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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:13 p.m., Sunday, September 30, 2007

NFL: Culpepper sticks it to Dolpins in return to Miami

Associated Press

MIAMI - Daunte Culpepper dived into the end zone for a touchdown, then rose, tapped his surgically repaired right knee and signaled "OK" to the crowd.

His much-scrutinized knee might not be 100 percent, but it was good enough today for Culpepper to lead the Oakland Raiders past the Miami Dolphins. He ran for three touchdowns and threw for two to win the grudge game against his former team, 35-17.

Culpepper's slow recovery from major knee surgery limited him to four games last year in his only season with the Dolphins, and his breakup with new Miami coach Cam Cameron was bitter.

Cameron has bigger problems now — for the second time in four years, the Dolphins are off to an 0-4 start. The Raiders, who won last week when Culpepper came off the bench to replace an injured Josh McCown, improved to 2-2.

Culpepper led the Raiders out of the tunnel before the game, raising his right fist and punching the air as fans booed. He was hardly flashy against his old team, relying on a ground game that totaled 299 yards against an injury-depleted defense.

Justin Fargas replaced an injured LaMont Jordan shortly before halftime and ran for a career-high 179 yards in 22 carries. The Dolphins had the ball for only two minutes in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders' rushing total was their fourth highest since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 and their highest since Nov. 30, 1987, against Seattle, when they had 356.

Culpepper threw only 12 times and completed five for 75 yards. But he hit Jerry Porter for scores of 7 and 27 yards, and he had three short scoring runs.

Culpepper's best bit of scrambling came on a third-and-goal at the 5. Unable to find an open receiver, he sprinted to his left, outran two Dolphins, turned the corner and held the ball out as he dived over the goal line.

A jubilant Culpepper rose and repeatedly gestured to the crowd as he returned to the bench. When he reached the sideline, he did a Temptations dance step and threw a fist.

The score put Oakland ahead 21-10.

A fumbled punt return by Johnnie Lee Higgins briefly let the Dolphins back in the game. They scored five plays later on Trent Green's 3-yard pass to Justin Peelle.

The Raiders responded with an 11-play, 79-yard touchdown drive to sew up the win. The first 10 plays were on the ground before Culpepper hit Porter with a 27-yard scoring pass.

Culpepper scored on a 3-yard keeper on fourth down with 23 seconds left.

Miami linebacker Joey Porter had guaranteed a Dolphins win. Instead, their once-stout defense is struggling and Miami has allowed 103 points in the past three games.

The Raiders lost leading rusher Jordan to a back injury shortly before halftime, but their ground game still dominated. Miami played without middle linebacker Zach Thomas, sidelined for the second game in a row by a concussion, and lost linebacker Channing Crowder and defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday to ankle injuries in the first half.

Ronnie Brown ran for 134 yards and caught six passes for 73 for the Dolphins, but they fell behind early and had possession for less than 25 minutes.

Green's second pass was intercepted by Thomas Howard and returned 28 yards to the Miami 11. Culpepper hit Porter with a 7-yard touchdown pass.

The Raiders forced a punt, then scored again. Culpepper's 2-yard sneak for a score on fourth-and-1 capped a 58-yard drive.

Cameron gambled by going on fourth-and-3 at the Oakland 44 and the Dolphins converted when Peelle turned a short pass into a 35-yard gain. Brown then bowled over B.J. Ward at the goal line on a 9-yard touchdown run.

Brown broke loose for a 60-yard run in the second quarter, but Stanford Routt intercepted an ill-advised pass by Green to end the threat.