Miami's decision to go back to Chad Henne at quarterback worked out a whole lot better than Oakland's move to Bruce Gradkowski.
Henne returned from a benching and injury to throw for 307 yards and two scores and Dan Carpenter kicked four field goals to help the Miami Dolphins beat the Oakland Raiders 33-17 Sunday.
“I knew my day would come again,” Henne said. “The biggest thing is just staying confident in myself. I know I can get it done out there, I know I can get some wins out there. So, for me, it's just staying confident, fixing mistakes and just keep on improving as a quarterback.”
Davone Bess had 111 yards receiving in his first game as a pro in his hometown, and Ricky Williams ran for 95 yards and a score for the Dolphins (6-5), who won for the fifth time in six road games to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Raiders (5-6) returned home following a 35-3 beating in Pittsburgh and put together another dud. Fan favorite Gradkowski got the nod ahead of Jason Campbell at quarterback, but threw two interceptions and led Oakland to just one offensive touchdown.
Gradkowski, who had not started the past five games after separating his right shoulder, got hurt again on his final pass and will likely be unavailable for a few weeks.
“It's just frustrating,” Gradkowski said. “You just want to be out there and try to help and do what you can. But today was ugly, On my part, I can't play like that. I can't turn the ball over. That's on me.”
Rookie Jacoby Ford was the entire Raiders offense, returning the opening kickoff 101 yards for a score and catching a 44-yard TD pass from Gradkowski in the second quarter. But the Dolphins held Oakland to 16 yards rushing, including 2 on eight carries for Darren McFadden.
Miami also had an offensive turnaround, gaining 471 yards and holding the ball for 41:38 a week after being held to 187. But with Henne at the helm, it was a different story.
Henne lost his job to Chad Pennington earlier this month, then was sidelined by an injured left knee after Pennington's return to the lineup was cut short by a shoulder injury. But after Tyler Thigpen struggled in a 16-0 loss to Chicago last week, the Dolphins went back to Henne against the Raiders.
The improvement was evident from the start. Henne led Miami to scores on the first two possessions as the Dolphins' offense clicked all day.
“I want somebody to go out there and make me wrong,” coach Tony Sparano said. “That's good. I have no problem with that. But Chad was really positive, and he knew all along here, that as we got on in this thing, that we're going to be counting on him.”
Henne had success going against Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who still looks hampered by a sprained right ankle, and rookie Walter McFadden, who got his most extensive action with Chris Johnson out with a groin injury.
McFadden looked especially bad on the first drive of the second half when he went for an interception on an out route to Marlon Moore. Moore caught it and cruised for a 57-yard score that gave Miami a 20-14 lead. Henne kept targeting McFadden after that for big plays.
“That's something we definitely scouted and wanted to exploit early and fast,” Bess said. “They gave up some big plays to us and we took advantage of it.”
Carpenter added a 44-yard field goal, but Miami missed a chance to break the game open after a 47-yard punt return by Bess when Carpenter missed a 47-yard field goal.
Gradkowski threw an interception to Chris Clemons in the end zone on an underthrown pass to Ford.
Ford then beat his former Clemson teammate Clemons for a 52-yard catch that set up a 30-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. That cut Miami's lead to 23-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Carpenter added a 25-yard field goal and Williams iced it with a 45-yard TD run with 3:12 remaining.
“It's a simple question: Is everyone on our team going to decide that we're done (messing) around and are we going to play,” safety Mike Mitchell said. “That's what this game was. It wasn't coaching, it wasn't scheme, it wasn't anything, it was us. If you're not 100 percent committed, you can't play, you can't be with it. That's what it is.”
Notes: Henne has six career 300-yard passing games, second to Dan Marino's 63 in Miami history. … The Dolphins have scored on their opening drive a league-best eight times this season. … Ford's kickoff return was the third longest in Raiders history.