Huard's last minute throw seals win

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The Independent Online

With Dan Marino sidelined by neck spasms, reserve Damon Huard replaced the National Football League's most prolific passer and lead Miami to a 31-30 win over New England.

With Dan Marino sidelined by neck spasms, reserve Damon Huard replaced the National Football League's most prolific passer and lead Miami to a 31-30 win over New England.

Huard flipped a five-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Pritchett with 23 seconds remaining to give the Dolphins sole possession of the American Football Conference East division lead at 4-1 with the Patriots failing to match Buffalo at 4-2.

"Obviously, it's a big thrill for me to lead the team to victory," Huard said. "The last time I threw a touchdown was over in NFL Europe someplace."

Huard showed the poise of a veteran, leading the Dolphins to eight points in the final 2:45 of the game with his ability to run with the ball, a skill New England was unprepared for because they trained for Marino's air attack.

"Just a great job by Damon to step up like he did and lead the team," Marino said. "I'm really happy for him."Olindo Mare's sixth field goal of the game, a 53-yarder, pulled Miami within 30-25 and set up the final drama.Mare set an NFL record with four consecutive weeks with four or more field goals in a game.

"Pretty thrilling day obviously, especially that last kick for me," Mare said.

Huard completed 24-of-42 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to overshadow Marino reaching 60,001 passing yards on an eight-yard toss to Tony Martin in the first quarter. "The numbers really don't make that much of a difference to me, I knew I would get it," Marino said of reaching the landmark. "I just felt bad I couldn't go any longer. It [the neck] never did loosen up."

St Louis remained the NFL's only unbeaten team by beating their hosts, Atlanta 41-13. Marshall Faulk, the Rams' 45 million-dollar running back, rushed 18 times for 181 yards and a touchdown despite a hip injury. "I knew it was just a matter of time for defences to take their eyes off me for just a minute," Faulk said.

"I've learned to play the game with bumps and bruises. That's why I have been effective with minor injuries. Today was just my day."The Rams have broken the 40-point mark in consecutive games for the first time in 41 years and are 5-0 for the first time since 1989 when they were based in Los Angeles. Kurt Warner, who sparked the Rams' big start, threw a touchdown pass and the Rams got touchdown runs from kick returner Tony Horne and defender Grant Winston in the second quarter on the way to a 28-10 half-time lead.

"Marshall did a great job, as did the guys opening the holes," Warner said. "That's what this team is all about and that's why this team is 5-0."

John Carney kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give San Diego a 13-10 victory over Seattle and put the Changers, 4-1, into the AFC West division lead. Seattle had won five in a row over San Diego.

Struggles continued for the Falcons, 1-5, and last year's other three NFL semi-finalists. The New York Jets fell to 1-5 while Minnesota tumbled to 2-4 and even though Super Bowl champions Denver won, the Broncos are 2-4.

Denver stunned Green Bay 31-10 as rookie Brian Griese threw for 364 yards while three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Brett Favre had one of his worst games, completing only seven-of-23 passes, the lowest percentage of any game in his eight-year career, for 120 yards while being intercepted three times.

Jason Hanson's sixth field goal of the game, a 48-yarder with 12 seconds to play, lifted hosts Detroit past Minnesota 25-23. He had made a kick from five yards closer but the Lions were penalised for delay of game on the play and forced to try again.

Indianapolis edged the Jets 16-13 on Mike Vanderjagt's field goal with 14 seconds to play. The Colts' Jeff Burris intercepted NFL debutante start Ray Lucas' pass in the end zone and returned 55 yards to set up the winning kick.Jacksonville reserve quarterback Jay Fiedler had a better day in place of the injured Mark Brunell, completing 12-of-14 passes for 113 yards and marching the Jaguars to three touchdowns in the final 17 minutes for a 24-7 triumph over winless Cleveland. Brunell was sidelined with a rib injury.

Neil O'Donnell overcame a bad start with two second-half touchdown tosses and Tennessee took advantage of two fourth-quarter interceptions to beat New Orleans 24-21 and stay level with the Jaguars in the AFC Central.Philadelphia snapped an 18-game road winless streak with a 20-16 triumph at Chicago.

Doug Pederson threw two first-half touchdown passes for the Eagles, who had not won in 14 prior trips to Chicago over the past 60 years and had gone 0-17 with one drawn away from home since December of 1996.

Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns and the Steelers snapped a three-game losing streak in a 17-3 triumph at Cincinnati.

Steve Beuerlein threw four touchdown passes to lead Carolina past hosts San Francisco 31-29 and make former 49ers coach George Seifert a winner in his first visit back since taking over the Panthers.

Tyron Wheatley ran for 97 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Oakland past Buffalo 20-14. The Raiders snapped the Bills' four-game winning streak.