Here are five takeaways from the Miami Dolphins’ (10-5) 26-25 last-second victory over the Las Vegas Raiders (7-8).
1. Fear and loathing in Las Vegas…
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa have a very unique relationship. Both players accept their positions and roles on the team, humbly. Both believe in the system and respect the decisions that their coaches make, like who’s going to start and who’s going to finish. They work together through this Honeymoon phase of what will possibly be the next decade-plus of the Tua/ Dolphins relationship. For now, they have each other’s backs and it shows.
Tagovailoa struggled to move the ball and held onto it far too long against the Raiders. It was surprisingly the run game that kept the score close. That and Miami’s tough red zone defense.
Tua, after going 17 of 22 for 94 yards and one touchdown, had Miami within three points, and head coach Brian Flores had to make yet another tough call to create an offensive spark. It seemed like the Dolphins’ defense was one big play away from losing what small grip they had on keeping the game close and Coach Flo knew it. Sometimes, even a honeymoon in Vegas needs a spark.
2. Honeymoon in Vegas…
In comes Fitzpatrick to try and provide a spark. And so he did, leading Miami down the field for a game-tying field goal. But then, the inevitable happened. The Dolphins’ defense let that one play get by. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr got over on Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones and hit Nelson Agholor for an 85-yard touchdown. This is when things got really interesting. The last four-plus minutes from then on out was nothing short of insane.
On the next series, 1st and 10 from the Miami 41, running back Myles Gaskin, who had been inactive for Miami’s previous two games (COVID-19 list) broke loose down the sideline for a 59-yard score. On the Raiders’ previous score, Vegas kicker Daniel Carlson missed an extra point that I absolutely knew would play key at the end of the game. This allowed Miami the scoring edge as momentum swung back and forth.
3. What happens in Vegas…
What happened in Vegas? Gaskin finally had a breakout game, that’s what. With 169 total yards, Gaskin showed he wanted a little of the action teammate Salvon Ahmed saw after a huge game against the Patriots last week.
Rushing 14 times for 87 yards while adding five receptions for 82 yards and two scores, the run game has greatly improved as of late. With the playoffs looming and the receiving core missing key players, the timing couldn’t be better for Miami’s ground game to get on a roll.
4. Rain Man…
Miami’s Dustin Hoffman, aka Rain Man, comes in the form of the NFL’s best special teams unit, and it’s not even close. Between forcing turnovers, scores and precision “trick plays” when one unit struggles, the Dolphins have two more fully capable of getting the job done. Miami’s special teams were led by Mr. Ice in his Veins himself, Jason Sanders, who kicked a 44-yard game-winner against Las Vegas – the fourth game-winning kick of his career.
Miami’s special teams unit also turned to ‘The Gambler’ himself, crazy ol’ Clayton Fejedelem, who caught the Raiders special teams sleeping on a fake punt on 4th down where he took it right up the middle for a 22-yard gain and a first down. With a stone-cold poker face, they’re a fun bunch to watch. Definitely an Ace in the hole for Miami.
5. The Hangover…
Perhaps the most significant play was Vegas kicker Daniel Carlson sailing an extra point wide right to give Miami a scoring edge. Or maybe it was the return of the Mack? After dropping a sure touchdown or at least setting Miami up at the half-yard line, Mack Hollins found himself on an island in Vegas’ backfield while Fitzpatrick, staring down at the turf, the victim of a face mask, somehow blindly tossed a pass to Hollins exact coordinates on the field. Either way, this loss hurt the Raiders and the Hangover will last until next season. For the second week in a row, Miami has eliminated an opponent from the playoffs.
Keeping Miami in the chase for a spot and winning this way puts the Dolphins even more on the NFL’s radar as a threat that can’t be overlooked. Miami is quickly becoming a thorn in the NFL’s side, or possibly an Indecent Proposal.