Did you get all turned around watching the final quarter of the Miami Dolphins’ improbable, jaw-dropping comeback victory against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday night? Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick sure did in Miami’s 26-25 thrilling win.
“Obviously, everyone was really excited playing a game like that. A meaningful game for us and them. Look, there’s ups and downs and ebbs and flows within the game. It was a lot of excitement in the locker room,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said. “Guys are fired up. It’s a good group. They want to perform for one another and we were able to pull this one out and make enough plays to win.”
A Dolphins Loss Would Severely Hinder Playoff Chances
Trailing by two points with just 19 seconds remaining and pinned at its own 25-yard line, Miami looked to be seconds away from losing its grasp on destiny to secure a playoff wild card position.
The Dolphins, who sat in the No. 7 and final wild card spot entering Saturday, realistically need to win their final three games to make the postseason dance. A loss to Las Vegas put them on the outside looking in and around a 25-percent chance to make the playoffs heading into the NFL’s final week based on other hopeful team’s remaining matchups.
But, Fitzpatrick, who replaced starting rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter had other ideas. He said “You didn’t nickname me ‘Fitzmagic’ for nothing” (probably).
Miami’s Win Probability in Single Digits with 19 Seconds to Play
On the first play from scrimmage on Miami’s final drive Fitzpatrick launched a pass deep down the left sideline to unguarded wide receiver Mack Hollins. Hollins, who had dropped two crucial targets earlier in the game, including a late go-ahead touchdown, easily secured the pass and fell out of bounds to stop the clock at midfield.
Big whoop right? You have one more play.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Makes Greatest No-Look Pass in NFL History, Jason Sanders Hits Game-Winner
Fitzpatrick was ROCKED on the play. Defensive end Arden Key was flagged for roughing the passer after ripping Fitzpatrick’s facemask back to turn his head halfway around. The play 34-yard completion turned into 49 yards to already put Miami in the most improbable of field goal ranges.
To run down the clock, the Dolphins attempted to gain a few more yards to make kicker Jason Sanders‘ FG attempt a little closer. But, with no one open, Fitzpatrick threw it away.
With six seconds remaining Sanders sent his FG try right down the middle from 44 yards out for the 26-25 lead.
After keeping the kickoff out of the end zone, the Raiders’ special teams couldn’t advance the ball to pull off a miracle of their own and the one-point Dolphins’ lead would go final.
“I think the odds were pretty low there of us to be able to complete something with the proper yardage and not have to throw a Hail Mary but actually kick a field goal. I didn’t know that it was complete,” Fitzpatrick said. “As you guys saw, my facemask was getting pulled and my head was getting ripped off. I turned around to say ‘Hey, facemask,’ just to make sure they saw it. I think Jesse Davis, or maybe Myles (Gaskin) had to tell me that it was complete, but I didn’t know that we completed it.”
Las Vegas’ stunning loss would officially eliminate them from the postseason chance and would set Miami up for a plethora of clinching scenarios heading into week 17.
“They were going to be in two-high safeties, playing pretty soft. We had Mike (Gesicki) going right down the pipe and a 20-yard in-cut coming behind him. I just wanted to see what that safety on the left was going to do. I tried to make him believe that I was throwing it to Mike,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was a desperation throw, but I was going to put it on the sideline to Mack and just hope for good things. In that case, really you’re throwing up a prayer a little bit and along with the facemask, it ended up being awesome for us.”
One of the Wildest Fourth Quarters in NFL this Season
The fourth quarter in this game was filled with much more drama before the game’s final drive to add to the improbability.
“Everybody knows ‘Fitz.’ He’s just a different type of guy. I think it was a changeup, but it was coach’s call, so I think everybody just kept on grinding and finally things started to hit. You never know in a game, that’s why you have to take it one play at a time,” Gaskin said.
The game featured relatively quiet nights from both sides failing on third down conversions and numerous punts thanks to missed opportunities. But the fourth quarter showed a flip of a switch.
To answer, Gaskin scored his second receiving TD of the night on a 59-yard dump and chase. Miami would take the lead on the play, 23-22, after Sanders connected on the extra point. Raiders’ kicker Daniel Carlson missed his try on the scoring drive prior.
“This time I got spun around after the catch, and I saw my dogs out there, Mack (Hollins) and Mike (Gesicki). I saw Mike’s block, I didn’t really see Mack’s block. He told me about it though. It was great,” Gaskin said. “We’re just always grinding, always trying to make plays. You don’t always have to have the ball in your hands to make plays. It doesn’t happen without them two.”
Here’s Where Things Got Dicey
Miami’s defense came to play again, not allowing Las Vegas to convert a single third down in the game and applying all kinds of pressure to Carr. On a second-and-six from the Raiders own 26, Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones was penalized for a questionable pass interference call that moved the ball all the way to Miami’s own 22-yard line.
A Las Vegas team that was reeling was suddenly knocking on the door and was gifted with a chip-shot FG.
Field Goals Were the Game Script
Earlier in the game, all the teams seemed to be able to do was trade FGs as neither could make it deep enough in the other’s territory to reach the red zone. Both Miami and Las Vegas had two FGs in the first and second halves. Neither team was also ever up by more than one possession as the Raiders led 13-6 at the half.
With two struggling offenses, Flores decided to pull Tagovailoa after going 17-for-22 for 94 yards and one TD in three quarters. Fitzpatrick ended up nearly doubling Tagovailoa in his minutes of play, completing nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and the long TD to Gaskin.
Carr on the other hand finished with a lot of yards (336) but not a lot of production on a 21-for-34 night.
In his first game back off the COVID-19/Injured Reserve list, Gaskin finished as Miami’s leading receiver and rusher. He eventually game-scripted supposed-to-be committee partner Salvon Ahmed out of the game and finished with 87 yards on 14 rushes despite barely playing in the first quarter. He also added 82 yards through the air on five receptions (five targets).
For Las Vegas, it was Agholor who burned the Dolphins on the stat sheet thanks to his long TD, but in reality it was monster tight end Darren Waller who did the most damage. Safety Eric Rowe was put in another impossible man-on-man situation guarding him, and although he came up with some astounding pass breakups, Waller got the better of him on the night. Waller finished with 112 yards on five catches, but surprisingly no TDs thanks to Rowe. Agholor finished with 155 yards on five catches. Each had six targets.
RB Josh Jacobs was held to 69 yards on the ground on 13 carries.
Dolphins Can Clinch Playoffs with Win in Buffalo
The Dolphins will clinch a playoff spot with a win in Buffalo in week 17. They have the easiest remaining clinching scenario out of the final five 10-5 teams fighting for the three wild card spots, but do have the toughest matchup.
“I want to go. I want to feel what it’s like. I think we have a special team. I think this team all year long has fought,” Fitzpatrick said. “And for me, it’s not just this year, it’s the last two years and trying to build this foundation and build this vision of what Coach Flores thinks that we are. I’m proud of (that) fact.”
Buffalo has already won the AFC East and doesn’t gain much from playing their starters in the league’s final week. It could go into week 17 tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but if the two have the same record at the end of the regular season Buffalo will still earn its current No. 3 seed based on tiebreaker between the clubs. With only the top seed in each conference earning a first-round bye, Buffalo cannot win the bye.
Miami may face backups in its third and final clinching game, but FPC Dolphins will update on this developing story as the week ensues.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also a co-host on the Full Press Fantasy Podcast. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.