "We've got a bunch of All-Pros, and they could've called any pass play," said Moss, whose 10-catch, 125-yard, one-touchdown day was wasted. "Now we might not even make the playoffs."
Damon Huard's Heroics
In Miami, a Star Is Born
After the Dolphins' 31-30 upset of the Patriots at Foxboro on Sunday, Miami assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt wore a wide smile and joshingly said, "Hey—quarterback controversy?"
Damon Huard or Dan Marino? That's a good one. With an eight-yard completion to wideout Tony Martin in the first quarter Marino became the first player in NFL history to reach 60,000 career passing yards. Huard was undrafted out of Washington in 1996, cut by the Bengals as a rookie free agent, employed for a year as a lobbyist for the new stadium effort in Seattle and, before Sunday, a player whose only extended pro experience had come with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe in 1998.
By the time Marino departed from Sunday's game midway through the first quarter with neck spasms, he had already dug Miami a 7-0 hole on linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer's 57-yard interception return for a touchdown. Huard then got off to an inauspicious start when his first pass attempt was picked off by comerback Ty Law and returned 27 yards for a score.
Over the next 53 minutes Huard was sacked a Dolphins-record nine times. The Foxboro crowd, at its obnoxious best, made it difficult for his teammates to hear his signals. Yet Huard pulled off something Marino has done only once at Foxboro: He drove the Dolphins to the winning touchdown in the final two minutes, throwing a five-yard scoring pass in the flat to fullback Stanley Pritchett with 23 seconds left.
"Dan was with me the whole day," Huard said after the game, while sipping a sports drink to combat dehydration. "He was there looking over the pictures on the sideline, telling me little things to keep in mind. He must have said a hundred times, 'Keep your head in it,' and he told me, This game's going to be decided in the fourth quarter. Be ready.' What a first-class guy. I value our friendship so much. If I can do anything to help him get his ring, I'll do it."
That would include going back to clipboard duty as soon as Marino is ready to play; his availability for this Sunday's game against the Eagles is in doubt. "No controversy," said Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, who made headlines recently when he criticized Marino's play in a loss to the Bills. "Dan's our quarterback." But what Huard did on Sunday (24 completions in 42 attempts for 240 yards, two touchdowns and one interception) was prove to Dolphins fans that the post-Marino era might not be so hopeless after all. "If we played them tomorrow," Patriots strong safety Lawyer Milloy said afterward, "we wouldn't change our game plan. Damon just rose to the occasion."
Huard looked particularly strong on the 14-play, 59-yard winning drive in which one play stood out. Facing third-and-nine at the New England 34 with 1:13 left and the crowd roaring, Huard took a shotgun snap. To his left was his primary target, Martin, working against a hard bump from Law. Martin cut across the middle exactly 10 yards down-field with Law in close coverage. Huard threw a strike to Martin for a first down and six plays later connected with Pritchett.
"If you believe in yourself, all things are possible," said Huard. "I've watched guys like me—Jon Kitna, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia—win games this year in this league. It's pretty cool that I did it."