Miami Coach Don Shula said the Dolphins’ 24-7 victory over Minnesota Sunday was a “must game” for his struggling team.
“This early in the year, this was as close to a must game as you can get,” Shula said. “We felt we needed a win to get back into the race.”
The defeat dropped the Vikings (3-2) out of a first-place tie with Chicago in the NFC Central Division.
The Dolphins (2-3) trail Buffalo by 2 games in the AFC Eastern.
Dan Marino passed for a pair of first-half touchdowns and Miami’s defense intercepted 4 passes by Minnesota’s Tommy Kramer.
“I just didn’t have the patience,” Kramer said. “I tried to force the ball. We don’t have any excuses, we just played bad.”
Coach Jerry Burns thought it was the poorest game the Vikings have played offensively in 3 seasons.
“I’d concur with that,” Kramer said.
Meanwhile, Miami extended its streak to a club-record 5 games of not allowing a touchdown pass.
“The defense played unbelievably,” Marino said. “They’ve played great all year. If they keep playing like that, we’ll win a lot of football games.”
The Dolphins (2-3) dominated the first half. Marino threw short touchdown passes to Jim Jensen and Lorenzo Hampton, and Fuad Reveiz kicked a 38-yard field goal.
Marino hit Fred Banks with a 14-yard pass and combined with Mark Duper on a 33-yard play to set up a Reveiz field goal that gave the Dolphins a 3-0 lead 8 seconds into the second quarter.
On Miami’s next drive, Marino hit Mark Clayton on a 14-yard pass and teamed with Troy Stradford for a 36-yard gain to set up a 3-yard scoring pass to Jensen. After failing to score twice from the Minnesota 1-yard line, Marino found Jensen wide open on the left side for a 10-0 lead.
An interception by John Offerdahl at the Minnesota 33 set up a 1-yard scoring pass from Marino to Hampton that made it 17-0 at the half.
William Judson’s 52-yard return after an interception of a Kramer pass set up Hampton’s 5-yard scoring run as Miami grabbed a 24-0 advantage early in the third period.
Minnesota averted its first shutout since 1986 when cornerback Carl Lee intercepted a Marino pass and went 48 yards for a touchdown with 5:33 left in the game.
Linebacker Mark Brown, who moved into the starting lineup a week ago, intercepted 2 of Kramer’s passes, each stopping Minnesota drives deep in Dolphin territory.
The Vikings had two scoring opportunities in the first half. Miami’s Rick Graf blocked a 40-yard field goal try by Chuck Nelson, and Brown intercepted a pass at the goal line with 21 seconds left in the half.
Minnesota didn’t manage a first down until midway through the second quarter.
Marino had 3 passes intercepted, 2 in the last 6 minutes. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 264 yards.
Kramer completed 13 of 33 passes for 220 yards. Backup Rich Gannon, who came into the game early in the third quarter with Minnesota trailing, 24-0, was 7 of 15 for 90 yards.
Kramer returned in the fourth quarter after Gannon injured his knee. Kramer’s normal backup, Wade Wilson, is sidelined with a separated shoulder.