MIAMI (AP)—Eight seconds into the game, the Arizona Cardinals lost a fumble. They sputtered on offense, committed nine penalties and blew a late lead.
The Miami Dolphins played even worse.
Ending a 17-game road losing streak, the Cardinals met their match in ineptitude. They benefited from two pivotal second-half calls and drove 70 yards in the final 2 minutes for a touchdown to beat the Dolphins 24-23 Sunday.
“That’s how hard it is to win on the road,” Cardinals first-year coach Dennis Green said. “You hope to have good fortune smile on you and catch lightning in a bottle, and today that happened for us.”
The road win was the first since Oct. 6, 2002 for Arizona (3-5).
For Miami (1-8), which has the league’s worst record, the latest loss came amid speculation fifth-year coach Dave Wannstedt might soon be fired. If owner Wayne Huizenga is going to make a change during the season, this would be the logical time with the Dolphins heading into their bye week. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates is considered a likely choice as interim coach.
When asked about his status, Wannstedt praised his team’s effort.
“You go four years and win over 10 games a year, and it’s taken for granted,” he said. “We did not play any harder when we were winning 10 and 11 a year, I promise you that. We did not play any harder than we did today. That’s what rips your heart out.”
Huizenga declined to comment.
Arizona rallied twice in the second half, overcoming a 12-3 deficit with 18 1/2 minutes left after Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler was sidelined with a shoulder stinger.
The Dolphins committed 12 penalties and dropped at least three passes and two potential interceptions. The margin of defeat was a missed extra point in the first quarter by Bill Gramatica, signed Friday because Miami’s two other place-kickers are hurt.
Losing to Arizona reminded tight end Randy McMichael of a defeat at Cincinnati in September.
“We’ve lost to two of the worst franchises in football this year,” McMichael said. “What does that say about us?”
Fan apathy in Miami reached a new low. The game was a sellout, but the stadium was less than half full on a balmy, 80-degree afternoon.
The players hardly looked disinterested, however, and the two teams even squared off in a confrontation during pregame warmups that included shouting and finger-pointing before officials intervened. More than two dozen players were involved, but no one was penalized.
“We weren’t shook by that late score,” McCown said. “Our heads were never down.”
McCown got the winning drive started by running for 9 yards on fourth-and-8, and he hit Fitzgerald for 48 yards to the 3. McCown was sacked at the 15 on third and goal, but a holding penalty on cornerback Sam Madison gave the Cardinals a first down, and they scored two plays later.
Arizona’s first touchdown came when Duane Starks intercepted a deflected pass by Feeley and ran untouched 41 yards to the end zone.
“We finally got a shot of B12 by the defense when they scored,” running back Emmitt Smith said.
It was the fifth time an interception has been returned for a touchdown against Miami this season, including three thrown by Feeley.
Then came a key call with the Cardinals on the move. A penalty on Patrick Surtain for roughing the passer with a helmet-to-helmet hit negated an interception by Miami, and when Jason Taylor kicked the ball while disputing the call, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Instead of losing possession, the Cardinals gained 30 yards to the Miami 16, and four plays later Smith scored on a 5-yard run for a 17-12 lead.
“They say players decide the outcome of the game,” McMichael said. “That didn’t happen today. … I’m not going to say who did, but you can read between the lines.”
Miami WR Marty Booker hurt his right ankle and G Jeno James hurt his left knee. Arizona coach Dennis Green said his team had no significant injuries. … The Cardinals beat Miami for the first time in their nine meetings.