By: Jason Sarney
The Miami Dolphins gave their fans a Christmas miracle...on the 26th of December. As the saying goes, especially with a Dolphins team prone to the wild and unimaginable, “better late than never.”
In a memorable moment within a franchise of unforgettable ones, the Dolphins created a memory that will live in Fins lore, forever. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Hail Mary prayer, was answered by Mack Hollins, and was assisted by a Christmas gift of a face-mask penalty on the Raiders, adding 15-yards to Hollins’ reception, thus allowing Jason Sanders to do what he does best.
Split uprights when it matters most.
The Dolphins beat the Raiders 26-25, in a game than could have ended, twice. In a very controversial coaching move, Jon Gruden elected to not run a touchdown in while the game was near completion. As the Raiders mathematically knew they had to return the ball to Miami, it was a time and strategy snafu that allowed The Gunslinger, Ryan Fitzpatrick to create some magic.
The crafty veteran went 9/13 in relief for 182 passing yards, including the 52-yard no-look heave to set Sanders up to win it in the closing seconds.
Fitzpatrick found Hollins, who minutes prior, had a drop of a would-be go-ahead touchdown right at the goal line. Hollins, who certainly made up for it, emphatically told reports following the game regarding its last few moments, “I live for this sh*t.”
So do we Mack. So do we.
And for the Die-Hard Miami Dolphins fans who witnessed yet another Miracle on Saturday night, the craziness and joy are far from over at 10 wins, and one game to go in a regular season nobody thought would go this way.
The Dolphins victory puts them in control their own destiny mode for Week 17. Win, and in. They are also alive if certain teams lose on Sunday the 27th during the full slate of games, but to be able to say this, in a 2nd-year re-build, is simply another miracle.
The game against the Raiders is one where Brian Flores, must have, and should have, clinched Coach of the Year.
Here are some reasons why.
Not only did he make an extremely and potentially dividing call, benching rookie Tua Tagovailoa for Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 2nd half, he made some outstanding decisions.
Namely, a fake punt where Clayton Fejedelem took a direct snap 22 yards for the 1st down in the 2nd quarter, leading to a field goal by Jason Sanders.
Speaking of Sanders, who went 4/4 on his field goals and 2/2 on his PATs won the game on a 44-yarder following the Fitz-Face-Mask Miracle, yet another victory from his foot for Miami in his tenure, and has already solidified himself as a legend.
Sanders is the AFC’s only place kicker with regular work to not miss a PAT all season. Wil Lutz of the NFC and New Orleans Saints is the NFLs only other who can claim this in 2020.
As we all saw last night, one point matters.
The Dolphins defense came up big when then needed to, holding Las Vegas to field goal attempts where touchdowns could have been what put the game out of reach for Miami. Additionally, in the 2nd quarter Andrew Van Ginkel and Nik Needham teamed up for a huge 3rd-down sack on Derek Carr to force a punt following the loss of yardage.
Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Xavien Howard, held rookie speedster play maker, Henry Ruggs to zero catches. Howard had a stellar endzone pass-break up on a 50-yard pass intended for Ruggs.
As a team, with the last second fumble recovery by Clayton Fejedelem on the final play of the game, the Dolphins extended their takeaway streak to 21 consecutive games, the longest active mark in the NFL, for the NFL's TOP team defense.
This is starting to look like a team of destiny, and truly starting to be the potential building and beginning of a Dynasty…with a team that is the league’s 3rd youngest overall roster and seemingly, heading for bonus football in tournament format.
The Dolphins now prepare for essentially a pre-playoff, play-off game with the rival Buffalo Bills next Sunday. A team they can face yet again, in a potential Wild Card match-up in January six or seven days later.