EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The most prolific passer in NFL history picked on his favorite patsy yesterday. For Dan Marino, the New York Jets are money in the bank.
The 36-year-old quarterback made another big deposit in his Hall of Fame account on a gorgeous fall afternoon, throwing for 372 yards and two touchdowns to win a game the Miami Dolphins had to have, 31-20.
"Over the years, I've had good success here," Marino said in a large understatement after deflating a Giants Stadium crowd of 75,601 and the Jets' vision of challenging for the AFC East Division lead. "I felt pretty comfortable."
Marino may be virtually immobile on his balky knees, and he may not go deep nearly as often as he once did. But he still owns the overmatched Jets.
Amid speculation that his time as a starter is fast dwindling, Marino totaled his highest passing yardage in 20 games, going back to the 1995 regular-season finale, when he threw for 422 against the Buffalo Bills.
It was also the most yardage he has passed for against the Jets in 11 years, stretching back to his 448-yard, six-touchdown effort in 1986 -- a Dolphins loss.
This was Marino's sixth straight win over the Jets. In 25 games against them -- and 16 wins -- he has thrown for 7,513 yards and 66 touchdowns, both career highs against an opponent.
It was a performance that even had Jimmy Johnson gushing.
"Dan Marino played an outstanding game," said the Dolphins' coach, who earlier this season threatened to bench his 15-year veteran in favor of Craig Erickson. "And he made a couple of big-time plays in crucial situations."
It was Marino's moxie and a gritty Dolphins defense that earned Miami's first road victory of the season after two losses. At 4-2, the Dolphins climbed over the Jets (4-3) into second place in the East. New England leads the division at 5-1.
That defense held the Jets' Adrian Murrell -- the AFC's second-leading rusher coming into Week 7 -- to 29 yards on 13 carries, and sacked Neil O'Donnell five times.
But the big news of the day was Miami's reawakening offense, which is bad news for the Ravens, who host the Dolphins next week.
"Last week [in a 17-14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs], we made some good plays, had some plays over 20 yards," Marino said. "It's starting to happen for us."
It's happening because Marino, who holds all of the NFL's major passing records, is making the most of a limited and changing group of receivers. Johnson started Lamar Thomas for a struggling Fred Barnett at wide receiver yesterday and got the desired big-play result.
Thomas deked cornerback Otis Smith with an inside move, then beat him for a 22-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Thomas had five catches for 75 yards.
Twice the Dolphins came from behind in the second quarter to wrangle a 17-14 halftime lead. After two ineffective series, Marino drove the Dolphins to scoring drives of 81 and 75 yards. Then, in the final 1: 47, he took them 67 yards to a go-ahead, 23-yard field goal by Olindo Mare.
Marino utilized his backs on the first scoring drive. Four times he threw to his runners. The last time produced a touchdown when he play-faked to Karim Abdul-Jabbar, then threw to him in the left flat. There was not a defender within 20 yards of Abdul-Jabbar.
On Miami's next series, Marino threw a high strike to O. J. McDuffie over the head of cornerback Aaron Glenn for a 25-yard gain on third down. After working the right side of the Jets' secondary, Marino came back to the left to find Thomas for the scoring pass.
Only a fumbled snap at the Jets' 1 -- center John Bock was a last-minute replacement for injured Tim Ruddy -- kept the Dolphins from getting a touchdown just before the half.
"They stuck some balls in there at the half that hurt us," Jets coach Bill Parcells said. "They made some throws that I think [if] he makes those throws all the time, the percentage might go down a little bit. But to his [Marino's credit], McDuffie made a real great catch over Aaron and wound up getting three points at the half.
"He [Marino] played well today. He's one of the best that's ever played."
Marino, who was 27-for-38, set a Dolphins record for consecutive passes without an interception (126) in the second half, toppling Bob Griese's mark of 122.
One of his biggest passes of the day turned out to be a third-down shovel pass to Bernie Parmalee in the fourth quarter with some three minutes left. The play was worth 21 yards and carried to the Jets' 12. Two plays later, Irving Spikes scored on a clinching 8-yard run.
Pub Date: 10/13/97