The Miami Dolphins secured their ninth win of the season as they eliminated the New England Patriots out of playoff contention. The Fins beat the Pats 22-12 in Miami as the running game was the difference.
This leaves the Miami still in the playoff position with just two games left. Any slip-ups could see the Baltimore Ravens sneak in.
If they win both games, the Dolphins make the postseason.
How The Miami Dolphins’ Won The Game
Salvon Ahmed became Miami’s first 100 rusher in two years as he recorded 122 yards and one rushing touchdown.
His longest run was for 31 yards. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ leading rusher yesterday was Sony Michel (74) but crucially his longest run was for 17 yards. Matt Breida also had his best game in a Dolphins jersey, with 86 rushing yards.
The Patriots had no rushing touchdowns whereas the Dolphins had three, with two of those coming from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
This is where the run game was effective from head coach Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Injury to New England’s cornerback Stephon Gilmore certainly gave Miami a lift. When last season’s Defensive Player of the Year went off injured, the game was tight, with the Dolphins 6-0 down in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Dolphins were once again effective as they restricted the New England Patriots to just four field goals. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the only team to allow fewer points this season than this Miami team.
In the reverse fixture in week 1, the Dolphins ran for just 40 yards and threw for three interceptions. They also allowed three rushing touchdowns from the Patriots.
This shows how far Miami have come this season when you compare the rushing yardage and the run defense in both games.
Tua’s Second Half Improvement
Tua Tagovailoa showed signs of improvement as the game goes on, which has been a trend this season. Tua, as he did in the Chiefs loss, was much better in the second half.
He started well, getting the Fins to the end zone in the second Dolphins possession. The drive would end with an interception, just his second of his NFL career, J.C. Jackson getting his eighth interception of the season. The Patriots put pressure on Tua and the rookie attempted to find Bowden, but instead found the New England cornerback.
Tua did not have the passing yardage he would have wanted (145) but he got the two crucial aforementioned rushing touchdowns.
Miami were down 9-7 early on in the fourth and it was 3rd and Goal.
In the shotgun formation, Tua managed to escape pressure and scramble towards the end zone, getting over the line and giving the Dolphins the lead.
Tua would also get his other rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak to seal the game for the Miami Dolphins.
Miami’s Creative Side
There were a couple of clever plays, one which was brought back and one which earned the Fins a two-point conversion.
On 4th and 7, punter Matt Haack faked a punt and threw to Kamu Grugier-Hill who caught at the 30-yard line. This was cancelled out as he was not reported as an eligible receiver.
Miami also showed their creative side with a hook and lateral on a two-point conversion. After Tua’s first rushing touchdown, the rookie quarterback found Isaiah Ford, before Ford found Ahmed who found the end zone for the extra two points.
The Future Of The AFC East
The Buffalo Bills are AFC East champions for the first time in 25 years. With the Patriots missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season, the division is experiencing a changeup that has long been overdue.
The last time we saw two teams from the AFC East make it to the playoffs that were not New England was in the 2000 season. Miami and the Indianapolis Colts made it to the postseason. Indianapolis are no longer in the division, which shows how long it has been.
Miami are looking to make this a reality. They face the Las Vegas Raiders next before they face the Bills on the final game week of the regular season.
With the form the Bills are in, Miami will hope that Buffalo will rest some key players ahead of the playoffs or that they catch them on an off day. With eighth seed Baltimore Ravens on the same wins as the Dolphins, this adds more pressure on the last two games.