It was a turn-back-the-clock day for Ricky Williams, who had his finest game since the 2005 season in a 24-17 Miami win over Carolina Thursday.
Williams was everywhere offensively for Miami: 22 carries for 119 yards, including the winning 46-yard TD run where he broke through the Panthers defensive line and outran his pursuers to the end zone. Williams also scored on a 1-yard run and a 14-yard reception in the second quarter, giving him three TDs in all.
The burst Ricky showed when he ran for a career high 1,853 yards and led the NFL in rushing in 2002 is still there, as evidenced by his long run, and the way he was able to get to the outside against the Panthers defense all night.
With Williams on the loose, quarterback Chad Henne was able to settle into his role of game manager, completing 17-of-29 passes for 172 yards and a TD.
For the second straight week, Davone Bess came up with the clutch receptions, and he led the team with six catches for 63 yards.
Defensively, the Dolphins allowed some big plays -- particularly a 50-yard run to DeAngelo Williams, who had 122 yards on 19 carries -- and Steve Smith was a thorn in their side with seven catches for 87 yards and a score.
But otherwise, Miami held the Panthers in check.
The defense stuffed Carolina in the red zone with big sacks by Joey Porter -- who had two on the night -- and Randy Starks to force field goal tries.
In all, Miami stopped the Panthers four times in the red zone, including a huge interception by Nate Jones at the Miami 4.
The Dolphins defensive line dominated the Panthers front on passing downs, collapsing the pocket on Delhomme and sacking him five times.
The pressure also rendered Delhomme ineffective, as he hit on just 19-of-42 passes for 227 yards.
Coach Tony Sparano made a head-scratching decision late in the game, when he decided to forego a 45-yard field goal try by Dan Carpenter that would have put the game out of reach.
Instead, the Dolphins ran the ball on fourth-and-3, and Lex Hilliard was held to just one yard, giving the Panthers the ball back with just 44 seconds to play and no timeouts left. Keep in mind, a field goal miss would have left the Panthers starting from their 35, meaning the Dolphins would not have lost much yardage on the attempt.
The strategy almost backfired, as Delhomme completed two passes in 38 seconds that gained 55 yards to the Miami 26.
But safety Tyrone Culver saved the day when he batted Delhomme's Hail Mary attempt down in the end zone, and Miami was back at .500 at 5-5.
Now, Miami is just a game-and-a-half out of a Wild Card spot, and the reamining schedule isn't foreboding, with the only games against quality opponents coming at home: versus New England Dec. 6 and the defending champion Steelers Jan. 3.
Suddenly, a playoff berth seems possible for this team that refuses
to quit, despite the mounting injuries and obstacles presented it.