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4C THE PALM BEACH POST TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1999 C Football ABC hopes booth changes pay off " Jfct.. MIAMI 38, STATISTICS DENVER 21 Even in jest, ratings were not far from the minds of ABC's downsized Monday Night Football crew in 1999's regular-season opener. Sideline reporter Lesley Viss-er remarked that 20 million viewers watched a ceremony for retired Broncos quarterback John Elway. "Lesley will be lamenting if only 20 million people are watching," play-by-play man Al Michaels said. "That's about half the rating we expect" Stations in' South Florida cut away for much of halftime for hurricane updates, but certainly ABC hopes more people are watching this season. One of sports broadcasting's great success stories, Monday Night Football is coming off its lowest ratings. Even though broadcast networks' share of viewers is shrinking because of competition from cable, and though Monday Night Football remains one of TVs top draws, it is coach Jimmy Johnson and Jets coach Bill Parcells have been mentioned, if either decides to retire, but Michaels sounded enthusiastic after sideline interviews with Bob Griese and Tom Jackson, who already work for the ABCESPN family. "Good analysis," Michaels remarked after Griese's interview. "Bob did everything but send it back to Keith Jackson." Griese, the former Dolphins great and proud father of first-time Broncos starter Brian, said his son seemed calm but "I think he would tell you he's a little behind on some of his crossing routes." Jackson drew a "great analysis" from Michaels after saying the Broncos' defense can no longer expect their offense to score 34 points a game with a new quarterback. Though there were fewer two-sided debates about coaching decisions or blown calls, Esiason did not have a bad night. On one occasion MicliatV was fooled by a Broncos play e ,. his call. ; "Good thing you weu-i.-;. playing safety," Esiason s;iid. Dolphins fans were treatr-!' the promise of a revived runuhuV game, though Esiason may lj: vj jumped ahead of the count wK' i he said Johnson may have fou'li V, his Emmitt Smith in J.J. John:. or Cecil Collins. ABC was well prepared wiiir' several vignettes. One wits close-up of the Dolphins' sccuiru man who married Jol his wife, Rhonda, as a nol uj public. Also strong: Replays r.,: eluding Al Wilson's flying hjt tiyi J.J. Johnson at the goal line.oiV.!'. the reason why Ray Crock. swung an elbow at Tony Martin ; stiff-arm that caught the' Ci 2 mask). ' For Dolphins fans wakti their team build a lead in ,th'' fourth quarter, it hardly mailt i i-' how many voices were in f! booth. ABC will find out if il u ;V, ters as the season progresses. " MIA 215 23 15 0 326 56 3-8 1- 0 2- 55 4-43.5 1-0 8-60 28:49 DEN 242 40 24 0 355 68 6-13 1- 3 4-105 3- 38.3 2- 1 4- 30 31:11 Yards passing Passes attempted Passes completed Interceptions Yards total Offensive plays Third-down conv. Punt returns-yards Kickofl returns-yards Punts-average Fumbles-lost Penalties-yards Time of possession DOLPHINS Dolphins avenge playoff lo Charles Elmore TVradio clear ABC wants to shake things up. After the 1998 season, the network dumped Dan Dierdorf and his $1.7 million salary in favor of a two-man booth with Michaels and Boomer Esiason. Visser called Dierdorf "one of the best two or three former athletes ever to grace a broadcast booth." Speaking from her Boca Raton home before leaving for Denver, Visser said the change allows "more breathing room." On the field Monday, it seemed at times if Visser were interviewing candidates for the third spot in the booth if ABC decides to fill it again. Dolphins i - Denver running back Terrell Davis Kenny Mixon. Davis was held to I ,f 'f r W . VvA j V rAX Ja J: WW ' w Yk - . Ssr QUARTER SCORING 1st 2nd 3rd 4th MIAMI 0 17 7 14 38 DENVER 7 0 7 7 21 HOW THEY SCORED FIRST QUARTER DEN McCaffrey 61 pass from Griese (Elam kick), 11:15. DRIVE 8 plays, 80 yards, 