Marino is upstaged

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The Independent Online
American football


It was supposed to be Dan Marino's day but, with a sense of irony in which the sporting gods seem to revel, it became Jim Harbaugh's. And so, by the end of a strange afternoon in Miami, the spotlight had shifted from the man statistically cementing his reputation as the game's greatest quarterback to someone who only just qualifies as a journeyman.

With his fourth successful pass in Miami's game with Indianapolis, Marino broke the all-time NFL record for completions, his six-yarder to Keith Byars surpassing Fran Tarkenton's mark of 3,686. At that time the match could hardly have been better for Marino, with the Dolphins in control as they strolled to a 24-3 half-time lead.

But as well as being a game of two quarterbacks it became one of two halves, and in the second period Harbaugh took over. He may not have been good enough to quarterback the Chicago Bears - no mean achievement on a team without a decent play-caller in the last decade - but Harbaugh is a feisty character who can be dangerous when he finds his range and is allowed to escape from the pocket.

Virtually faultess after the break, he brought the Colts level with three TDs, then won the game on the first possession of overtime. In the process the Colts put an end to the NFL's last remaining 100 per cent record, and posed some serious questions about the supposed steeliness of the Miami defense.

Just as worrying for Miami fans is Marino's health. He injured his hip and right knee during the game, had keyhole surgery on the knee yesterday and will definitely miss Sunday's game at New Orleans.

The Dolphins' defeat allowed the Florida bragging rights to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Bucanneers. The Jags, who turned a few heads by posting their first victory a week ago, had them swivelling Exorcist-style after they had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-16. Mark Brunell threw for 189 yards and a TD as the Steelers, the choice of many, including your correspondent, to make this year's Super Bowl tumbled to another unlikely loss. The Bucaneers enjoy an unusual view of the NFC Central - from the top - thanks to the 19-16 defeat of Cincinnati.

NFL (Home teams first): NY Giants 27 Arizona 21 (ot); Chicago 31 Carolina 27; Tampa Bay 19 Cincinnati 16; Detroit 38 Cleveland 20; Dallas 34 Green Bay 24; Jacksonville 20 Pittsburgh 16; Minnesota 23 Houston 17 (ot); Miami 24 Indianapolis 27 (ot); NY Jets 10 Buffalo 29; Oakland 34 Seattle 14; Philadelphia 37 Washington 34 (ot); New England 3 Denver 37. Did not play: Atlanta, New Orleans, St Louis, San Francisco.