Dolphins struggle, but agenda isn't altered
MIAMI - The Dolphins showed again they can beat a bad team - barely. Next comes the biggest game yet in the franchise's revival.
Rookie Dan Carpenter nailed a 38-yard field goal with 38 seconds left to cap a 61-yard drive, and Miami earned its fourth consecutive victory yesterday by defeating the woeful Oakland Raiders, 17-15.
The Dolphins (6-4), who barely avoided a winless season in 2007, set up a showdown at home next Sunday against the Patriots, with the chance to leapfrog their longtime AFC East rivals and sweep the season series.
"This should be the first time I see our stadium sold out," linebacker Joey Porter said. "I've been here a year and a half and still haven't seen the place sold out. This matchup should definitely get us to that level."
Miami and New England trail the division-leading New York Jets by one game, but doubts remain as to whether the Dolphins belong in a playoff race. They beat injury-plagued Seattle by 2 points at home a week ago, and nearly blew yesterday's game after leading most of the way.
Johnnie Lee Higgins scored on a 93-yard punt return with 4:30 left to give the Raiders (2-8) their first lead. Chad Pennington then moved the Dolphins down the field in 10 plays, completing a 7-yard pass on fourth and 5 to Ted Ginn Jr. to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Carpenter put Miami back ahead.
Ginn also had a 40-yard touchdown run on an end-around. The Dolphins ran for a season-high 222 yards, including 101 by Ronnie Brown on 16 carries.