Miami Dolphins quarterback A.J. Feeley celebrates after throwing a touchdown during the final minutes of the game against the New England Patriots at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Monday, Dec. 20, 2004. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 29-28.
AP Photo/Luis Alvarez
MIAMI Their running back quit, their coach resigned and their season is in a shambles. But for some reason the Miami Dolphins kept trying against the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, even when they trailed by 11 points with three minutes left.
And so the Dolphins staged a stunning comeback Monday night. With Tom Brady's ugly interception providing an opening, Miami scored two touchdowns in the final 2:07 to beat the Patriots 29-28 Monday night.
Much-maligned A.J. Feeley threw for the game-winning score, a 21-yard pass to Derrius Thompson on fourth-and-10 with 1:23 left.
The upset rivaled the biggest in Dolphins' history, because they've rarely been so woeful. Reeling ever since Ricky Williams' retirement in July, Miami (3-11) need the win to avoid being swept by AFC East opponents this season.
''I keep asking everybody, 'Is it real?''' said linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who made the pivotal interception. ''It's a big-time win. I can't believe it.''
New England (12-2), which has already clinched the AFC East, lost ground to Pittsburgh (13-1) in the race for a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage. The defeat was just the second in 29 games for the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Patriots appeared to clinch the win when Brady threw his third touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to Daniel Graham for a 28-17 lead with 3:59 left.
''That's a situation we're usually pretty good in,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''We weren't tonight. ... I'm disappointed in that. I don't know how else to put it to you.''
The Dolphins drove 68 yards to score on Sammy Morris' 1-yard run with 2:07 remaining, and then came Brady's uncharacteristic mistake.
On third down, he threw as he was being sacked by Jason Taylor. The ill-advised, off-balance pass sailed directly to Ayanbadejo, giving Miami a first down at the Patriots' 21 with 1:45 to go.
''It was just a bad play,'' Brady said. ''I was trying to throw it and got my arm ripped. ... You try to make the play when there's not one to be made, and that's when mistakes come.''
Three plays later, on fourth and 10, Thompson beat Troy Brown a receiver who doubles as a fifth cornerback and made the winning catch in the end zone.
''We've been on the losing end of so many drives like that,'' Feeley said. ''It feels good to come out on top.''
Brady's fourth interception, a desperation throw picked off by Arturo Freeman with 58 seconds left, sealed the upset.
''Nobody gave us a chance,'' Taylor said. ''I hope they lost a lot of money with their 10-point spread.''
The Patriots lost despite a 121-yard rushing performance by Corey Dillon, and they lost after leading at halftime for the first time in 32 games.
The Dolphins wore orange jerseys for only the second time, and the uniform change altered their fortunes. Feeley overcame a slow start and four sacks to win for the second time in seven starts since coming to Miami.
The victory fattens the resume of interim coach Jim Bates, who is 2-3 since Dave Wannstedt resigned. Bates is expected to interview for the coaching job Tuesday.
''We'll think about that tomorrow,'' Bates said. ''Right now I'm just enjoying this victory. It is a sweet win to beat the world champions.''
Owner Wayne Huizenga interviewed former Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell on Monday but is expected to offer the job this week to LSU coach Nick Saban.
The game was one of the coldest ever at Pro Player Stadium, with the temperature 52 degrees at kickoff and then falling into the 40s. But the Patriots were raring to go, as usual, scoring first in their 19th consecutive game to extend an NFL record.
Brady threw two touchdown passes after they fell behind 17-14 midway through the third quarter. The Patriots needed only five minutes to regain the lead, with Brady directing a 71-yard march capped by a 2-yard scoring pass to Dillon.
Miami's first four possessions through the first 23 minutes netted minus 2 yards. But Wes Welker's 71-yard punt return to the 2 set up a touchdown dive by Morris on the next play for a 7-all tie.
Notes: Olindo Mare surpassed Garo Yepremian as the Dolphins' career scoring leader with 833 points. ... The Dolphins improved to 1-9 when trailing to start the fourth quarter. ... The Patriots have won only once in their last seven trips to Miami.
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