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Dolphins’ running game shows promise

Mare boots 5 in lifting Miami to win over Bucs

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MIAMI — Lamar Smith had room to run, which is something different for both him and the Miami Dolphins.

There were signs of progress in Miami's perennially feeble ground game Thursday night, when Smith rushed for 72 yards in a 15-13 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"When I'm out there, normally I see the other team's jerseys," said Smith, a journeyman bidding for a job with his third NFL team. "I didn't see that tonight. All I saw was turquoise."

In the opening half, the Dolphins' first team rushed for 76 yards, converted six third downs and controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes. The performance was especially encouraging against a Bucs defense that ranked third in the NFL last year.

"They're a great defense," Smith said. "But our guys just stuck on them."

Smith carried 17 times, all in the first half, and had runs of 13 and 11 yards.

"I was real happy with the running game, and I really liked what Lamar Smith did," coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Mike Quinn, competing for the third-string quarterback job, moved Miami 44 yards in the final 1:03 to set up Olindo Mare's game-winning kick, a 42-yarder. The Pro Bowl kicker finished 5-for-5, also scoring from 26, 21, 54 and 25 yards.

"Olindo is unbelievable," quarterback Damon Huard said. "He's a great kicker and I love him to death. But I don't like him kicking five field goals a game — maybe two or three."

Miami (1-1) squandered two scoring chances because of turnovers by Huard.

Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy found little consolation in the play of his reserves. Helped by two long kickoff returns, they rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to briefly give the Bucs (1-1) the lead.

"It was a disappointing night for us," Dungy said. "We obviously didn't get a lot of things accomplished that we wanted to. We had some guys step up in the second half and play well. But as a group we took a step backward, and that's something you never want to do."

STEELERS 13, PANTHERS 0: At Pittsburgh, this is the only loss an NFL team dreads in the preseason.

In a game that meant nothing to the Carolina Panthers, they lost a player who meant everything to their offense when wide receiver Patrick Jeffers tore a knee ligament Thursday night and was lost for the season.

The Panthers talked of little else but Jeffers' torn anterior cruciate ligament following a 13-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that quickly became an unimportant afterthought.

The fast-developing Jeffers was one of the keys to the NFL's second-best passing offense last season, making 63 catches for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ended the season with five consecutive 100-yard games.