3:45. KEY PLAY: Dolphins' instant replay challenge was denied on incomplete pass to Rod Smith. DEN 7, MIA 0 SECOND QUARTER MIA Abdul-Jabbar 1 run (Mare kick), 8:54. DRIVE: 4 plays, 36 yards, 1:59. KEY PLAY: Lorenzo Bromell blocked Jason Elam's 44-yard field goal attempt, returned by Terrell Buckley for 43 yards. DEN 7, MIA 7 MIA Konrad 12 pass from Marino (Mare kick), 3:02. DRIVE: 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:44. KEY PLAY: Dan Marino hit Tony Martin for a 40-yard completion down to the Denver 25-yard line. MIA 14, DEN 7 MIA FG Mare 37, :01. DRIVE: 7 plays, 23 yards, 1:36. KEY PLAY: Marino found Martin on a 16-yard completion to the Denver 27-yard line. ! MIA 17, DEN 7 THIRD QUARTER MIA Johnson 1 run (Mare kick), 10:02. DRIVE: 9 plays, 65 yards, 4:58. KEY PLAY: Ray Crockett was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after a 25-yard reception by Martin. MIA 24, DEN 7 DEN McCaffrey 11 pass from Griese (Elam kick), 3:42. DRIVE: 13 plays, 59 yards, 6:20. KEY PLAY: Brian Griese found Terrell Davis for eight yards on a third-and-6 Play. , MIA 24, DEN 14 FOURTH QUARTER MIA McDuffie 4 pass from Marino (Mare kick), 9:31. DRIVE: 8 plays, 50 yards, 4:33. KEY PLAY: Marino hit O.J. McDuffie for 14 yards down to the Denver 2-yard line.' MIA 31, DEN 14 MIA Taylor 4 fumble return (Mare kick), 4:08. DRIVE: 0 plays, 4 yards, 0:00. KEY PLAY: Rich Owens broke through the Broncos' line and sacked Griese at the Denver 6-yard line, forcing the fumble. MIA 38, DEN 14 DEN McCaffrey 4 pass from Griese (Elam kick), :34. DRIVE: 8 plays, 80 yards, 3:22. KEY PLAY: Griese hit Chamberlain for 22 yards down to the Miami 4-yard line. MIA 38, DEN 21 TEAM STATISTICS MIA DEN First downs-totals 22 25 First downs-rushing 7 5 First downs-passsing 13 17 First downs-penalty 2 3 Yards rushing 111 113 Rushing plays 33 26 PAY OF THE GAME RUSHING Att Yds Avg Lng TD K. Abdul-Jabbar16 60 3.8 12 1 J.Johnson 14 45 3.2 12 1 R. Konrad 2 7 3.5 5 0 D.Marino 1 -1 -10 -1 0 Totals 33 111 3.4 12 2 PASSING Att Com Yds TD Int D.Marino 23 15 215 2 0 RECEIVING No Yds Avg Lng TD T.Martin 4 101 25 3 40 0 O.J. McDuffie 4 54 13.5 28 1 R. Konrad 3 26 8.7 12 1 T.Drayton 2 21 10.5 11 0 K. Abdul-Jabbar 1 7 7.0 7 0 Y.Green 1 6 6.0 6 0 Totals 15 215 14.3 40 2 PUNTING No Avg In 20 Lng TB B. Bartholomew 4 43.5 1 47 1 PUNT RET. No Yds Avg Lng TD T.Buckley 1 0 0.0 0 0 KICK RET. No Yds Avg Lng TD J.Avery 2 55 27.5 33 0 DEFENSE T A Tot Sk Yds Z. Thomas 8 2 10 1 10 C. Jackson 8 0 8 0 0 R.Jones 5 0 5 0 0 S. Wooden 4 15 0 0 B. Marion 0 4 4 0 0 D. Rodgers 2 13 0 0 J.Taylor 1 2 3 0 0 L. Bromell 2 0 2 0 0 T.Buckley 2 0 2 0 0 D. Gardener 2 0 2 0 0 R.Owens 2 0 2 1 18 P. Surtain 2 0 2 0 0 K. Mixon 112 0 0 T. Armstrong 10 10 0 S.Madison 10 10 0 J.Wilson 10 10 0 T. Bowens 0 110 0 G. Jeffries 0 110 0 DENVER RUSHING Art Yds Avg Lng TD T.Davis 19 61 3.2 13 0 D. Loville 5 48 9.6 21 0 B. Griese 2 4 2.0 4 0 Totals 26 113 4.3 21 0 PASSING Att Com Yds TD Int B. Griese 40 24 270 3 0 RECEIVING No Yds Avg Lng TD S. Sharpe 7 47 6.7 10 0 E. McCaffrey 6 105 17.5 61 3 B. Chamberlain 4 52 13.0 22 0 C. Doering 3 22 7.3 9 0 H. Griffith 2 21 10.5 14 0 D. Loville 1 15 15.0 15 0 T. Davis 1 8 8.0 8 0 Totals 24 270 11.3 61 3 PUNTING No Avg In 20 Lng TB T.Rouen 3 38.3 1 54 1 PUNT RET. No Yds Avg Lng TD C.Watson 1 3 3.0 3 0 KICK RET. No Yds Avg Lng TD C. Watson 3 94 31.3 39 0 D. Smith 1 11 11.0 11 0 Totals 4 105 26.3 39 0 DEFENSE T A Tot Sk Yds J. Mobley 7 2 9 0 0 G. Cadrez 5 3 8 0 0 R.Crockett 6 17 0 0 E. Brown 4 3 7 0 0 T. Braxton 3 2 5 0 0 D.Carter 3 2 5 0 0 K.Traylor 2 13 0 0 B. Romanowski 1 2 3 0 0 M. Tanuvasa 2 0 2 0 0 A.Wilson 2 0 2 0 0 M. Lodish 10 10 0 T. Pryce 10 10 0 C. Watson 10 10 0 ALLEN EYESTONEStaff HtioUr.M- , is stacked up by the Dolphins' Calvin Jackson (left), Robert Jones ai T: 61 yards and a 3.1-yard average after gaining 199 in the playoffs'. DOLPHINS From 1C member this is my first game. I didn't want to hurt my team. Jimmy told me to be ready, and a guy like that