MIAMI (AP) – When the Miami Dolphins were desperate for someone to stop Steve Smith and the Carolina Panthers, safety Lance Schulters stepped in.

Schulters intercepted Jake Delhomme with 2 minutes left to set up Olindo Mare’s game-winning field goal, and Miami beat Carolina 27-24 Sunday.

The Panthers lost despite Smith’s 11 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns. His 53-yard score midway through the fourth quarter tied the score at 24.

But with the Panthers driving for a potential winning score on their next possession, Schulters stepped in front of a pass intended for Keary Colbert and returned the interception 37 yards to the 25. Mare kicked a 32-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.

Under new coach Nick Saban, Miami is 2-1 and halfway to last year’s win total. The Panthers, who lost seven of their first eight games last season, are off to another slow start at 1-2.

Ronnie Brown scored his first NFL touchdown and became the first Miami rookie in six years to rush for 100 yards. He gained 132 yards in 23 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run and a 58-yard dash to set up a field goal.

Teammate Gus Frerotte threw touchdown passes of 18 yards to Randy McMichael and 42 yards to Chris Chambers, who made a one-handed grab at the goal line. Chambers’ reception was initially spotted at the 11/2-yard line, and the Dolphins were awarded the touchdown following a replay review.

Smith tied Carolina records for receptions and touchdown catches. He traded taunts and shoves for much of the game with Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Madison, then beat him with an inside move for the tying score in the fourth quarter.

Smith also fumbled attempting a fair catch on a punt to set up Miami’s second touchdown. The teams scored three TDs in the final 5:44 of the first half, leaving Miami ahead 21-17.

The Dolphins were pinned down at their own 3 early in the fourth quarter before Brown found an opening up the middle for his big gain, which led to Mare’s 27-yard field goal.

Brown, the second overall pick in the April draft, managed only 92 yards rushing in his first two NFL games, but after the long run he had fans chanting “Ron-nie, Ron-nie!” He played much of the second half with a sore right hamstring.

Chambers’ spectacular catch put Miami ahead 21-10, but Carolina quickly came back, moving 80 yards to score with 54 seconds left in the half on Delhomme’s 3-yard pass to Smith. All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers ran into the end zone as a decoy receiver on play.

The Panthers’ first touchdown came on a 1-yard pass to Smith. A face-mask penalty on Tebucky Jones set up the score, which capped a 56-yard drive.

Carolina’s John Kasay improved to 3-for-3 this year from 50 yards and beyond, kicking a 52-yarder in the first quarter.

AP-ES-09-25-05 1642EDT


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