Miami Dolphins “Miami Miracle” pauses Patriots division title

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 09: Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball for the game winning touchdown defeating the New England Patriots 34-33 at Hard Rock Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 09: Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball for the game winning touchdown defeating the New England Patriots 34-33 at Hard Rock Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Dolphins incredible victory over the Patriots on Sunday not only kept their playoff hopes alive, but it also put a pause on New England’s 10th straight division title.

The Miami Dolphins pulled off possibly the team’s most memorable victory in history on Sunday with their 69-yard combination touchdown on the game’s final play that gave the hometown team the 34-33 victory. The victory was not just a monumental one for the team’s history, but essential as well in keeping the Dolphins playoff hopes alive.

In addition, a victory for New England would have clinched a 10th straight division title for the Patriots, and set them on a path for possible home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The hook-and-ladder sequence was obviously the craziest ending in any contest during week 14, but the Jets and Bills had a close (although much less interesting) game themselves. We’ll recap that miracle in Miami as well as the other division matchup in this week’s division recap.

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins fans will all be on an emotional high until at least Saturday after that incredible play. In the future, when this game is brought up all they will talk about is that final play, but what led to it matters just as much. Overall, Miami played very well, especially when you consider that they were without their lead defender, Xavien Howard. With Howard’s absence, Tom Brady had a field day against the Dolphins pass defense. Brady would finish on the day with 358 yards passing and three touchdowns.

It was Miami’s surprise success against the run that helped them stay competitive throughout the game. James Develin capped off the Patriots opening drive with a two-yard touchdown rush, but the Dolphins held the Patriots to just 77 yards rushing on 30 carries for the day. In contrast, Miami had a ton of success rushing the football against New England’s defense.

Frank Gore led Miami with 12 carries, and although he did not get to the end zone in this one, he did finish with a staggering 7.7 yards per carry on his way to 92 yards on the ground. The big surprise in this game was former Patriot, Brandon Bolden, who had rarely been seen this season. Although it was puzzling to see Bolden even on the field, he did the maximum possible with his two carries, taking them both for touchdown runs.

On his first carry, Bolden took the carry from the Dolphins 46-yard line, and ran 54 yards untouched to the end zone. That gave the Dolphins a 14-13 lead early in the 2nd quarter. Six minutes later, he scored again from six yards out, again giving Miami the lead, 21-20.

In what originally started out as a shootout, it looked as if Miami just quite didn’t have enough down the stretch. Despite Ryan Tannehill toughing it out after a clear ankle injury just before halftime, it looked like the Patriots would prevail, 33-28, after Stephen Gostkowski converted on a chipped shot field goal with 16 seconds to go.

With 7 seconds remaining at their own 31-yard line, the Dolphins had one desperation play left that they would take full advantage of. Tannehill threw the ball to Kenny Stills (who was terrific in this game) 14 yards down the middle of the field. Almost immediately, Stills lateraled the ball to DeVante Parker, who ran an additional 3 yards before lateraling the ball to Kenyan Drake. Drake did the rest, showcasing his speed, and angling away from Rob Gronkowski for the game-winning score down the sideline.

If you’re a Patriots fan, you’re probably wondering why Gronkowski was in on the play to begin with, but you won’t find a Dolphins fan who would care. This will go down as a truly memorable win for Miami, and for the more important present time, it helps to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Dolphins are now in a four-way tie at 7-6 for that final playoff spot.

They have a tough matchup next week at Minnesota, but if they can find a way to come away with a victory then they have two very winnable games remaining against Jacksonville and Buffalo. Both the Jaguars and Bills have tough defenses, but they are 4-9. Miami will enjoy this victory for now, but with the room for error being slim to none, they’ll have to turn their focus quickly to the Vikings.

New England Patriots

This one looked to be in the bag for the Patriots. A win at Miami would have clinched a 10th straight division title for New England, and they could have turned their focus to their playoff seeding in hopes for home-field advantage. Even though they lost, the Patriots will in all likelihood still win the division. However, their odds of home field are rather slim now. The Chiefs held off the Ravens in overtime, 27-24, to pull their record to 11-2, two games ahead of both the Patriots and Texans.

