MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – Call it the Miracle in Miami Gardens.
Facing certain defeat and against all odds, the Miami Dolphins pulled off a two-lateral desperation play with no time on the clock to shock the AFC East leading New England Patriots 34-33 on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
The win keeps Miami, now at 7-6, squarely in the running for the AFC’s final playoff spot.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a superb game for the Dolphins, completing 14 of 19 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 155.1.
Tannehill played half the game on a banged up right ankle after it was stepped on late in the first half by right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
After leaving the game and heading to Miami’s locker room a few plays before halftime, Tannehill emerged for the second half with two freshly taped ankles.
“I was trying to spin out of the pocket and somebody stepped on my ankle, rolled it pretty good,” Tannehill explained. “Came in, got X-rays. Looked good, so taped it up, buttoned it up tight and got back out there for the second half.”
He briefly tested out the ankle before concluding that it was good enough to keep playing.
While he was seen limping on the sidelines and in-between plays, there was never a noticeable drop off in Tannehill’s mobility or overall play, which is impressive because you could see by the looks on his face that he was playing through pain.
“Honestly, it feels like crap, but it is what it is,” Tannehill said after the game. “You’ve got to be able to fight through some things like that. Training staff did a good job of tightening it up and giving me a wrap and a spat and felt good enough to go.”
Tannehill’s third touchdown of the game was the difference maker.
Training 33-28, with just seven seconds on the clock, no timeouts and Miami’s offense staring at 69 yards of gridiron in front of it, Tannehill hit Kenny Stills on a comeback route about 15 yards down the field.
Stills made a quick move towards the middle of the field before pitching the ball outside to DeVante Parker.
Parker ran about five yards up the field and then tossed the ball to a streaking Kenyan Drake along the Patriots sideline.
“Obviously, in a situation [like that], you never know what would happen,” Drake said. “It was just by the grace of God we were able to hold our composure and just make a play.”
After making a couple moves back towards the inside of the field, Drake picked up a great block from guard Ten Larsen that set him loose.
All he had to do was beat Rob Gronkowski to the pylon, something that Drake, even on the final play of a long, grueling game, could do fairly easily.
“Drake runs a 4.3 and Gronk probably runs like a 4.6 or 4.7, so feel good about that match up,” Tannehill said.
“When I got up Gronk and I saw nobody else behind me, I knew I couldn’t get caught from behind and Gronk was the only person in front of me so I had to get in the end zone,” said Drake.
And he did get in the end zone, with triple zeros showing on the clock and no flags on the field.
Dolphins 34 Patriots 33, final score.
“We are 7-6 right now, we still have an uphill battle,” Drake said. “We have to continue to be very gritty, hard-nosed, never-say-die attitude, and continue to get these wins.”
After the game, head coach Adam Gase said that while they do practice those kind of plays during the week, it’s rare when you see one called on Sunday.
He credited the players for staying focused and running it perfectly, which is also a testament to the work of special teams coach Darren Rizzi.
“We executed it,” Gase said with a laugh. “You have to something for those kind of situations. We work on them every Friday and Saturday and it’s boring because you might go three years without calling them and those guys stuck with it, especially this year, and they executed that one for sure.”
WELCOME BACK KENNY
Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills had a big game for the Dolphins but it was nearly overshadowed by two crucial mistakes during Miami’s final two possessions (before the miracle play).
On a 2nd & 16 with 12:03 to go and the Dolphins leading 28-27, Stills inexplicably slid to a stop while running upfield just one yard short of reaching the first down marker.
Ryan Tannehill would get sacked on third down when the Dolphins tried running a play action pass.
On Miami’s next possession, this time trailing 30-28, Stills dropped a pass on 3rd & 4 that went right through his hands.
Stills finished with 8 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game since Week 1 against Tennessee.
Stills has now caught touchdowns in consecutive games after catching just one over the previous seven weeks.
“We take pride in playing good football at home,” Stills said afterwards. “Obviously we’ve got to be able to do it on the road too, but we’ve just got to come together as a team, as a unit, believing in each other, trusting each other and you can tell out there on the field.”
With Frank Gore leading the way, Miami ran for 189 yards on just 21 carries, an impressive average of 9.0 yards per run.
With revenge likely on his mind, former Patriots running back Brandon Bolden made the most of his limited opportunities.
Bolden carried the ball only twice but scored on both carries, the first one coming on a 54-yard gallop in which he showed am amazing burst of speed.
Gore led all players, picking up 92 yards on 12 carries, which included a 36-yard run on Miami’s opening drive.
“We’re taking one game at a time,” Gore said. “We’re looking at every game from here on out, even today, as a playoff game. We fought hard last week to beat the Bills, came back this week against the Patriots and got it done. At this time, you need some luck on your side. We’re just going to keep fighting, keep believing in our coaches, keep standing as one and we’ll see what happens.”
STARTING OFF STRONG
Speaking of the Dolphins first drive, Gore and Tannehill marched Miami right down the field for a touchdown.
It was the third straight game that the Dolphins scored a touchdown on their opening drive. It was also the third straight game Miami has had Tannehill back under center after he missed five games with a shoulder injury.
The last time Miami opened three straight games with a touchdown was in 1998, with a guy named Dan Marino running the offense.
20 years is a long time.
Something that will not be overlooked by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick this week are the points that New England left on the field.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, normally as reliable as they come, misfired twice on Sunday.
He hit the upright on an extra point attempt during the Pats first possession of the game and then pushed a 42-yard field goal wide right on their first time with the ball after halftime.
Gostkowski would’ve liked to get an attempt at the end of the first half but Tom Brady took an ill-advised sack in the red zone as time expired.
The play began with 14 seconds left but New England had no timeouts, so the sack took away any chance for the Pats to stop the clock and get the field goal team on the field.