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Griese effective in first start for Dolphins

10/28/2003

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Drew Brees had visions of a storybook San
Diego victory to inspire his fire-ravaged community. It didn't
happen. Not even close.

With their home stadium being used as an evacuation center and
the nearby hills in flames, the Chargers moved their long-awaited
Monday night game 365 miles to the east -- and fell flat in a 26-10
loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Brian Griese, in his first start for Miami, completed 20 of 29
passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns and the Dolphins
intercepted Brees three times.

"You can put this loss on my shoulders," Brees said.

Griese, at least for one night, lived up to the heritage that
his last name carries in Miami. He completed his first six passes
and was 13-of-14 for 145 yards and three scores as Miami (5-2)
built a 24-3 halftime lead.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in San Diego.
It's really quite awful what's going on out there," Griese said.
"Wherever we were going to play this game, we were going to be
ready."

Patrick Surtain had two interceptions, setting up Miami's first
touchdown with the first and stopping a San Diego scoring threat
with the second.

Less than 24 hours before kickoff, NFL commissioner Paul
Tagliabue decided to move the game to Sun Devil Stadium because of
the deadly wildfires that have devastated the San Diego area.

"Our players did a fantastic job of adjusting to the time, to
being in two states in two days, in two different hotels," Miami
coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It was amazing they were able to keep
their focus like they did."

Admission was free, and the place was rocking and rowdy. There
was no official crowd count, but all 73,014 tickets were
distributed. Five Arizona Cardinals players helped collect
donations for the San Diego Fire Relief Fund at the stadium
entrance. About $200,000 was collected, Cardinals officials said.

"We really wanted to win, just for the city of San Diego and
for everything they're going through," Brees said. "Since we
couldn't be out there on the front lines, this was the least we
could do."

The game, San Diego's first on Monday night since 1996, was
supposed to be the celebrated return of Junior Seau, who was the
heart and soul of the Chargers for 13 seasons before he was traded
to Miami before this season. But the return to Qualcomm Stadium
never happened.

Instead, Seau -- who still makes his home in San Diego -- had to
be content with a dominant performance by the Dolphins' defense.

"We know the community in San Diego is going to pull
together," Seau said. "This game was secondary compared to what's
going on there. It was the hardest game I had to play. I think it
goes for everyone, Chargers included. The players there did a great
job of blocking things out and coming out here and performing on
the field. Obviously, it's a struggle for all of us."

Griese signed a free agent by the Dolphins after five seasons in
Denver -- four as a starter. He knew he would be a backup for a
franchise that his father, Bob, led to two Super Bowl
championships. They are the first father and son to play
quarterback for the same NFL team.

He got the start because of Jay Fiedler's sprained knee
ligament. Fiedler was in uniform for the game, but there was no
need for him to try to play. Should Griese be the starter again
next week?

"I don't have any idea," he said. "I went out there and I
played as hard as I could. The outside circumstances that I don't
have any control over, I didn't really worry about. I'm going to
come to practice on Wednesday and continue to get better and see
what happens."

Surtain intercepted Brees' first pass, on the game's third play,
and returned it 32 yards to the San Diego 6. Two plays later,
Griese's first pass as a Miami starter went 5 yards to Chris
Chambers for a touchdown.

On the Chargers' next possession, Brees' pass bounced off the
hands of LaDanian Tomlinson and was picked off by Zach Thomas, who
returned it 19 yards to set up Olindo Mare's 44-yard field goal
that made it 10-0 barely 6{ minutes into the game.

After Steve Christie's 51-yard field goal cut the lead to 10-3,
the Dolphins went 65 yards in 10 plays, Griese passing 2 yards to
James McKnight for the score with 13:28 left in the first half.

San Diego (1-6) drove from its 30 to the Miami 9 later in the
second quarter, but on third-and-6, Surtain stepped in front of
David Boston to intercept Brees' pass in the end zone.

The Dolphins promptly went 80 yards in just six plays. Griese
threw 7 yards to Randy McMichael in the right corner of the end
zone and it was 24-3 with 1:55 to play.

Miami handed San Diego its lone touchdown when Ricky Williams
fumbled and Quentin Jammer recovered for the Chargers at the
Dolphins' 1. Three plays later, Tomlinson scored to cut the lead to
24-10 with 12:21 to play.

Brees, who was sacked six times, was thrown down in the end zone
by Rob Burnett. Brees fumbled, and the Chargers' Damion McIntosh
recovered for a safety with 8:06 to play.<
^Notes: The Chargers drove inside the Miami 10 three times and came
away with nothing. ... Boston, who played his first three seasons
for Arizona, was booed roundly every time he made a play. ...
Numerous fights broke out in the stands, and there was a brawl just
outside the stadium.

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