Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
For the first time since 2016, the Miami Dolphins will finish with a winning record. For the first time since 2000, the New England Patriots will finish without one.
The Dolphins took a big step toward the playoffs on Sunday with a solid 22-12 win over the Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. It marked the fourth season in a row that the teams have split the regular season series.
Only two games remain on the slate for Miami. Before the Dolphins turn their attention to a big road game, here’s a look at the good and bad from Sunday’s victory:
It wasn’t what anyone expected, but the Dolphins were dominant on the ground on Sunday. Miami rushed for a season-high 250 yards in the win over New England, averaging six yards per carry. The 250 yards was 112 more than the Dolphins had rushed for in any prior game this season.
Savion Ahmed became the first Miami rusher to eclipse 100 yards this season, going for 122 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. His 31-yard run was the longest of the season for Miami. Matt Breida had his best day as a Dolphin, adding 86 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa became the first Dolphins’ quarterback to rush for two touchdowns in a game since Cleo Lemon in 2007.
Miami also had one of its best fourth quarters of the season. The Dolphins scored 15 points in the final period after scoring 17 against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. With a 15-12 lead, Miami ran the ball eight times during a 75-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock and put the game away.
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Through the air, the Dolphins managed just 145 yards, but Tagovailoa was 20-for-26 passing. Miami finished 7-for-12 when it came to converting third downs. The Dolphins possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes.
On defense, Miami bent a little bit, but never broke. The Dolphins held the Patriots to just two third down conversions on nine attempts. All the Patriots could manage offensively was four field goals. It marked the third time this season that Miami did not allow a touchdown.
Although pressure was inconsistent, the Dolphins got to New England quarterback Cam Newton three times and finished with 6.5 tackles for loss as a team. Emmanuel Ogbah tallied his team-leading ninth sack to go with 1.5 tackles for loss. A third quarter forced fumble of New England wide receiver Jakobi Meyers ran the Dolphins’ streak of consecutive games with a forced turnover to 20.
Punter Matt Haack had a nice day punting, averaging nearly 47 yards per punt with a long of 54 yards. One of his three punts was downed inside the 20-yard-line.
Offensively, the Dolphins missed some opportunities. Early on, Miami had a chance to take the lead when Tagovailoa was intercepted in the end zone. It was the rookie’s second interception in as many weeks. Sunday marked the third time in seven starts that Tagovailoa was held to fewer than six yards per pass attempt.
Defensively, the Dolphins allowed 5.3 yards per rush, but it didn’t hurt too much. The Miami secondary struggled with Meyers, who caught seven passes for 111 yards on 10 targets. There were times where the Dolphins struggled to generate pressure on obvious passing downs.
Although they were penalized for just 40 yards, Miami committed seven penalties on Sunday. Three of those resulted in New England first downs. Another negated a successful fake punt.
After starting the year 27-for-28, kicker Jason Sanders missed a field goal for the second straight week. His 52-yard attempt at the end of the first half sailed wide and allowed New England to take a shutout to the locker room.
With the win, the Dolphins assured itself a winning season. On Saturday however, the Buffalo Bills beat the Denver Broncos to clinch the AFC East. The Dolphins will finish in second place in the division.
At 9-5, Miami remained tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Dolphins currently hold the No. 7 seed with a better conference record. Baltimore does have a more favorable remaining schedule.
Miami will visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. ET in a nationally-televised game on NFL Network. The Raiders are 7-7 on the season.