MIAMI (AP) -- Jay Fiedler silenced Dan Marino and the other
second-guessers for at least a week.
Fiedler, the controversial choice to succeed Marino, turned in a steady performance and had plenty of help from his running game and
defense as the Miami Dolphins blanked the Seattle Seahawks 23-0 Sunday.
The opener was Miami's first without Marino since 1983, and he
was hardly missed. Fiedler went 15-for-24 for 134 yards and a
touchdown, committed no turnovers and helped make Dave Wannstedt a
winner in his first game as Dolphins head coach.
"We're 1-0. I was the quarterback," Fiedler said. "I'm glad
the coach gave me the shot. I'm comfortable that I'm the man to do
Another newcomer, journeyman Lamar Smith, sparked Miami's
perennially feeble running game with 145 yards and a touchdown. The
Seahawks committed six turnovers, and the shutout was their first
since a 19-0 loss to the Los Angeles Raiders on Oct. 18, 1992.
Wannstedt was the target of second-guessing when he chose
Fiedler to start over last year's backup, Damon Huard. Even Marino
questioned the decision on an HBO show.
|Miami's Lamar Smith rushed for 145 yards, but the Seahawks might have done even more damage to themselves.|
"Marino had to have an opinion," Fiedler said. "Everyone is
entitled to one. I just went out there and proved I was the right
While Miami's quarterback controversy faded, the debate is just
beginning in Seattle. Jon Kitna threw four interceptions and lost a
fumble before being replaced early in the third period by Damon
Huard's brother, Brock.
Coach Mike Holmgren reserved judgment on who should start Sunday
against the St. Louis Rams.
"Whoever is playing cannot start the game the way we started
the game. You can't play the position that way," Holmgren said.
"When I'm a little less emotional and I've seen exactly what
happened and can think about it, then I'll make a decision on our
quarterback next week."
Kitna went 6-for-13 for 54 yards.
"I thought I was going to do a lot better than that," he said.
"Today wasn't a great showing, but I'll bounce back. I know I can
lead this team. I know I can be the guy."
While Kitna committed turnovers on the Seahawks' first four
possessions, Fiedler looked comfortable from the outset in his
first game with his fifth NFL team. The Dolphins scored on their
first four possessions.
At halftime, when Miami led 23-0, Fiedler was 12-for-18 for 129
yards. He had two passes dropped.
"As far as the decision, this just reinforces why he's
starting," Wannstedt said. "He was very efficient, and he played
The smartest thing Fiedler did was hand the ball to Smith, who
twice was released by NFL teams, but beat out incumbent J.J.
Johnson for a starting job. Smith carried 27 times and repeatedly
took advantage rookie right tackle Todd Wade's blocks.
Olindo Mare, who set an NFL record last year with 39 field
goals, went 3-for-3, with kicks from 48, 25 and 30 yards.
Sam Madison intercepted Kitna twice, Kenny Mixon knocked off
Ricky Watters' helmet with a tackle, and Seattle never reached the
The scheme unveiled by new Miami offensive coordinator Chan
Gailey had the Seahawks on their heels from the first possession,
an 80-yard TD drive. Smith scored from the 4.
Interceptions by Madison on Seattle's first two possessions set
up field goals to make it 13-0. Kitna mishandled a snap, and Jason
Taylor recovered to set up another field goal. All three turnovers
came in Seahawks territory.
The rematch of last year's first-round playoff thriller, also
won by Miami, became a laugher when Fiedler hit Oronde Gadsden with
a 16-yard touchdown pass 43 seconds before halftime.
Not everything worked for the Dolphins. Receiver Bert Emanuel
lined up at quarterback and handed off to Smith for a first down on
third-and-1, but the play was negated by an illegal substitution.
And Miami fans shouldn't buy Super Bowl tickets just yet. The
Dolphins have won their opener each of the past nine years, but
have only two AFC East titles during that span.
||TOM DONAHOE'S BREAKDOWN
||The Dolphins could be a sleeping giant this year. They have the defense. They are good inside with strong defensive tackles, they can rush the passer, and they have a great cover corner in Sam Madison.
And offensively, it looks like Lamar Smith could provide them with the running game they have lacked on a consistent basis. For his first start, with not much preseason, Jay Fiedler did a good job. The Dolphins, if they can get some consistent offense and run the football, have a chance to have a really good season.
Because of what he stands for and what he represented, you hate to say the Dolphins are better without Dan Marino. But football is a team game and sometimes losing or gaining one player doesn't necessarily make that much of a difference. It's too early to say what the impact of not having Marino will be, but today Miami got off to a good start.
It was a tough day for the Seahawks. Jon Kitna threw four interceptions and Seattle turned the ball over too many times. You can't do that against an opportunistic defense like the Dolphins.
Miami safety Greg Jeffries strained his left hamstring, and
cornerback Ben Kelly sprained his left knee. ... The Dolphins
improved to 34-5 at home in September since 1970. ... Only Carolina
(1-5) has a worse record than Seattle (6-19) in openers. ... Miami
running back J.J. Johnson, who started four games as a rookie last
year, was inactive. ... Seattle rookie kicker Kris Heppner had only
one chance to score, and he was wide left with a 52-yard field goal
attempt. ... Miami's last shutout came last Nov. 7 in a 17-0 win
over Tennessee. ... New Dolphins punter Matt Turk averaged 40.4
yards on seven kicks and landed three inside the 20.
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