In a wild final 10 minutes, the Miami Dolphins benched their quarterback, committed a critical defensive penalty and allowed an 85-yard TD.
And they won, 26-25, saving their playoff hopes in what has been a miraculous season, moving their record to 10-5.
The Las Vegas Raiders, who fell to 7-8, appeared to be ready to beat Miami and remain in the playoff race after Daniel Carlson’s field goal gave them a 25-22 lead with 19 seconds left.
But the Raiders committed a terrible face mask penalty and allowed a 34-yard catch in the final seconds to improbably blow the lead.
Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced a healthy Tua Tagovailoa with just under 10 minutes left and the Dolphins down 16-13. And all Fitzpatrick did in three drives was throw for 182 yards and a TD, keeping Miami’s playoff hopes very much alive.
Tagovailoa completed 17 of 22 passes, threw for a TD and didn’t turn the ball over. But he compiled only 94 passing yards on safe, short passes and took three drive-ending sacks.
That’s when Dolphins head coach Brian Flores had seen enough. For the second time this season, Flores yanked Tua and went with Fitzpatrick.
The move and the timing were interesting to say the least, considering the close game. Flores’ gut has served him well in what could be a Coach of the Year campaign. He’d be proven right again Saturday.
It wouldn’t be the last controversial coaching decision in the game.
Fitzpatrick nearly doubled Tagovailoa’s numbers in the final 10 minutes, completing nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a 59-yard TD to Myles Gaskin that gave Miami a 23-22 lead. The Raiders had taken the lead moments earlier on Nelson Agholor’s sidewinding 85-yard score, but kicker Daniel Carlson botched the extra-point try.
Did Jon Gruden blow it?
The Raiders still looked to be in great shape to win the game. Agholor drew a pass-interference call that netted 49 yards against the Dolphins’ Byron Jones with just over two minutes remaining.
Josh Jacobs could have scored a touchdown with about 40 seconds left but went down intentionally just shy of the goal line. Had the Raiders scored, they’d have gone up by more than a field goal. The Dolphins were out of timeouts, and the Raiders ran the clock down to the 19-second mark.
That’s when Carlson looked to be the hero, atoning for his earlier miss. His 22-yard field goal gave Las Vegas a 25-23 lead in the team’s final home game of the season, with its playoff hopes still on life support.
Jon Gruden admitted after the game that the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes was in his head when he made the call to play for three instead of six.
#Raiders Gruden acknowledged that Patrick Mahomes driving down to score a touchdown to beat them in Las Vegas on Nov. 22 was on his mind, which is why he milked the clock as much as he could and settled for the field goal.
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) December 27, 2020
The Raiders instead pulled a Chargers, if you will.
With 12 seconds left, Fitzpatrick fired a rainbow pass downfield that somehow found its way into the hands of a wide-open Mack Hollins for 34 yards. On top of that, the Raiders’ Arden Key blatantly grabbed Fitzpatrick’s face mask for 15 more yards tacked on.
The pass, in fact, was of the no-look variety, as Key bent Fitzpatrick’s neck back. And guess who was watching ...
I know I’m late but best no look pass of all time 😂😂😂
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) December 27, 2020
That set up Jason Sanders’ stunning game-winning kick from 44 yards out. It was a great night for the Dolphins’ kicker, making all four of his FG tries and two extra points, scoring more than half of Miami’s points.
The blown lead spoiled brilliant games from the Raiders’ Agholor and Darren Waller. They combined for 267 of the Raiders’ 418 yards of offense and looked to be the heroes they needed on this night.
Instead, their terrific efforts were footnotes by game’s end. The heart attack Dolphins somehow found a way to scratch out yet another impressive victory when things didn’t always look pretty or go as planned.
That seems to fit Flores, Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Miami gang just fine.
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