Game Snapshot: Dolphins - Giants

<b>Miami Dolphins</b> (2-1) at <b> New York Giants </b> (2-1)<br><b>GAME SNAPSHOT</b><br><b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 1:00 ET<br><b>GAMEDATE: </b> 10/05/03<br> <b>SURFACE: </b> FieldTurf<br><b>TV: </b> CBS, Greg Gumbel, Phil Simms, Armen Keteyian<br><br><b> SERIES: </b> 5th meeting. Giants lead, 3-1. This is one of the most infrequently played confrontations in the NFL.

The Giants and Dolphins have met only four times previously, the last in 1996, the first in 1972. The Giants lost the first one and have won the three subsequent meetings. The significance of the first game was that the Giants became one of the victims as the Don Shula-led Dolphins moved to their perfect season (14-0, winding up 17-0 and Super Bowl champions).

2003 RANKINGS: Dolphins: offense 13th (6th rush, 26th pass); defense 11th (2nd rush, 27th pass). Giants: offense 6th (14th rush, 4th pass); defense 32nd (10th rush, 32nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Both teams are coming off bye weeks, which means Giants RB Tiki Barber and counterpart Ricky Williams should be fresh. The Giants and Dolphins each claim they want to monitor the workload of their star backs, but the one that produces the bigger game will give him team a big edge. If the Giants can handle Williams, Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler will have to prove he can win a game with his arm. New York CBs Will Peterson and Will Allen have struggled early in the season, and the Giants spent a good portion of their off week concentrating on their disappointing pass defense. Miami's veteran defense has a big edge on New York's inexperienced offensive line.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins: This is the third time the team has played the Jets and Giants in New York in the same season. ... The team is 9-5 (.643) in games played after a bye week. ... With 28 carries, Williams would set the NFL record for most carries in a three-game span (Earl Campbell, 103 in 1981). Giants: Barber has 67 carries but has not scored a touchdown. ... Barber needs 133 rushing yards to move into third place on the team's all-time list.

PREDICTED SCORE: Giants 23, Dolphins 20

PERSONNEL NEWS
Dolphins:


LT Mark Dixon re-injured his right ankle during Thursday's practice and was unable to finish the session, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. The Dolphins had hoped Dixon, who hasn't played since undergoing ankle surgery following the first exhibition game, would be able to serve as the backup tackle.

T Greg Jerman should serve as the top backup behind starters Wade Smith (LT) and Todd Wade (RT) in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Ex-starter Mark Dixon seemed ready to fill that role, but he re-injured his ankle during Thursday's practice.

C Tim Ruddy (knee) didn't practice Thursday and was already ruled out for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Ruddy could return as early as an Oct. 12 game against Jacksonville, but Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt wouldn't guarantee that he would return as a starter.

QB Brian Griese practiced again Thursday and should serve as the team's third-string quarterback in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Griese hasn't dressed since suffering ligament damage in his left toe in Miami's third exhibition game.

RB Ricky Williams downplayed the fact he could set an NFL record in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Williams needs 28 carries to break Earl Campbell's mark of 103 carries in a three-game stretch. "At this point of the season, what we're trying to concentrate on is how well we are playing as a team and if we're going to keep winning," said Williams, who logged 76 carries in victories over the New York Jets and Buffalo. "Any kind of record - whether it is a record like that, yards, or whatever - that is an individual record isn't really my concern. I'm more worried about the team's record."

Giants:
WR Ike Hilliard, the team's leading receiver, missed Wednesday's practice with a bruised heel but is considered a certain bet to start Sunday. He has 17 receptions in the three games for 175 yards and three TDs.

DT Keith Hamilton (pulled hamstring) remains listed as questionable, but insists he'll play. "He told me he'll play and I believe him," said coach Jim Fassel. "Nobody knows his body better than Hammer knows his."

RG David Diehl, a fifth-round draft pick who has started all season, draws the massive veteran Tim Bowens (6-4, 325), Miami's starting LDT. "That's a lot of bulk," Diehl grinned. "He is a strong man with good quickness. I'll just have to do my job and we'll see what happens." In a preseason game against the Jets, Diehl shut out the fourth overall draft pick, DT Dewayne Robertson, which is what helped propel him past Tam Hopkins, who was then listed as the starter at RG.

SS Shaun Williams has 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and one pass defensed in three games, yet has drawn criticism for playing "soft" instead of going for the ball more often. "When your defense isn't doing well statistically," he says, "lots of people keep trying to find a reason. But we are 2-1 despite our mental mistakes."

TE Jeremy Shockey, the 2002 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, has had a quiet (at least on the field) season so far. He has caught 10 passes (and dropped four more) for 109 yards and a TD. "I'm psyched about playing the Dolphins," he said. "I watched them every game I could when I was at Miami."

INSIDE THE CAMPS
Dolphins:


Dolphins tackle Mark Dixon has suffered another setback in his efforts to return to the field, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

Dixon re-injured his right ankle during Thursday's practice and was unable to finish the session. The Dolphins had hoped Dixon, who hasn't played since the team's first exhibition game against Tampa Bay, would be able to serve as the team's backup tackle Sunday.

"It's disappointing with Mark," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "The guy is doing everything he can. He should be way over the hump. He's very discouraged as we all are for the team."

Dixon entered the season as Miami's starting left tackle, which is a position that rookie Wade Smith now mans. Dixon underwent surgery in mid-August to remove bone chips and repair a stress fracture. The Dolphins had hoped Dixon would return earlier in the season, but he suffered another setback before the season-opener against Houston and missed practice for the next three weeks.

With Dixon unlikely to play, Greg Jerman is expected to serve as the top backup at both tackle spots. With center Tim Ruddy (knee) already ruled out, the Dolphins will have rookie free-agent Billy Yates as their top interior backup. If one of the guards were to get injured, expect Seth McKinney to shift into that spot and get replaced by Yates at center.

Giants:
Not that it should affect the Giants' game Sunday against Miami, but the sight of former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, the all-time NCAA Division I ground gainer, emulating Ricky Williams in practice was somehow depressing.

It was Williams' NCAA career rushing record whose record Dayne broke in 1999, a year after the Texas Longhorn established the mark at 6,297 yards. Dayne, playing at Wisconsin, went past it in his final game and stands with exactly 100 yards more.

But oh, what a difference between the two since they entered the NFL. Williams is a game-breaker, a power back on whose shoulders the Dolphins can place their offense and feel confident that he'll carry it without falling. Last season, Williams had 1,853 yards to date in his three-year career, Dayne has just 35 more.

Dayne has not been activated for any of the Giants' three games thus far. In the last Miami game, Williams carried the ball a Herculean 42 times to gain 153 yards. They are of similar build Williams is 5-feet-10, 230; Dayne is 5-10, 245.

"I know I'll get my chance," says Dayne, whose more grievous error seems to be that he is on a team with Tiki Barber, a totally different runner, as the starter. "I hope it's here [with the Giants], but if not, it will be with some other team. Maybe then I can prove to the Giants that I am a good running back."

Dayne will watch from the sidelines Sunday probably not in uniform as the man whose record he broke takes most of the carries and shoulders most of the offense for Miami. One can only guess at his inner thoughts. He does not share them.


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