Dolphins switch to Plan B, pick off Giants, 23-10

With Williams contained, Miami relies on reverse, defense to rise to 3-1

NFL Week 5

October 06, 2003|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. - The New York Giants were determined that Ricky Williams would not beat them yesterday. On a bruising afternoon, he didn't, either. But what the Miami Dolphins lacked in power running, they made up for in deception and larceny.

While Williams rushed for a two-year low of 39 yards, the Dolphins used misdirection plays and three big interceptions to hold off the Giants, 23-10, at Giants Stadium.

So much for the theory that Miami (3-1) only has one way to win.

"That's what everybody thinks," tight end Randy McMichael said. "They were stopping the run, but we also have playmakers on our side, too."

McMichael, who came in boasting that he was better than Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, posted a 33-yard catch-and-run on Miami's first offensive series. Before the first quarter ended, Charlie Rogers kicked in a 33-yard punt return, and defensive backs Brock Marion and Patrick Surtain contributed interceptions.

And still the Dolphins couldn't get in the end zone.

It wasn't until midway through the second quarter, when Miami offensive coordinator Norv Turner called a reverse to wide receiver James McKnight, that the game turned suddenly and decisively.

After two short Jay Fiedler passes produced a first down at the Miami 32, Williams took a handoff and headed left, with the Giants in full pursuit. Only this time, he gave the ball to McKnight coming back the other way. McKnight turned the corner, weaved his way downfield and finished off a 68-yard touchdown run following blocks by McMichael and Chris Chambers.

Coming three plays after the Giants (2-2) had capitalized on a Miami turnover, it gave the Dolphins a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish and was unquestionably the play of the game. The play worked so convincingly that McKnight was never touched.

"It's a way of attacking a tough defense," he said. "We knew those guys would be keying on Ricky. The whole defense ran one way."

Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt suspected it would be tough running inside on the Giants. Williams' final numbers were proof of that. He had 39 yards on 22 carries, a 1.8 average gain, and 31 of that total came in the fourth quarter.

"The plan was to try to get the ball on the edge a little bit," Wannstedt said. "The first two plays that we ran were tosses, sweeps, and we just couldn't get into a rhythm."

At least Miami's attempt at rhythm was better than New York's. The Giants committed four turnovers, dropped a pair of interceptions that ultimately cost six points, got flagged for taunting (Shockey) and watched in disbelief as their kicker, Matt Bryant, came up lame after his 43-yard field goal closed the first half.

Bryant badly pulled his right hamstring on the play that got the Giants within 13-10. His second-half replacement, punter Jeff Feagles, had never attempted a field goal in the NFL, college or high school. So it was little surprise that he pushed a 29-yard kick wide right in the third quarter to leave the Giants empty after a nine-minute, 17-play drive.

"We didn't give ourselves a chance at all, and that was the bottom line," Giants coach Jim Fassel said.

Miami pressed the issue with a 64-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when Williams got the final yard. With 4:16 left in the game, the Giants had the ball for only two second-half possessions and now were into their two-minute offense.

Whatever chance the Giants had evaporated when quarterback Kerry Collins was intercepted by Surtain for the second time in the game.

Collins threw for 276 yards and completed 31 passes, 11 to Shockey. But the numbers belied his shaky performance. Although the Dolphins sacked him only once - that by former Raven Rob Burnett - Marion intimated the Dolphins had confused Collins.

"We gave him some different things," Marion said. "He's a real pre-snap read guy. He'll look off a guy and go back when he wants to throw."

The new-found formula for winning might be a harbinger of things to come, McKnight decided.

"You haven't seen the [full] capacity of the Miami Dolphins," he said. "Stay tuned."

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