The Dolphins move into last place in the playoffs with a bold win in Week 18

The Dolphins move into last place in the playoffs with a bold win in Week 18

The Dolphins move into last place in the playoffs with a bold win in Week 18

On a day when on-court play didn’t quite reflect the stakes, the Miami Dolphins did enough.

“Enough” is the key word, because it was neither an impressive performance nor a memorable game. What could be memorable was Jason Sanders’ 50-yard field goal with just seconds left, which split the posts perfectly and put the Dolphins into a 9-6 lead. Thirty seconds later, securing a sideline loss gave them an 11-6 win – an odd final score reflecting an odd season finale.

It was ugly, but it was enough to break a five-game losing streak and send Miami to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

“That’s been our goal all year,” said third-rate quarterback Skylar Thompson, who has been forced out by injuries. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs – some tough patches, some really good patches. I’m very proud of this team and the way we came together last week.”

Yes, the Dolphins finish the winners in the logjam of three teams battling for the seventh and final berth in the AFC Playoffs. On an emotional day in Buffalo, the Bills defeated the Patriots to open the door to divisional rivals. When that door opened, the Dolphins went through it, setting up a third version of the Bills-Dolphins next week in the playoffs after both teams split their season series.

The question is what will happen next. Tua Tagovailoa’s status has been shrouded in uncertainty since reporting a concussion following a 26-20 defeat to Green Bay on Christmas Day. There’s bound to be speculation about whether he could make a playoff return – or whether it would be prudent as he’s suffered multiple concussions already this season.

Something similar can be said for the typical backup Teddy Bridgewater, who struggles with a small sprain in his throwing arm.

For a franchise that has dealt with quarterback speculation all season, things should feel familiar as you prepare for your trip to Buffalo.

It all sounds very epic and very important – which quite comically emphasizes that this game was no different. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Dolphins and Jets just played one of the most memorable games of the entire 2022 season.

On one sideline was Thompson, a draft rookie entering his second career as Teddy Bridgewater also lost with injury shortly after Tagovailoa. On the other side, Joe Flacco, possibly making his last start after a career of 15 years and playing the musical quarterback chair during a disappointing Jets season.

The game reflected this simple paragraph. Trying to protect Thompson as much as possible, the Dolphins focused heavily on the ground game, asking Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. for carrying a load, reaching 162 yards on 32 connected carriers.

It worked well enough, though in stark contrast to the dolphin season story. Gone are the quick strikes and explosive plays as Jaylen Waddle and the limping Tyreek Hill combined for seven catches and 67 yards. When Miami managed to take the field, which was rare, it came in the form of 10 and 15 possessions – the kind that bleed minutes and resulted in field goal attempts.

Grim as it may have been, the Jets must have been jealous. Flacco made a valiant effort given the complete lack of a running game that worked. But throwing the ball to rookie Garrett Wilson was literally the only New York strategy that worked. Wilson was the only Jets receiver to finish with more than two catches, gaining 89 yards on as many as nine catches.

Memorable, no. But fortunately for the Dolphins, it didn’t have to be that way. This was enough to keep the season going for at least another week. And as they try to set the stage for a better playoff performance, they’ll have Skylar Thompson and a rough, ugly effort to thank for their presence in the postseason.

Highlights from FOX Sports:

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. Prior to that, he spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys on the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion, a Mississippi quarterback production. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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