The Houston Oilers enjoy a well-deserved reputation for having one of the most effective offenses in the NFL.
But the Oiler defense proved Sunday that it also is capable of carrying the team to victory.
Dolphin running back Sammie Smith fumbled on a first-and-goal dive play at the one-yard line with 3:10 left and Houston defensive back Cris Dishman recovered in the end zone to clinch the victory.
Darryl Lewis intercepted a pass from Miami quarterback Dan Marino and returned it 33 yards for the game's first touchdown. Bubba McDowell had two interceptions, including one at the Miami three-yard line to squelch a scoring threat.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins forced four Houston turnovers and limited the Oilers' run-and-shoot offense to one touchdown.
But the Oilers' defense came through in the clutch.
"When it gets ugly, this team is known for losing," said Houston quarterback Warren Moon, who completed 21 of 35 passes for a season-low 171 yards. "But today we found a way to win. That's the mark of a good team.
"Sometimes the defense has to carry you, and we've been waiting for that for a long time. Now we have a defense that can get it done."
Smith's fumble was his second at the goal line in as many weeks. Chris Martin of Kansas City returned a Smith fumble 100 yards for a touchdown during a 42-7 rout.
Smith, who fumbled eight times last year, refused to comment. The fumble squandered a nine-play, 75-yard drive and the Oilers took over at the 20 and ran out the clock.
The Dolphins (3-5) are below .500 halfway through the season for only the third time in Coach Don Shula's 22 seasons at Miami.
The Oilers, trying to shake their reputation as a poor road team, improved to 3-1 away from home.
Houston's winning points came on a one-yard pass from Moon to Curtis Duncan with 9:30 left, culminating a 16-play, 71-yard drive. The Oilers converted four third-down situations, one with the aid of an encroachment penalty.
The Oilers' offense entered the game ranked second in the NFL, while the Dolphins' defense was ranked next-to-last.
But Miami used as many as eight defensive backs, mounted an effective pass rush and forced Moon into errant throws.
Dolphin safety Louis Oliver intercepted two passes, and safety Bobby Harden had an interception and fumble recovery.
Marino completed 19 of 40 passes for 229 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton that gave Miami a 10-7 halftime lead.