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Balanced attack lifts Dolphins

Two weeks ago, Karim Abdul-Jabbar couldn't think.

On Saturday, the Dolphins running back couldn't think about the concussion that forced him out of the Denver game on Dec. 21 and put him on the sideline for last week's season finale against Atlanta.

"You have to go out there and run with no fear," he said. "If I went out there timid, I wouldn't have been able to do anything. I just put it in the Creator's hands and went from there."

Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 95 yards on 27 carries to help the Dolphins to a 24-17 AFC wild-card win over Buffalo. His performance will provide plenty of food for thought for Miami's next opponent because the rushing game appears to have resurged after averaging 66 yards in the previous six games.

"Everybody said we couldn't run the ball, but Karim had close to 100 yards," Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said. "We rushed for over 100 yards against a defensive team that is ranked as one of the tops in the league (fifth) as far as defense against the run."

For Johnson, the 27 carries may have been just as important as the 95 yards. It was the most attempts by a Dolphins running back since Larry Csonka had 33 in 1973.

The Dolphins rushed for 100 yards or more for the first time since accumulating 132 yards against Kansas City in 1994. Not coincidentally, it was their first playoff victory since beating the Chiefs.

Overall, the pass and run yardage was almost even: 34 carries for 117 yards rushing and an efficient 23-for-34 for 235 yards passing for quarterback Dan Marino.

"We've always talked about how we need to be balanced, and I think we were really balanced today," Marino said. "When you can do that and be successful, it takes a lot of heat off the line."

The line needed a relief from pressure because two starters, guard Kevin Donnalley and tackle Richmond Webb, were returning from injuries that prompted midseason surgeries. Donnalley, who was recovering from a knee injury, said Webb basically played with one arm because of a triceps injury that plagued him in the second half of the season.

That didn't stop Webb from limiting Bills defensive end Bruce Smith to four tackles and no sacks.

"I didn't even ask (Webb) how he was doing because I could see it in his face," Abdul-Jabbar said. "For him to stay in there and play like that was monumental. Playing hurt is one thing, but performing like he did when you're hurt is something else."