means what he says." Said Jimmy Johnson: "Our rookie backs really did an excellent job." Greg Jeffries, a former Detroit cornerback signed as a free agent, blocked a punt to set up a 37-yard field goal by Olindo Mare with one second left in the first half. That field goal finished a 17-0 second quarter for the Dolphins and gave them a 17-7 lead. At halftime, when the Broncos retired the number of John Elway, the former quarterback said to the 75,623 fans: "I'm going to clue the world in about this Mile High magic. They can talk about the altitude. They can talk about the field. They can talk about everything. But the key thing to Mile High magic is you." Maybe so. But when the teams returned to the field, the Dolphins quickly made Mile High Stadium eerily quiet Konrad ran for a first down. Johnson scored the touchdown. The Dolphins seemed to instantly become favorites to win the AFC East. The victory came one day after the New York Jets lost quarterback Vinny Testaverde for the season and fell to the New England Patriots. The night had begun ominously. First play of the game. Brian Griese drops back. The stands fill with camera flashes. The second-year player who is trying to replace Elway calmly completes a 5-yard pass to Shannon Sharpe. And so began a surprise attack. All week long the Dolphins had insisted that the changing of the quarterbacks from Elway to Griese made little difference, that the key to beating the Broncos started with stopping running back Terrell Davis. So what happens? Broncos coach Mike Shanah-an decided to come out throwing. On the opening possession, Griese led an 80-play touchdown drive by throwing for 84 yards a penalty accounting for the odd math. "I think if everyone had played like Brian Griese today, With new When Terrell does well . . . The Broncos win, as shown in the past three games between the Broncos and Dolphins: . 1.W 5 their 34th season, a 1-yard ruii V, Karim Abdul-Jabbar. Meanwhile, the Dolphin managed to contain Davisw'lt finished with 61 yards on 1!) c ries a 3.2-yard average. " ; . "I thought our guys did a i v-. ally good job of taking c;uc L'C. what we needed to take of: bci. able to slow down the nt;i,H Johnson said. , In the playoffs last ycar tji! Dolphins playing without defensive linemen inn Bowens ;u; Jason Taylor allowed Davis t-s rush for 199 yards in a 38 3 vk U'-. ry. . Monday's was a victory fn I U:; defense. And for Dan Maun?;'" who has been ripped by Broni tight end Shannon Shaipe (ah-last year's playoffs) and ownt i Bowlen, who last week sv.? Marino "is very close to bcini; (.;.',. his last legs" and can't lead a'lv;.u, to a Super Bowl as well as I I wn Vl Monday night, Marino did l!l : ' kinds of things Elway did the p .r two years en route to a title. ! I didn't dominate the game. But !. orchestrated it. He made the Li 4' plays when he needed to . . . w ii the help of some off se;isc ;4 additions. .;: '' Team Carries Yards TD Score Dolphins 28 36 0 Dolphins 31-21 Davis 16 29 0 Davis 21 199" 2 Broncos 38-3 Dolphins 13 14 0 Dolphins 33 Hi 2 Dolphins 38-21 Davis 19 61 0 we would have won the game," Shanahan said. "I was pleased with the way he handled himself against an excellent defensive team. He showed a lot of poise and a lot of composure." With his father, former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese, watching from a skybox, Griese heaved a throw over safety Brock Marion and into the hands of tight end Ed McCaffrey for a 61-yard touchdown. It was the kind of play that left Dad uncertain whom to cheer for. "These are my two favorite teams the Dolphins for over 30 years and the Broncos for more than one year," Bob Griese told ABC. "I couldn't get any information from either of them." If that wasn't a foreboding enough beginning for the Dolphins, the drive included a instant replay challenge that was shot down and ended with a penalty for having 12 men on the field for the extra point. But the Dolphins' special teams more than made up for that mistake. Not only did Jeffries block a punt but Lorenzo Bromell blocked a field-goal attempt and Terrell Buckley returned it to the Denver 36-yard line. That set up the Dolphins' first score of tools, Marino makes offense work 'p" It i i s ft hind the defense of Shawn Wooden and Brock Marion. Instead, a 61-yard touchdown play forced the Dolphins to breathe deeply in disappointment while not allowing themselves to wallow in exasperation or, worse, fear. Not that a Dolphins' loss to a two-time defending Super Bowl champion on the two-time defending Super Bowl champion's turf in Celebration City would have demolished a season. Hardly. Miami drew the league's most difficult opening-week assignment and a defeat in such circumstance would not have been ruinous. (And this is as good a juncture as any to point out that neither does the Dolphins' victory stamp the season as destined to be wonderful.) But the Miami performance might might be a signal that these Dolphins have perhaps a greater margin of error than did recent teams in franchise history. Miami's potential for excellence remains rooted in its defense. And, to be sure, a couple of special teams plays on a blocked field goal and blocked punt Vere important ingredients in the defeat of Denver. - ' But the Dolphins' offense was capable ? efficient. If those are modest descripliotiV'f capable and efficient offense is all Miami wi f need on most NFL weekends if Miami is'jiV-v to dictate other aspects of the game. " "u This has been Johnson's hope ;n. heretofore empty promise since his iiiri as boss. Now in his fourth season, llmi:!.. Johnson insists new tools allow him to lx ii; ? fulfill his offensive desires. , , - ' Rob Konrad is a new fullback tool. J.J. Johnson is a new running back tol; " Tony Martin is an old wide receiver- tu,'i new to Johnson's shed. ' ' :t And a very, very familiar Miami cralls;ii; ,a, made it all work. , - Marino, who came into the league wl-1 Elway in 1983 and hopes to win once tl ie $ ij ; ; r Bowl title his buddy won twice in his last I v, , seasons, is trying to shape a chanipioir4i;,i season. -' Don't make too much of the start, brca'u Y this is not the Denver team it was. But din, j ignore the Dolphins' method, because" haps it's a signal that neither is Miantj U,-. tam it has been the past fey years. y ST0DA From 1C They could have gone all soft and delicate as quickly as the second play of the season. It could have happened as soon as coach Jimmy Johnson's challenge of a call that didn't go Miami's way didn't go Miami's way upon review, either. That sequence, almost at the outset of the season, could have set off a Denver torch that consumed the Dolphins at least for a night But it didn't Officials ruled a Brian Griese-to-Rod Smith pass incomplete when the Dolphins thought it a catch and fumble . . . when the Dolphins thought Sam Madison had covered the football for Miami and set it up at Denver's 28-yard line . . . when the Broncos, banking on a kid (Griese) to debut as the replacement to a legend (Elway) at quarterback, could have faced early trouble themselves. Instead, the call was upheld. Instead, Denver maintained possession and ended it with a Griese heave that was positively Elwayesque as it arched and drifted perfectly into the handof Ed McCaffrey be POSSESSION: Broncos. QUARTER: Second. LOCATION: Dolphins' 26. DOWN AND DISTANCE: Fourth-and-3. PLAY: With the Dolphins struggling, the Broncos were poised to take a 10-0 lead and pump the crowd up another mile or two. Then Lorenzo Bromell muscled through long snapper Trey Teague to block Jason Elam's field-goal attempt and the ball ricocheted into the hands of defensive back Terrell Buckley. Buckley,, who had dropped into coverage in case of a fake, plucked the ball out of the air and ran 43 yards down the sideline before Elam shoved him out of bounds at Denver's 36. Five plays later, Karim Abdul-Jabbar scored to tie the game at 7 and the Dolphins suddenly took control.