Ricky Williams did it all for Miami, scoring three touchdowns in a huge win on the road for the Dolphins, beating Carolina 24-17.
Miami (24) @ Carolina (17)
The Dolphins (5-5) earned the win that they needed to get back to .500, beating the Panthers (4-6) on the road, 24-17. After the devastating news was released that Ronnie Brown was lost for the season, Ricky Williams alleviated all concerns that he could single handedly get the job done, scoring all of the touchdowns for Miami during this must win game for the Phins. Chad Henne was efficient managing the game in the victory, helping the Dolphins convert on third down once again, successful on 7 of 15 attempts. The Dolphins also won the time of possession and turnover battles, key elements in this win for the Phins.
Miami has emerged as a legitimate playoff contender, currently right in the mix to earn a wild card spot in the AFC, but the Dolphins are also in position to compete with the Pats for AFC East division title once again. The Dolphins have another shot against New England, but that game will be played in Miami this time and the Phins fans will be ready to go for that rivalry. The Patriots are currently sitting at 6-3 with a huge game this weekend against the 4-5 Jets. Considering that Miami beat the Jets twice this season, a New York victory against the Pats would not only have the Dolphins a game out of first, but also holding the best division record at 3-1.
The win at Carolina was big for Miami for a variety of reasons. Not only did the Dolphins gain ground on New England, but they confidently beat the Panthers on the road with essentially their back-up quarterback and runningback. Obviously if starters go down at those positions it could devastate any ball club. But Miami has yet to miss a beat, maintaining a level of consistency and remaining incredibly competitive. Henne has kept his composure, showcasing yet another turnover free ball game, and led his team to another victory in this must win road game. Ricky Williams stepped up to carry the load, proving that the loss of Brown shouldn't hurt the Dolphins running game too much. Rookie runningback Lex Hilliard saw some action in the game and looks to be a solid offensive weapon as well.
Carolina couldn't get much going against the Phins other than temporarily holding the lead after the first quarter, 3-0. In the second quarter, it was all Ricky, who scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, which was the first time in his career he had achieved that feat. Miami held the 14-3 lead until the fourth quarter, as the Panthers attempted to make a comeback. Kasay brought Carolina within eight points after kicking a field goal, but that was immediately matched by Carpenter, giving Miami the 17-6 advantage. Carolina made things interesting with a 27-yard TD pass to Steve Smith, and converted the two-point attempt to bring Carolina within three, 17-14. Soon after, Ricky slammed the door shut on the Panthers, scoring another touchdown on a 46 yard run, putting the Phins up 24-14 with about four minutes to play.
Carolina fought all the way down to the final play of the game, adding another field goal soon after the two minute warning. After a failed onside kick attempt, Miami ran the clock down to 39 seconds. Carolina produced a final surge, getting the ball into Miami territory and down to the 26 yard line with six seconds to play. But as Jake Delhomme tossed up a prayer on the final play of the game, Miami batted down the fading hopes of Carolina making a run at the playoffs.
Miami now prepares to head up to Buffalo, and thanks to this Thursday night game at Carolina, the Dolphins will have plenty of time to prepare for the division matchup. Miami handed the Bills, who just fired head coach Dick Jauron, a 38-10 loss, which was Miami's first win of the season and the start of their comeback march. After starting the year 0-3, Miami has been on a tear, winning five of their last seven games, with their only losses coming against current division leaders, New England and New Orleans. If Miami can take down the Bills again, they will have a winning record for the first time this season before they get their rematch against the Pats.
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Written by Josh Souder