Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP
It’s been five years since the Miami Dolphins last made the playoffs. The 2016 season featured some close games and magical moments for Miami.
One of those came on this day five years ago. Forced into the action due to injury, Matt Moore engineered the winning drive.
Andrew Franks’ short field goal as time expired was the difference as the Dolphins topped the Arizona Cardinals, 26-23.
Setting the Stage
At 7-5, the Miami Dolphins had just had a 6-game winning streak snapped as they arrived at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 11, 2016. Miami had not reached the playoffs since 2008 and was desperate for a win to end that streak.
The Arizona Cardinals were clinging to small playoff hopes as they made the cross-country trip. Arizona was 5-6-1 and looking to even its record for the first time in more than a month.
Dolphins Find a Way
Early in the third quarter, everything seemed to be going fine for the Dolphins. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had just thrown his third touchdown pass of the day — a 3-yard toss to Damien Williams — to give Miami a 21-9 lead.
Miami seemed in control, but things turned late in the period. After a completion to DeVante Parker for a first down, Tannehill was down on the field with what would be an ACL tear. His day, season and perhaps Miami’s playoff hopes had seemingly been dashed.
To add insult to injury, the Cardinals went 99 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive as Carson Palmer hit Brittan Golden for a 9-yard score. The extra point attempt however, was blocked and returned for two points by Miami’s Walt Aikens.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, the next two drives resulted in 3-and-outs. Following the first punt, Arizona went 50 yards for a score as Palmer found J.J. Nelson for eight yards and a touchdown. That was followed by a successful 2-point try as Palmer hit running back David Johnson.
With the score tied 23-23, it looked as though the game was the Cardinals’ to lose as they begin at their own 25-yard-line with less than two minutes to play. A sack of Palmer by Bobby McCain however, would send Arizona backwards.
After a 3-and-out, Jarvis Landry returned a punt 20 yards as Miami began in Arizona territory. Since Moore had entered the game, the Dolphins had managed just 12 yards. He needed just two passes on the final drive to put Miami in position to win.
Moore’s first throw went to Kenny Stills for 12 yards to the Arizona 30-yard-line. The next one went for 29 yards to the 1.
Miami proceeded to melt the clock. On the game’s final snap, Franks knocked through a 21-yard field goal to secure the win.
The game’s first two touchdowns came just 87 seconds apart in the first quarter. Following a 28-yard scoring strike from Tannehill to Stills, Nelson went 56 yards for the Arizona touchdown. The extra point however, was no good.
Tannehill’s second touchdown pass of the day went for seven yards to tight end Dion Sims early in the second quarter. Late in the period, Arizona’s Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 56-yard field goal.
Johnson led all rushers with 80 yards as Arizona finished with 175 on the ground. Tannehill passed for 195 yards in his final game of the season. Landry (103) and Stills (97) combined for 200 yards receiving in the victory.
Arizona would never get back to .500 as it finished 7-8-1.
The loss to Tannehill appeared to be a big blow at the time, but Moore would lead Miami to victories over the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the following weeks. The Dolphins finished 10-6 before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game.
Seven of Miami’s 10 wins that season came by seven points or less. That includes the hard-fought win over the Arizona Cardinals that came on this day five years ago.