MIAMI -- With the Miami Dolphins trailing by 13 points late in the third quarter, quarterback Jay Fiedler entered the huddle for the first time in more than a month and told them they were going to win.
He was right.
Sidelined since Oct. 19 with a sprained left knee, Fiedler came off the bench late in the third quarter and helped Miami rally past the Washington Redskins 24-23 Sunday night.
Wearing orange jerseys for the first time, the Dolphins looked like the same hapless offensive team they've been most of the season until Fiedler came to the rescue. He led scoring drives of 71 and 69 yards, both ending with touchdowns by Ricky Williams, who ran for 107 yards.
"Things just started clicking," Fiedler said. "It's amazing -- you make one play out there, and all of a sudden everyone picks their game up."
Miami's largest fourth-quarter comeback since 1980 might have salvaged the season. The Dolphins (7-4) remained two games behind AFC East leader New England heading into their most difficult stretch of the year, beginning with a Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas.
"In the fourth quarter, when the pressure was really on, it was encouraging to see them respond that way," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Jay came in and kind of gave us a little spark."
Fiedler will start against the Cowboys, Wannstedt said.
Washington (4-7) lost for the sixth time in the past seven games
"We had the game right in the palm of our hands, but we looked like an elementary school team in the fourth quarter," cornerback Champ Bailey said.
The Redskins were beaten despite a strong showing by backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. With three passes on his NFL resume, Hasselbeck came on in the opening quarter and directed scoring drives in his first three series.
"He did enough nice things, he deserved to be a winner," coach Steve Spurrier said. "But it didn't work out. We're all losers tonight."
Bruce Smith tied the NFL career sacks record, and John Hall kicked three field goals for the Redskins. Then Fiedler stole the show.
Jeered often during his four seasons with the Dolphins, Fiedler this time drew cheers when he replaced a struggling Brian Griese. Fiedler's first play was a 31-yard completion to Chris Chambers, sparking a 71-yard touchdown drive. Williams dived into the end zone on fourth-and-1.
That cut Washington's lead to 23-17 with 10:24 left.
The Dolphins forced a punt, and Fiedler had them on the move again. Williams ran for 17 yards, then scored on a 24-yard run to put Miami ahead with 4:19 to go.
"Once we made a couple of plays in the passing game, Ricky got going a little more and everyone got hyped up," said Fiedler, who finished 5-of-10 for 59 yards.
After Hasselbeck threw an interception, Washington forced the Dolphins to punt. But Patrick Johnson muffed the kick, and Miami's James McKnight won a scramble for the ball to clinch the victory.
"We're fortunate to get a win out of that," Wannstedt said. "We'll take it."
The switch to orange jerseys for the first time in the Dolphins' 38-year history immediately appeared to help their luck.
McKnight turned a short pass from Griese into an 80-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. But Griese then threw two interceptions, giving him 10 turnovers in five starts. By the end of the first quarter, fans were booing the offense.
"Selfishly from my standpoint, I was upset that I didn't get to finish the game," Griese said. "But I'm happy for the team, and I'm happy for Jay. I thought the team showed a lot of courage."
Hasselbeck, who entered when Patrick Ramsey was shaken up on a sack, threw for 150 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles.
"I felt comfortable," Hasselbeck said. "I never felt like the game was moving too fast."
Smith got a record-tying 198th sack when he and Renaldo Wynn dropped Griese in the first quarter. Smith was credited with a half-sack, giving him three this season to equal Reggie White's career record.
- Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas sustained a concussion. Tackle Larry Chester aggravated an injury to his left quadriceps in the first quarter. Return specialist Sam Simmons hurt his left ankle in the third period.
- The Redskins' Taylor Jacobs sprained his left knee in the second quarter. Tackle Chris Samuels sprained his right knee in the first half.
- The Griese-McKnight touchdown tied for fourth-longest completion in Dolphins history. It was the longest reception of McKnight's career.
The Associated Press News Service
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