Back in business

MIAMI -- Daunte Culpepper thought about the moment he would send the football world a message about his right knee.

That moment came in the third quarter as he sprinted to his right and escaped the grasp of Miami Dolphins linebacker Donnie Spragan. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback then leapt toward the end zone, football extended toward the goal line for his second rushing touchdown.

Culpepper stood, pointed to his knee and, with a hand gesture, declared it OK.

Culpepper, starting his first game since he was a Dolphin on Oct. 1, 2006, threw for two touchdowns and ran for three in his return to Dolphin Stadium as the Oakland Raiders defeated Miami 35-17 on Sunday.

The Dolphins cut Culpepper because of questions about his right knee, which was operated on twice since 2005. He started four games for Miami last season before injuries ended his year.

"Everywhere I go, people keep asking me questions about my knee," Culpepper said. "I just wanted to say, 'Hey, I'm OK and I'm getting better every day.' "

And things are getting better for the Raiders.

Behind Culpepper and a dominant running game, the Raiders (2-2) won their second game in a row and ended a 12-game road losing streak dating to a 16-13 win at Washington on Nov. 20, 2005.

The Raiders' point total is their highest since they scored 38 against Buffalo on Oct. 23, 2005.

Oakland also is at .500 for the first time since being 2-2 in 2004.

"You have to tip your hat when you're getting your rear end kicked," Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said.

Culpepper wanted the focus on those facts, not his return to Miami.

But from the moment he sprinted out of the tunnel and led the Raiders onto the field, it was obvious he badly wanted to beat the Dolphins.

Culpepper was 5 for 12 passing for 75 yards, including touchdowns of 7 and 27 yards to Jerry Porter. Culpepper ran seven times for 28 yards and three touchdowns.

He didn't have to pass much because the Raiders ran for 299 yards, their most since a team-record 356-yard performance Nov. 30, 1987.

LaMont Jordan left the game late in the second quarter, so Justin Fargas led the Raiders with a career-high 179 yards, the sixth-best total in team history.

Still, Culpepper took pleasure in beating his old team.

"Excited" is how center Jeremy Newberry described Culpepper in the huddle. "You could tell he wanted this one bad."

Culpepper signed with the Raiders on July 31, two weeks after the Dolphins cut him.

Many expected Culpepper to win the starting job as soon as he was familiar with the offense, but Raiders coach Lane Kiffin stayed with Josh McCown, who missed the game because of a fractured left big toe.

"I've had some tough conversations with him where obviously he wanted to be the starter," Kiffin said of Culpepper. "But he never once complained about anything."

And Culpepper refused to complain about how his home-state Dolphins treated him over the summer.

The Dolphins traded for Trent Green in June and, after the deal, had security escort Culpepper from the practice field before team workouts began. Culpepper said he understood the Dolphins made a business decision but did savor the moment Sunday.

Early on, he told Kiffin he knew the Dolphins were on the schedule.

"I didn't say that it didn't feel good," Culpepper said. "All that I said is it was really nothing personal. Had this been any team in the NFL, I would have had the same attitude and effort to try to go out there and get a victory."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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