Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
That’s what now separates the Miami Dolphins from a playoff spot. The Dolphins moved to within a victory of the postseason on Saturday night with one of the more improbable wins in team history — a 26-25 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Las Vegas kicked a short field goal with 19 seconds left to take a 25-23 lead and the assumed victory. A busted coverage, personal foul and Jason Sanders field goal later and the Dolphins left with their ninth win in 11 games.
As customary, we take a look back on the contest. Here’s what went right and what didn’t for Miami.
For much of the night, Miami needed a spark on offense. It finally found one in the form of veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick replaced an ineffective Tua Tagovailoa and led Miami to scores on each of the three drives he was in the game. The veteran finished 9-for-13 with 182 yards and a touchdown pass.
Miami trailed 25-23 with just 19 seconds left when Fitzpatrick was able to heave a 34-yard completion to Mack Hollins. Fitzpatrick did so while his face mask was being pulled. The additional 15 yards allowed kicker Jason Sanders to knock home a 44-yard field goal with just one second left.
When it came to running the football, Miami had a respectable night. The Dolphins finished with 130 yards on 25 carries, paced by Myles Gaskin’s 87 yards. Gaskin also led the team with 82 yards receiving on five catches and two touchdowns.
The 169 yards from scrimmage is a career-high. Gaskin’s 59-yard touchdown reception that gave Miami its first lead was the second-longest reception of the season and longest offensive scoring play.
Defensively, it wasn’t a spectacular night for Miami, but the Dolphins did a decent job stopping the run. Las Vegas finished with 104 yards rushing on 4.3 yards per carry.
Miami did record three sacks in the win with linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel accounting for two. The Dolphins held Las Vegas to 0-for-10 on third down. With 10 total stops and a sack on Saturday, linebacker Jerome Baker became the first Miami player to eclipse 100 total tackles for the season.
Special teams was a major difference-maker on Saturday night. A missed extra point by Raiders’ kicker Daniel Carlson proved to be a major miscue as the Dolphins won by a single point.
The Dolphins did struggle in punt coverage, but successfully converted a fake punt for the second week in a row. Unlike last week however, this one wasn’t called back by penalty. Cayton Fejedelem’s 22-yard run set up a field goal late in the first half.
In addition to Sanders going 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, punter Matt Haack averaged nearly 47 yards per punt. The Dolphins’ special teams also recovered a fumble on the game’s final play to extend its streak of consecutive games with a turnover forced to 21 games. Miami did not turn the ball over in the victory.
The win also eliminated Las Vegas from playoff contention. It marked the second week in a row that the Dolphins ended an opponent’s playoff hopes.
The rookie Tagovailoa had one of his worst outings of the season. Tagovailoa didn’t throw an interception and had a high completion percentage, but was unable to make plays down the field. He finished with just 94 yards passing on 22 attempts and took three sacks.
Injury issues continue to pile up for Miami. In Saturday’s contest, the Dolphins lost both wide receiver Jakeem Grant and linebacker Elandon Roberts.
For the Miami defense, big plays for the Raiders were too common on Saturday night. The Dolphins allowed Nelson Agholor and Darren Wallker to both eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark. Agholor’s 85-yard touchdown catch that gave Las Vegas a 22-16 fourth-quarter lead was the biggest play allowed by the Miami defense all season.
Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr finished with 336 yards passing against Miami. Getting after the quarterback wasn’t something the Dolphins did well on Saturday night despite the three sacks. The Dolphins also finished with 76 penalty yards — a season-high — including a 49-yard pass interference penalty late on Byron Jones that allowed the Raiders to kick the go-ahead field goal.
On punt coverage, the Dolphins often got out of their lanes and tackled poorly. Raiders’ receiver Hunter Renfrow averaged better than 12 yards per punt return with a long of 32 yards on five returns.
Following the win, the Dolphins sit at 10-5 — their most wins since 2016. Miami will finish in second place in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills, but may need to win next week to clinch a playoff spot.
Currently the No. 7 seed in the AFC, Miami can cement a playoff berth with a road win at the AFC East champion Bills or a Baltimore Ravens’ loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Depending on what happens on Sunday, there are other scenarios where the Dolphins could make the playoffs without a win. The season finale against Buffalo is currently scheduled for next Sunday, Jan. 3, at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.