Christmas is over, New Year's Eve is a few days away, and the Miami Dolphins have their playoff fate in their hands. Amazing to think that on Halloween, the Dolphins were 1-7 with seven straight losses and looking like a team that traded away a top-five pick. However, beginning with their win over the Texans, the Dolphins have turned their season around. They will be playing meaningful football in the final two weeks of the season as they become the first team to follow a seven-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak.
The Dolphins got a significant edge before they even took the field on Monday night, as the Saints were ravaged by COVID and forced to start Ian Book at quarterback. Seeing his first NFL action, the rookie from Notre Dame had his second pass deflected by Andrew Van Ginkel and picked off by Nik Needham. Needham returned the interception 28 yards for a touchdown to give the Dolphins an early lead. Miami added a 48-yard field goal by Jason Sanders to hold a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Despite the 10-0 lead, the Dolphins' offense struggled through most of the first half, as the offensive line had a hard time protecting Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins were called for several holding calls, as Tagoviloa rarely had time to throw the ball. Ian Book had even less time as the Saints line relied on their seventh-string left tackle, with Book getting sacked eight times. Emmanuel Ogbah had a pair of sacks, while Jerome Baker was credited with one a half sacks. The Dolphins intercepted Ian Book twice, as the Saints managed just 81 net passing yards.
The Saints got a field goal before the end of the second quarter and had a chance to get back in the game after Marcus Lattimore picked off Tua. However, when it was needed most, the Dolphins' defense stepped up and stopped the Saints at midfield. On the ensuing drive, Tua Tagovailoa connected with Mack Hollins on a 40-yards pass on third-and-nine from their own 15. That pass which was hauled in by a diving Hollins, sparked a touchdown drive, as Duke Johnson powered up the middle and Jaylen Waddle scored on a one-yard pitch. Jaylen Waddle had another big night, with 92 yards on nine catches.
The Dolphins added a field goal in the fourth quarter to win the game 20-3. The Saints' offense never was able to get on track as they went 0-for-12 on third-down conversions. New Orleans only crossed midfield three times during the game, as the Saints managed just 164 yards of offense.
With the win, the Dolphins improved to 8-7 and moved into seventh place in the AFC playoff chase, holding tiebreakers over the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens for the last playoff spot. The Dolphins' final two games will not be easy as they face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville and host the New England Patriots in the season finale. If the Dolphins can win both games, they will get in the postseason.