Photo via YouTube/CBS broadcast
Kenyan Drake made some big plays during his time with the Miami Dolphins. The first that probably comes to mind is the “Miami Miracle” to stun the New England Patriots late in 2018, but that wasn’t the only division rival whose heart Drake broke.
On this day five years ago, Drake was the hero for a special teams play. His 96-yard return was the difference as the Dolphins stunned the New York Jets, 27-23.
Setting the Stage
After a 1-4 start, the Miami Dolphins were looking to get to .500 as they arrived at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 6, 2016. The 3-4 Dolphins had won consecutive games over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills as they looked to turn their season around.
The New York Jets were just 3-5, but had also won consecutive games coming in. After trailing for much of the day, the Jets were perhaps one stop away from a big road victory.
Drake Saves the Day
The Dolphins led 20-13 entering the final quarter, but special teams play looked as though it might be their undoing. After a field goal by Nick Folk early in the fourth quarter cut the lead to four, Miami made a huge miscue.
Backed up near his own end zone to punt, Dolphins’ punter Matt Darr was unable to handle the snap and the Jets recovered in the red zone. Two plays later, Ryan Fitzpatrick found Jalin Marshall for an 18-yard touchdown to give New York a 23-20 lead.
With less than six minutes to go, the Dolphins knew a score was needed. Fortunately for the offense, it never had to come onto the field.
Drake was no stranger to big-time kickoff returns. The year prior, Drake went 95 yards for a touchdown late in the College Football Playoff National Championship to help Alabama defeat Clemson, 45-40.
As a rookie in the NFL, he went one yard further.
Drake fielded the ball at his own 4-yard-line. As he made his way past the 25, he found a small crease in the middle of the field. Drake hit the crease before taking off toward the sideline. Those wearing green could only watch as he went the distance and Miami regained the lead, 27-23.
With 5:15 remaining, the Jets still had time. On third down on the next set of downs however, Nadmukong Suh sacked Fitzpatrick to force a 3-and-out. The Dolphins used a pass interference call on New York and two big runs from Jay Ajayi to run out the clock and seal the victory.
Folk got the scoring started with a short field goal for the Jets, but Ajayi answered with a 20-yard touchdown run. Matt Forte’s 31-yard run late in the first quarter gave the Jets a 10-7 lead after one.
The Dolphins responded by going 75 yards in 11 plays. Ryan Tannehill capped the drive with a short touchdown pass to Dominique Jones. Folk’s second of three short field goals cut the Miami lead to 14-13 at the break.
In the third quarter, Andrew Franks’ field goals of 33 and 29 yards bookended an interception of Fitzpatrick by Jordan Phillips. Bobby McCain also picked off Fitzpatrick in the victory.
Miami finished with just 274 yards of offense, but did not turn the ball over. Ajayi led the way with 111 yards rushing.
From that point forward, the teams would go in opposite directions. The defeat began a 4-game losing streak for the Jets, who ultimately finished 5-11.
The victory for the Dolphins was the third straight during a winning streak that would reach six. Miami would go on to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. It was Drake’s kickoff return that helped the Dolphins reach .500 for the first time and it came on this day five years ago.