Miami march on

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The Independent Online

In a battle of division leaders, Sam Madison and the Miami Dolphins defence made life miserable for Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans.

In a battle of division leaders, Sam Madison and the Miami Dolphins defence made life miserable for Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans.

Madison returned three interceptions for 115 yards and Damon Huard threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Dolphins suffocated the Titans 17-0 for their fifth consecutive victory of the National Football League season.

Madison, who tied for the team lead with eight interceptions last season, became the first Dolphin to have three pick-offs in a game since Louis Oliver at Buffalo on October 4, 1992.

Miami's defence, ranked third overall entering the game, has not allowed a touchdown in 14 quarters, the longest streak in the NFL since 1993.

The Dolphins (7-1) have not surrendered an offensive touchdown since the second quarter of a 31-30 win over New England on 17 October.

The win gave the Dolphins a one-game lead over idle New England and Indianapolis in the rugged AFC East.

The Colts continued their best start in 22 years as Peyton Manning scored on a seven-yard scramble and Edgerrin James totalled 199 yards from scrimmage en route to a 25-17 victory over Kansas City.

The Chiefs, who entered week nine tied with Seattle for the AFC West lead, fell back as the Seahawks posted a 37-20 victory over Cincinnati.

Tennessee's defeat, coupled with Jacksonville's 30-7 victory over Atlanta, dropped the Titans (6-2) one game behind the Jaguars in the AFC Central.

Miami recorded their third shut-out in 11 games at home while the Titans were blanked for the first time since a 34-0 loss at Kansas City on November 26, 1989.

They had gone 155 contests without being shut out, the second-longest streak in the NFL behind San Francisco's record string of 346 games.

Looking more comfortable in the pocket, Huard improved to 3-0 as starter since replacing injured Dan Marino, who is still sidelined with a cervical nerve root injury in his neck.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Huard tossed an eight-yard TD pass to full-back Stanley Pritchett and a 43-yard scoring strike to Tony Martin in the second quarter, giving the Dolphins a 14-0 first-half lead.

Olindo Mare added a 46-yard field goal for the Dolphins five seconds into the final period.

Unlikely hero like Gus Frerotte stole the spotlight in a game featuring two surprise division leaders in the National Conference.

Frerotte hit Germane Crowell with a 57-yard bomb on a 4th-and-26 play and connected with Johnnie Morton on a 12-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left to lift the Detroit Lions to a 31-27 victory over the St Louis Rams.

"I'd like to say that I knew we would win it all along but I didn't," said Lions coach Bobby Ross. "It goes back to one main thing: Never say never. Keep fighting, keep competing, keep the fire."

Unwanted by the majority of NFL teams after being released by the Washington Redskins, Frerotte replaced injured starter Charlie Batch in the second half and completed 12-of-16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Crowell, a second-year receiver who has emerged for the Lions with Herman Moore injured, set career highs with eight catches for 163 yards and one TD.

The Lions (6-2) won their fourth straight and continue to confound the experts who predicted disaster when superstar running back Barry Sanders suddenly announced his retirement before training camp.

Detroit's win, coupled with Green Bay's 14-13 loss to Chicago, gave the Lions a two-game lead in the NFC Central.

After opening the season with six wins, the Rams (6-2) dropped their second straight, but still hold a comfortable lead in the NFC West.

Another week nine highlight had nothing to do with first place.

The new Cleveland Browns hosted the former Browns - now the Baltimore Ravens - but Errict Rhett made sure that any Cleveland fans with a lingering hunger for revenge remained unsatisfied.

Rhett ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns and Tony Banks threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Qadry Ismail as the Ravens completed a season sweep of the expansion Browns 41-9.

"This game meant a lot to the Cleveland fans and would have probably made their season," said Baltimore defensive end Rob Burnett, who spent six seasons with Cleveland prior to the club's move to Baltimore.

"As far as the fans are concerned they probably wanted to beat us, then everything else would have been righted."

In other games, two-time defending Super Bowl champions Denver, their play-off aspirations in jeopardy, saw third-string quarterback Chris Miller direct five scoring drives as the Broncos posted a 33-17 victory over San Diego.

The New York Jets defeated Arizona 12-7, Carolina cruised past Philadelphia 33-7, the Buffalo Bills beat the Redskins 34-17, Tampa Bay downed the hapless New Orleans Saints 31-16, and Pittsburgh handed San Francisco their fourth straight defeat 27-6.

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