MIAMI GARDENS — The Mispanmi Dolphins spanre hespanded to the NFL plspanyoffs for the second time in 14 seasons because of a dramatic 11-6 home win against the New York Jets Sunday and a Patriots’ loss to the Bills.
Mired in a five-game losing streak, the Dolphins needed both events to happen to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016.
They did their part, seizing the victory on kicker Jason Sanders’ 50-yard field goal with 23 seconds left and a safety on the game’s final play. Minutes later, the Bills beat the Patriots 35-23 to give the Dolphins the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC with a 9-8 record.
The Dolphins will play at the Buffalo Bills next weekend with date and time TBD.
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According to website FiveThirtyEight, the Dolphins started Sunday with a 38 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they won, that would rise to 83 percent, according to the website.
Though the Dolphins needed help to accomplish the feat, they put themselves in position by grinding out a win against their hated AFC East rival despite not scoring a touchdown with third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson starting in place of injured Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater.
They didn’t need to reach the end zone with their defense keeping the reeling Jets, who lost their sixth consecutive game, from scoring a touchdown for the third consecutive game.
Here are the takeaways from Sunday’s win:
Injuries hampered Dolphins offense further
Already forced to start backups at quarterback and left tackle — Greg Little filled in for injured Terron Armstead (toe, pec knee, hip) — the Dolphins’ offense lost receiver Tyreek Hill (ankle) and left guard Liam Eichenberg (arm) to injuries Sunday.
Hill, who was hurt in the second quarter, returned after halftime, as did Eichenberg, who went down during the Dolphins’ opening drive of the third quarter. Robert Jones took Eichenberg’s spot next to Little in his absence.
The Dolphins’ line surrendered just one sack, a takedown by Quincy Williams for a 12-yard loss after the offense advanced to midfield in the final minute of the first half.
Prior to his injury, Hill caught two passes for 23 yards — both for first downs. His second grab, for 15 yards near the sideline, came with the Dolphins facing third down at their own 8-yard line.
Hill was on the field for the Jets’ final punt but did not get an opportunity to make a return.
Jevon Holland was given that job Sunday with top returner Cedric Wilson inactive because of a hip injury.
Tight ends step up to help Thompson
With Hill out and the Jets keyed on Jaylen Waddle, Thompson utilized tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe in the passing game.
Gesicki, who entered the game with just 28 catches for 316 yards with five touchdowns this season, caught four passes for 46 yards, including a 32-yard grab to the Jets’ 46 in the fourth quarter. Smythe had three catches for 39 yards, including a 26-yard reception.
The Dolphins’ offense failed to produce many points with Thompson under center, but the rookie was efficient, completing 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards with no interceptions.
Chubb fails to make an impact … again
Knowing a low-scoring game was likely, the Dolphins’ defense was stout as needed.
They contained the Jets’ rushing attack and limited veteran quarterback Joe Flacco’s impact, allowing just one big play — a 31-yard completion to Garrett Wilson late in the half in which Xavien Howard, Jevon Holland and Elandon Roberts all missed tackles.
However, linebacker Bradley Chubb had another quiet game. Playing with hand and ankle injuries, Chubb had no tackles and just one quarterback hurry through the first three quarters.
Chubb said this past week he has been “fizzling” since a strong start following his in-season trade from the Broncos and that he hoped to improve on his performance the past three games, which included just one sack, four tackles and five quarterback hits.
The Dolphins’ entire defense failed to get a sack Sunday. Linebacker Jaelen Phillips entered needing one to become the first player in Dolphins history with at least eight sacks in his first two NFL seasons.
Dolphins, Mike McDaniel finally win a challenge
It took 16 games, three quarters, and eight minutes and 23 seconds, but Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel finally won a challenge — and it was a huge one.
McDaniel, who was 0-for-5 on challenges this season, including a failed attempt in the third quarter Sunday, successfully challenged an apparent 9-yard catch by Wilson that would have given the Jets fourth-and-2 at the Dolphins’ 42.
McDaniel tossed the red flag, contending that the ball hit the ground before Wilson possessed it, and officials overturned the call on the field after review, forcing the Jets to punt the ball away.
Earlier, McDaniel challenged the ruling that Wilson was down by contact after a 13-yard completion, but it was upheld.
Mostert, Wilson formed a formidable pair
The Dolphins needed their rushing attack to produce yards and take some pressure off Thompson, and Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson did just that.
Mostert rushed for a game-high 72 yards on 14 carries before being sidelined with a thumb injury in the second half and Wilson had 11 carries for 71 yards.
Wilson’s most crucial carry was a run around right end on fourth-and-5 from the Jets’ 41-yard line on the Dolphins’ first possession of the second half. Two plays later, Wilson rushed around the left side for 21 points, helping set up Sanders’ go-ahead 37-yard field goal. Earlier in the drive, Mostert raced 14 yards and 11 yards on consecutive carries.