More drama, same ending for the Shula vs. Shula sequel: Dad hugs son at midfield and walks off a winner.
Unlike the first father-son head coaching matchup--a dreary 23-7 Dolphin victory last season--this one pulsated with four lead changes in the final 19 minutes.
And there was a chance for more, but Doug Pelfrey's 45-yard field-goal attempt sailed a few feet wide left in the closing seconds. Moments later, a crestfallen Dave Shula got a tender cheek-to-cheek hug from his father at midfield.
Don headed to the locker room with a 4-0 record and career victory No. 342, adding to his NFL record. Dave jogged off still stuck on 13 victories.
"It was a tough loss for Dave, about as tough as you can get--when you get into a situation like that when you seemingly have the game won and then you lose it right at the end," Don said, sounding more like a father than a winning coach.
Don has one huge advantage--Marino. Dave has the Bengals' woeful defense. Cincinnati (2-3) has given up more than 400 yards each of the last three games.
Marino was brilliant in the clutch, leading the Dolphins back twice in the fourth quarter to keep them the NFL's only unbeaten team. Miami is 4-0 for the fifth time in club history and the first since 1992.
Marino completed 33 of 48 for 450 yards--the fourth-highest yardage total of his career. His best moments were in the final 91-yard drive.
Marino came onto the field with the ball on the Miami nine-yard line and 3:29 left, and completed eight of 10 for 76 yards and the touchdown. It was the 30th time Marino has directed a fourth-quarter comeback.
Marino completed four passes of more than 10 yards against a zone defense that barely missed knocking the ball down a couple of times. The Bengals also were flagged for a personal foul on the drive.
"It really comes down to just knowing that you've done it many times and that you've got people who can make plays for you," Marino said.
Jeff Blake kept Cincinnati in it until the end by throwing three touchdown passes to Carl Pickens, the last a 10-yarder with 3:39 left for a 23-19 lead. Blake completed 18 of 34 for 213 yards.
After Marino's final touchdown, Cincinnati got the ball back and drove to the 27-yard line on three Blake completions. But Pelfrey, who missed a chance to send a game to overtime against Seattle two weeks ago, was off again.
"I don't know what to say," Pelfrey said. "It was just a couple of feet to the left. When I hit it, I thought I'd made it. I looked up, and it sailed left."
By contrast, Pete Stoyanovich tied his career high with four field goals--of 21, 46, 36 and 35 yards--to save the Dolphins. His last kick put Miami ahead, 19-17, with 10 minutes left.
Dave Shula emptied his bag of tricks to keep the Bengals close--running back Eric Bieniemy and receiver David Dunn threw option passes on one drive, and Blake faked a draw and threw a lateral on another.
In the end, he couldn't overcome Marino or his father.