Tuesday, December 10, 2002

MNF: Dolphins 27, Bears 9

By Steven Wine
The Associated Press

MIAMI - Ricky Williams ran for 216 yards, including a career-best 63-yard touchdown run, and the Miami Dolphins moved into a tie for the AFC East lead by beating the Chicago Bears 27-9 Monday night.

On a night that included tributes to Roone Arledge and the 1972 Dolphins, Williams stole the show. He became just the third running back to reach the 200-yard milestone in consecutive games, and the first since Earl Campbell in 1980. He ran for a team-record 228 yards last week in a loss at Buffalo.

Williams carried 31 times, scored twice and overtook Kansas City's Priest Holmes for the NFL rushing lead with 1,500 yards.

"He's hard to tackle, and he made us look bad," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He's at full speed when he gets the ball. He makes two moves while he's still in the backfield. He hits the crease, and he's gone."

The game was the first on "Monday Night Football" since the death Thursday of Arledge, who created the show in 1970.

With Jay Fiedler throwing a TD pass in his return from a broken right thumb, Miami (8-5) tied New England atop the AFC East and moved one game ahead of the New York Jets. The Dolphins host Oakland (9-4) in a conference showdown Sunday.

"They have a very explosive offense," Williams said. "We're going to have to score a lot of points."

Injury-plagued Chicago (3-10) lost for the 10th time in 11 games since a 2-0 start.

"It was a long night," said coach Dick Jauron, who played three quarterbacks. "Not a whole lot good. The Dolphins were not playing at the top of their game, but they were close, and we were not effective at all."

Miami's domination was worthy of the '72 Dolphins, who were honored at halftime for achieving the NFL's only perfect season. The '02 Dolphins outgained Chicago 436 yards to 195, helping Dave Wannstedt win coaching for the first time against the team that fired him following the 1998 season.

Fiedler went 15-for-29 for 196 yards in his first start since being hurt Oct. 13. Miami improved to 6-1 with Fiedler starting.

"Certainly a lot of people are keying on Ricky, and it's going to allow me to have a little more time in the pocket," Fiedler said. "I'll take a 200-yard rushing game any day. As a quarterback it's a great thing to work with."

Williams had 119 yards by halftime for his fourth 100-yard game in a row, and his eighth this season. He scored on a 15-yard run in the second quarter, then sealed the victory in the third quarter on a simple counter up the middle. A block by tight end Randy McMichael sprung Williams into the secondary, and from there he outran the Bears for a 63-yard score and a 21-3 lead.

"I was almost too happy to celebrate," Williams said.

Miami wore aqua jerseys with aqua pants for the first time in team history, and the uniforms were soon soaked, thanks to the kind of downpour more common at Florida Marlins games.

The rain may have contributed to two fumbles the Dolphins lost inside the Chicago 15-yard line in the first half, but they still led 14-0 at halftime thanks to advantages of 17-2 in first downs and 293-37 in yards.

For the Bears, the game ranked with the worst in a dismal season. Jauron started sore-armed Jim Miller at quarterback, tried Henry Burris in spot relief and turned to Chris Chandler in the second half, but none could get Chicago into the end zone until the final minute.

And injuries continued to mount. Miller departed on a cart midway through the third period with a sprained left knee, and guard Chris Villarrial sat out the second half with back spasms.

The Dolphins overcame two early turnovers because the defense kept getting the ball back. Miami finally put together a long drive in the second quarter, marching 84 yards and scoring on Williams' 15-yard run.

"It's nothing that other teams haven't suffered through," Jauron said. "He's an awfully good running back having a great year."

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