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Sunday, November 24, 2002
Lucas playing with more confidence

By Kieran Darcy
ESPN The Magazine

MIAMI -- Two weeks ago, after a demoralizing loss to the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins' Ray Lucas was one dejected quarterback. His team had just lost its third consecutive game since he took over for the injured Jay Fiedler.

"This whole things sucks," Lucas said at the time. "We have to stop this right now."

Ray Lucas
Ray Lucas threw for 194 yards and one touchdown against the Chargers.
What a difference two weeks can make.

Last Sunday, Lucas led the Dolphins to a win over the Baltimore Ravens, snapping the losing streak. This Sunday, Lucas looked like Donovan McNabb in a 30-3 rout of the San Diego Chargers.

"My game today was just so easy," Lucas said after the win. "It was a total team effort."

Nothing came easy for Lucas during his first three starts, in which he threw six interceptions. The 5-1 Dolphins were suddenly 5-4, and Lucas had lost almost all of his confidence.

"I just wanted to be perfect," Lucas said. "I wanted to show I can play in this league."

He'd shown that before, going 6-3 as a starter with the Jets in 1999. He has shown it again the past two weeks. Against the Chargers, Lucas started by completing short passes to running back Rob Konrad. But a perfect 20-yard touchdown strike to James McKnight seemed to boost his confidence, and he began connecting with his wideouts all over the field. He also scrambled, evading sacks, and picking up first downs. The Dolphins scored on all four of their first-half possessions, and the game was in hand from there.

"This team and I now believe that we can win with Ray," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Wannstedt demonstrated that confidence by letting Lucas go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Chargers' 38-yard-line late in the first half. San Diego was flagged for pass interference, and Miami tacked three more points on the board before halftime.

Lucas had lots of help too, primarily from a dominant defense and running back Ricky Williams. Williams had more than 100 yards rushing less than two minutes into the second half, against the third-best run defense in the NFL. He finished with 143 yards and two touchdowns, despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter.

As Lucas left the field, he shared an embrace with Chargers backup Doug Flutie -- a quarterback who's faced more than his fair share of adversity during his football career. "He told me, way to keep my head in there and keep playing ball," Lucas said. "He's a class act. Anything he tells me, I'm definitely going to listen."

Lucas was loose in the locker room afterward as well. He laughed with his offensive linemen. He laughed with offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He even laughed with wide receiver Cris Carter, who's still on the shelf. And his smile was a mile wide.

"It would have been easy for all of the guys to say, 'Lucas, you suck. We can't win with this guy,'" Lucas said. "These guys never let me stew in my misery. I feel privileged to be on this team."

Now, just when he's getting rolling, Lucas might be losing his job. Fiedler is slated to return from his thumb injury in two weeks, and could even make it back for next week's game against Buffalo.

"Jay's the starting quarterback on this team, hands down," Lucas said. "When he gets back, we're going to be something even more special than we already are."

Kieran Darcy covers the NFL for ESPN The Magazine.