New England did get some help from around the league in a quest for a first round bye, however. The Colts snapped the Texans 9-game winning streak, putting Houston and New England in a tie at 9-4. The Patriots hold the tie-breaker against Houston from their week 1 victory. With a shot at inching closer to both teams, the Steelers missed their opportunity with an embarrassing loss at Oakland.

Pittsburgh still holds the division lead, but their playoff hopes are on the brink. The showdown between the Patriots and Steelers next weekend will be treated as must win for both teams. New England has a lot to kick themselves over for the loss at Miami. First, Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point on New England’s opening drive touchdown that proved to have an impact. He also missed a field goal in the 3rd quarter that proved crucial. Then there was the puzzlement as to why Rob Gronkowski was out there playing defense on the game’s final play.

Unless Bill Belichick believed that Ryan Tannehill was miraculously going to throw it 70 yards down the field for a potential Hail Mary pass, and he thought that Gronk’s size would be a benefactor in knocking the pass down, it doesn’t make sense at all to have him out there on that play. Despite the disappointing loss, the Patriots are historically a professional team that is good at dusting off poor performances. They’ll look to do exactly that in hopes for a victory at Pittsburgh next week.

New York Jets

In a game just for bragging rights, the Jets and the Bills had a pretty good game themselves in their second meeting this season. Buffalo embarrassed the Jets in their first meeting at the Meadowlands, 41-10, and looked to be on their way to doing the same when this game started.

The Bills jumped out to a 14-3 lead as a result of a Josh Allen 6-yard touchdown run on the opening drive, and another touchdown run from Isaiah McKenzie from 15 yards out with 1:07 remaining in the 1st quarter. The Jets were not interested in another blowout loss, however. After a Stephen Hauschka field goal gave the Bills a 17-6 lead with 7:14 remaining in the first half, the Jets Andre Roberts took the following kickoff 86 yards down to the Buffalo 8-yard line. New York would take advantage with a Trenton Cannon 4-yard touchdown run to pull within 4 at halftime.

With the game tied at 20 late in the 4th quarter, it appeared that Hauschka had given the Bills the game-winning field goal with 2:31 remaining, but the Jets quickly marched down the field on their next possession. Facing 4th-and-goal from the Buffalo one-yard line, the Jets elected to go for it, and it paid off with an Elijah McGuire touchdown score.

On the Bills final possession, the Jets sealed the game when Trumaine Johnson intercepted Allen’s pass originally intended for Zay Jones. With neither team headed for a playoff run, this game was nothing more than bragging rights within the division. The Jets got their redemption from their previous loss to Buffalo, but it hurts some in terms of their draft status for next season. However, the Raiders, 49ers, and Lions, all won in their respective games as well so it doesn’t affect their status all that much. The Jets will next host the Texans on Saturday.

Buffalo Bills

After a dominating performance at New York, followed by an impressive home win against Jacksonville, which was nearly followed by an upset victory at Miami, this was a disappointing loss for Buffalo. A team that they had beat on the road by 31 points just came into their house 3 games later, and beat them on their home turf. It was a battle between two rookie quarterbacks, and it showed that each needs extensive work with their respective teams.

Josh Allen is leading Buffalo with his rushing ability, but his accuracy as a quarterback remains an issue. It will be interesting to see if he can fix his woes, although accuracy is a tough thing for coaches to teach a young quarterback. Allen has shown, however, that he understands he has accuracy issues, and therefore, has become a pivotal threat with his legs. He had yet another 100-yard rushing performance this week, finishing with 101 yards on the ground from 9 carries, and a score. He’s now averaged 111.3 yards rushing per game in the last three games.

The Bills slim playoff hopes are gone now, however, as the team will try to play spoiler for the remaining three games. Buffalo draws Detroit next, who isn’t much better in terms of record. This game is likely to have more of an impact on draft seeding than anything else.