The Miami Dolphins came from behind in the final quarter for a second week in a row on Sunday and held off a late comeback attempt from New England to down the Patriots 24-20. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak to New England and was Miami’s first win over the Patriots in more than four years.
With the victory, Miami improved to 8-6 and for the moment, the Dolphins hold a half game lead over the Baltimore Ravens for the final wild card spot in the AFC. The win also eclipsed Miami’s win total from a season ago and ensured the Dolphins’ first non-losing season since 2008.
Depending on what Baltimore does on Monday night in Detroit, the Dolphins could wrap up a playoff spot as early as next week. Miami will travel to Buffalo in what will be the Dolphins’ final road game of the season. On Sunday however, the Dolphins grabbed a much-needed win over the New England Patriots. Looking back on another thriller, here were the good, bad and ugly from Sunday:
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed for 312 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown passes on Sunday. It marked the third three-touchdown performance of the season for Tannehill and second in as many weeks. The 300-yard effort was Tannehill’s fifth of the season and Tannehill did not throw an interception for the first time since a victory over Cincinnati on Halloween.
The third and final of Tannehill’s three touchdown passes turned out to be the game-winner as Tannehill found Marcus Thigpen from 14 yards away with 1:15 remaining in the contest. The touchdown was the first offensive score of Thigpen’s career and marked Miami’s fourth comeback win in the final quarter this season including the second in as many weeks.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace had a big day for Miami finishing with six catches for 105 yards and a 39-yard touchdown right before the half that gave the Dolphins momentum heading into the locker room. After just one touchdown catch in his first 10 games as a Dolphin, Wallace now has three in the last four weeks.
After allowing five straight opponents to run for over 100 yards, the Miami defense held the opposing offense below the century mark on the ground for the third straight week as the Patriots finished with 96 yards rushing. New England however, did average a respectable 4.4 yards-per-carry.
With New England driving to win the game in the final seconds, Michael Thomas’ first career interception sealed the Miami victory and kept the Dolphins’ streak alive of forcing at least one turnover in every game this season.
The Miami defense also did a good job of holding tight near the goal line. The Patriots had two drives of over 80 yards and seven minutes and each resulted in just three points. Miami showed good discipline as well committing just four penalties for 21 yards.
The Dolphins have now held their opponents to 20 points or fewer in each of their last four homes games. With the 24-20 victory, the Dolphins improved to 5-4 in games decided by four points or less and 6-4 in games decided by six points or less on the season.
Tight end Charles Clay was uncharacteristically quiet on Sunday finishing with just one catch for six yards. That catch however, did come on a 4th-and-5 which resulted in a first down and set up the winning score for the Dolphins less than two minutes later.
The Miami offensive front struggled once again in pass protection as Tannehill was sacked four times. The four sacks was the most given up by the Dolphins since a 20-16 win over San Diego on November 17th. Tannehill has now been sacked a NFL-high 51 times in 2013.
Defensively, the Dolphins got to New England quarterback Tom Brady just once on Sunday and were dismal when it came to getting off the field on third down. Cameron Wake recorded the lone sack for Miami while the Dolphins allowed New England to convert on nine of their 17 third down conversion attempts.
The Miami defense also allowed the opposing quarterback to throw for well over 300 yards for a second straight week. After Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger threw for 349 yards a week ago, New England’s Tom Brady passed for 364 and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday against a banged up secondary.
In what could have been a 10-point swing, the Dolphins let a scoring opportunity slip away late in the first half. With the Patriots leading 3-0, Caleb Sturgis came out to attempt a 41-yard field goal. Punter and holder Brandon Fields was not ready for the snap and was hit in the helmet by long snapper John Denney resulting in Miami’s only turnover of the day.
New England would convert the miscue into a touchdown going 69 yards in seven plays to take a 10-0 lead. Fortunately for the Dolphins, the long touchdown pass to Mike Wallace late in the first half pulled Miami to within three a the break, but the unforced error served as a big momentum swing and could have proved disastrous.