Still playoff long shots, Dolphins need another miracle
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Now the Miami Dolphins will try to pull off another miracle.
After beating New England with a pass and double lateral on the final play, the Dolphins are 7-6 and could use some more magic in the next three weeks to make the playoffs.
Coach Adam Gase figures his Dolphins probably need to sweep their remaining games — at Minnesota, home against Jacksonville and at Buffalo — to earn an AFC wild-card berth.
But when asked Monday if he’s optimistic, Gase grinned.
“I’d better be,” he said. “We just won a game that ... I like where we’re at. We’re alive.”
The Dolphins saved their season with the play borrowed from Boise State and thus called “Boise.” Kenyan Drake took the last lateral and ran 52 yards to complete a 69-yard score for a 34-33 victory .
The last player Drake eluded was 6-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose lumbering presence at the back of the Patriots’ prevent defense prompted plenty of second-guessing in Boston and elsewhere.
“I saw it was Gronk in front of me, and I was just like, ‘Look, I’ve got somewhere to be,’” Drake said. “I had to get in the end zone.”
For long-suffering fans, it was a moment to savor — the first time in the Dolphins’ 52-year history they won a game with a TD and no time left in regulation.
“I’ve witnessed in person a lot of great sports moments in my life, but as far as football goes, I can’t say I have EVER seen anything quite like that!” tweeted Jack Nicklaus, who is the grandfather of Dolphins tight end Nick O’Leary but better known for his own sporting dramas. “Fantastic Fin-ish! Wow. WOW! Go Fins!”
As a result of the improbable win, the Dolphins are unlikely playoff race participants.
They’ve been outgained by 1,177 yards and outscored by 55 points, and rank 29th in the NFL in both offense and defense. But only five AFC teams have a better record, and they’re tied with three other teams in the race for the last wild-card berth.
The challenge now for the Dolphins is to build on their miracle.
“It means nothing if we don’t finish the season strong and find our way into the playoffs,” receiver Kenny Stills said.
Gase was so ready to move on he turned off his phone soon after the game and ignored incoming congratulatory messages.
“I was working on Minnesota,” he said, a little sheepishly.
As preparations began, quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed good mobility in the team complex less than 24 hours after the win. He played the second half against New England with an injured right ankle .
“He’s sore,” Gase said. “He’s walking around, so that’s good.”
The Dolphins also hope AFC interception leader Xavien Howard can play after missing the Patriots game because of a left knee injury, but his status is uncertain.
Tannehill has a passer rating of 129.9 in three games since returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for five games. His 105.7 rating for the season ranks sixth in the NFL.
“He has played the way we need him to play these last few games,” Gase said.
Tannehill was credited with three touchdown passes against the Patriots, including on the final play when his toss to Stills covered the first 14 yards before rugby broke out.
The play kept the Dolphins relevant, at least for another week, Tannehill said.
“We know the situation we’re in,” he said. “Before this game we’re sitting at 6-6 and on the outside looking in. We know every game from here on out is pretty much do or die.”
The Dolphins remain long shots. But after what happened Sunday, it might to unwise to count them out.
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine.