Miami Advances in NFL Playoffs

With an NFL-record performance by Lamar Smith, a resilient quarterback and stout defense, the surprising Miami Dolphins handed Jim Mora another playoff loss.

Smith scored on his 40th carry, a 17-yard run in overtime for a 23-17 wild-card playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts today. Jay Fiedler overcame three first-half interceptions to lead a comeback from a 14-point deficit in the second half, and Miami tied the game in the final minute of regulation.

Smith’s 40 carries was an NFL playoff record, and his 209 yards were the second most in playoff history behind Eric Dickerson’s 248 in 1985 against Dallas. Smith dragged cornerback Jeff Burris into the end zone for the winning score, then was swarmed by jubilant teammates.

Dolphins Advance

Miami drove 61 yards in 11 plays for the touchdown after the Colts’ Mike Vanderjagt pushed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Mora, at 65 the oldest active coach in NFL, fell to 0-6 in the playoffs in 14 seasons, including two losses with the Colts. He’s the only coach in NFL history with at least 100 regular-season wins and no wins in the postseason.

The surprising Dolphins (12-5), who won the AFC East for the first time since 1994, advanced to the second round today at Oakland. The Colts (10-7) were eliminated in their opening playoff game for the second year in a row.

Win in Overtime

The Dolphins forced the overtime by scoring with 34 seconds left in regulation. They started at their own 20 with 4:48 to go trailing 17-10, and Fiedler directed 14-play drive that culminated with his 9-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Jed Weaver on third-and-goal.

Fiedler shook off three first-half interceptions that led to 11 points. The Dolphins’ defense kept the game close by containing the dangerous trio of Edgerrin James, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Boos and Cheers For Fiedler

The game was the first NFL playoff game since 1993 to be blacked out. But it sold out today, and the crowd booed loudly when Fiedler threw his third interception.

By the second half they were cheering the first-year starter, who has played with a slightly torn left rotator cuff since Dec. 10. He finished 19-for-34 for 185 yards and ran seven times for 43 yards.

Tide Turns in Second Half

The Dolphins got back in the game at the start of the second half with a 70-yard drive capped by Smith’s two-yard touchdown run. Smith broke Larry Csonka’s team postseason record of 145 yards set in the 1974 Super Bowl.

Olindo Mare’s 38-yard field goal with 10:23 left made it 14-10.

Vanderjagt hit a 50-yarder with 4:55 remaining. He also made field goals of 32 and 26 yards but missed for only the third time this season with 9:16 left in overtime. He buried his head in his hands as the Dolphins drove for the winning score.

Mora, plagued in past playoff losses by questionable decisions that backfired, made another one while leading 3-0. The Colts faked a 45-yard field goal, and holder Hunter Smith was thrown for a 6-yard loss trying to run for the first down.

Jerome Pathon dropped a potential 8-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and the Colts had to settle for a field goal.

Pathon later beat Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Madison to catch Manning’s 17-yard touchdown pass. Manning then connected with Ken Dilger for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.

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