Weinke benched as Panthers fall to 1-7


MIAMI (AP) -- Patrick Surtain delivered a chest-high hit at full
speed that left intended receiver Richard Huntley dazed and made
the crowd gasp.

On the next play, Lorenzo Bromell leveled a scrambling Dameyune
Craig, whose dislodged helmet went skipping across the turf.

And those weren't even the most taxing blows delivered Sunday by
the Miami Dolphins. Their bruising defense scored a touchdown, sent
quarterbacks Craig and Chris Weinke to the bench with injuries and
handed the struggling Carolina Panthers a particularly painful
defeat, 23-6.

Weinke, Carolina's 29-year-old rookie, left in the third quarter
with a sprained right shoulder, and two replacements threw their
first NFL passes. Fourth-year pro Craig went 4-for-8 for 34 yards
before spraining his right foot, and Matt Lytle mopped up in the
final six minutes.

"You've got to smack somebody in the mouth every once in
awhile," said Surtain, who gave Miami the lead for good with a
29-yard interception return.

How bad are things for the Panthers' offense right now?
Carolina is in dire straits -- the offense is really bad.

The Panthers don't have a running game, they're struggling with the passing
game and they don't have much confidence on offense; they're not that
talented, either. When you put all that together, it doesn't look good. And
the Panthers have a long way to go before they they get better on offense.

To turn the question around, this was not the game to gauge Miami's defense.
The question of whether the Dolphins' D is shaping into playoff form will
be answered another week by a stronger opponent.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the
Redskins and 49ers.


The Dolphins (5-2) retained their AFC East lead, while the
Panthers lost their seventh in a row and fell to 1-7.

With the region under a tropical storm warning as Hurricane
Michelle churned just south of Florida, the stadium was almost half
empty despite an announced sellout of 72,597. But conditions could
have been worse -- occasional light rain fell and winds gusted to 25

Miami's ground game was stymied for the third consecutive game,
but Jay Fiedler overcame the weather to enjoy his best day of the
season. He went 20-for-33 for 287 yards and a score, with one
interception. His three wideouts made 13 receptions for 223 yards.

"A year ago we probably wouldn't have been able to do that,"
coach Dave Wannstedt said. "In the conditions we had today, that's

Weinke departed after going 9-for-21 for 158 yards with one
interception, his 10th in five games. He sprained the AC joint in
his throwing shoulder in the first half, received a shot of
Novocain at halftime and threw two incompletions in the third
period before coach George Seifert took him out.

"He was cleared to play," Seifert said. "I felt it was
affecting him, so I took him out of the game. I didn't want to
press it."

The change only seemed to inspire Miami, and Carolina's offense
failed to score a touchdown for the second successive week.

"Regardless of how I'm feeling physically, it hurts more that
we lost another game," Weinke said. He said he hopes to be able to
play Sunday at St. Louis.

Seifert said Craig might be sidelined for up to six weeks, but
Craig said he expects to be available against the Rams.

Olindo Mare kicked field goals of 36, 45 and 29 yards for Miami.
Carolina's John Kasay hit from 27 and 20 yards, but sent a 51-yard
attempt wide right late in the first half, his first misfire this
season after making 10 in a row.

A trick play by Miami backfired in the first half. Facing
fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 20, the Dolphins lined up for a field
goal, But holder Matt Turk pitched over his shoulder to Mare
sprinting wide. The Panthers weren't fooled and swarmed Mare for a
5-yard loss.

"Olindo was going to be the star," Wannstedt said with a
laugh. "We worked on it in practice, and he even had his touchdown
dance down. But they just reacted to it."

Miami scored on the next play when Weinke threw an interception.
Brian Walker broke up a pass intended for Wesley Walls and
deflected the ball to Surtain, who scored his first NFL touchdown
for a 10-3 lead.

The only offensive TD came on the first play of the final
period. Fiedler hit Rob Konrad with a 5-yard scoring pass to cap a
60-yard drive and make the score 20-6.

"I'm at a loss for words," said Carolina linebacker Dan
Morgan, who returned after missing four games with a broken leg.
"We have to dig ourselves out of the hole we're in. I don't know
how we do that."

Game notes
Morgan sprained his left ankle, but said the injury
wasn't serious. ... Walls sprained his hip. ... Carolina receiver
Muhsin Muhammad sprained his knee, but returned to the game. ...
Miami safety Brian Walker and backup defensive tackle Jermaine
Haley each broke his right thumb in the first half, but returned.
... Carolina cornerback Doug Evans' streak of making an
interception in every game this season ended. ... Four of Miami's
next five games are against AFC East rivals.