Bernstine, Chargers Bolt Past Dolphins, 38-30 : AFC: He scores three of San Diego’s four touchdowns in fourth quarter to keep Miami from clinching playoff spot.
Just when the Miami Dolphins thought they had a grip on a playoff berth, Rod Bernstine and the San Diego Chargers left them empty-handed.
Bernstine scored three of San Diego’s four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the Chargers overturned a 13-point deficit to stun the Dolphins, 38-30, on Sunday.
All the Dolphins (8-7) needed was a victory to make the playoffs after the New York Jets lost earlier in the day. Now Miami must beat the Jets next week at Joe Robbie Stadium to make it.
The Dolphins had a 23-10 lead early in the fourth quarter when Bernstine scored twice and John Friesz threw a touchdown pass to give San Diego (4-11) a 31-23 lead.
Miami got to within 31-30 when Mark Clayton caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Dan Marino with 2:37 left, capping a drive on which Marino completed six of seven passes for 74 yards.
But Bernstine finished off the upset with a 63-yard scoring run down the left sideline with 1:38 left and the Chargers ended a three-game losing streak.
“I thought we had it under control,” Marino said. “We just gave it away to them. What changed is they got two turnovers and we didn’t really stop them too well in the second half.”
The Chargers scored more points in the fourth quarter than they had in any game this season.
Bernstine was inactive for four weeks with a broken bone in his back, and gained only 62 yards with one touchdown in his previous three games. Against the Dolphins, he had 104 yards in 13 carries.
“I knew they were going to be blitzing, so I knew if I got an outside sweep there would be a lot of green,” Bernstine said of his clinching run. "(Tight end) Derrick Walker made a key block that got me to the outside, and then from there all I had to do was beat one man.”
San Diego scored twice in a 1:40 span early in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
Friesz threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Harmon early in the fourth quarter. Then Leslie O’Neal jarred the ball loose from Marino, with Joe Phillips recovering at the Miami 13. Bernstine scored on a five-yard run three plays later for a 24-23 lead.
Minutes later, Marino, who earlier passed Joe Montana on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list, had his pass intercepted by rookie safety Stanley Richard, who returned it to the Miami 43.
Bernstine scored on a one-yard run with 4:20 left for a 31-23 lead, capping an eight-play drive highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Friesz to rookie Shawn Jefferson on third and 19 from the Charger 48.
“It’s tough to lose knowing we had the opportunity to wrap it up ,” Miami Coach Don Shula said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t feel the same way next week like we feel now. We’ve got another opportunity and we have to make the most of it.”
Marino completed 27 of 42 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns, and added the sixth rushing touchdown of his career.
Friesz completed 17 of 25 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami broke a 10-10 halftime tie when Marino threw a nine-yard scoring pass to fullback Tony Paige with 5:55 left in the third quarter to make it 16-10, but Pete Stoyanovich missed his first extra-point try in two seasons and only the second of his three-year career, making the score 16-10.
Marino’s 10-yard scoring pass to Clayton late in the third quarter made it 23-10.