The difference between a good team and a bad team is that the good team wins games they shouldn't, while the bad team loses games they should have won. On Saturday, the Miami Dolphins beat the Las Vegas Raiders 26-25 and need just to beat the Buffalo Bills next week to punch a ticket to get into the playoffs. The game could have been disastrous for Miami. Their defense was not up to their usual level as they did not force a turnover until the final play of the game, extending their streak to 20-games with a heavy asterisk. Tua Tagovailoa struggled and was benched in the fourth quarter. The Raiders were on the verge of victory before Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a 34-yard pass to Mack Hollins, while Arden Key was twisting his facemask. With a 15-yard penalty tacked on, the Dolphins moved into field goal range. Jason Sanders would kick a 44-yard field goal with one second left to win the game.
The race for the playoffs in the AFC is a jumble. It is possible that a team could go 11-5 and miss the playoffs. The Las Vegas Raiders were one of nine teams that still had a shot, despite entering the game with a record of 7-7. They needed to win out and get a ton of help. The Dolphins at 9-5 just needed to win their final two games, as they hold a tiebreaker over the Baltimore Ravens for the seventh seed.
The Raiders got a break early when Hunter Renfrow had a 32-yard punt return into Miami territory. The Raiders went 43 yards in seven plays, with Derek Carr returning from a groin injury scoring from the one. Carr had a big game, passing for 336 yards. The Raiders were able to drive down into Dolphins' territory, settling for a pair of field goals by Daniel Carlson. The Dolphins also managed two field goals in the first half from Jason Sanders and trailed 13-6 at the half.
As they have several times this season, the Dolphins got the ball at the start of the third quarter and went down the field and scored a touchdown, with Tua Tagovailoa having his best series of the game with Myles Gaskin catching a ten-yard pass to tie the game. The Raiders regained the lead on a 20-yard Carlson field goal as they again failed to score in the red zone. This helped keep the struggling Dolphins in the game.
When the fourth quarter began, Brian Flores decided to bench Tagovailoa and put Ryan Fitzpatrick in the game. Fitzpatrick drove Miami down the field, but Mack Hollins dropped a pass at the front of the end zone, forcing Miami to settle for a game-tying field goal. With the score tied 16-16, the Raiders got a big play as Derek Carr connected with Nelson Agholor caught an 85-yard pass. However, Carlson missed the PAT, a play that would prove to be costly for Las Vegas. Less than a minute later, Myles Gaskin caught a screen from Fitzpatrick and raced 59 yards for a touchdown that gave Miami a 23-22 lead.
The Raiders appeared to have the game won following a controversial pass interference penalty on Byron Jones, giving Vegas the ball at the Miami 22, a 49-yard penalty on a play that Jones appeared to be going for the ball. The Raiders played it conservatively as the Dolphins used their final timeouts, kicking a 22-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. The Dolphins got the ball at their own 25-yard line after a touchback. On the first play, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a 34-yard pass to Mack Hollins. Fitzpatrick made the pass despite having his head twisted like Linda Blair in the Exorcist by Arden Key. This tacked on 15 yards and put Miami into field goal range. After one play to take time off the clock, Jason Sanders booted a 44-yard field goal to give the Dolphins a 26-25 lead.
The Dolphins needed to kick the ball off and made a perfect squib kick as the Raiders fumbled the lateral, allowing the Dolphins to extend their turnover streak to 20 games. At 10-5, the Dolphins need to win their final game to get in the playoffs. They will play the Buffalo Bills on the road. The Bills have won the AFC East and will likely be locked into the second or third seed, which could see them resting their stars with a playoff game just a week away. According to coach Brian Flores after the game, Tua Tagovailoa will be back under center for the game.