The Miami Dolphins are headed to the postseason for the first time since 2016 and third time since 2001.
Needing a win in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets and a Buffalo Bills win over the New England Patriots, the Dolphins got both.
Kicker Jason Sanders, maligned for missing field goals of 50-plus throughout the season, nailed a 50-yard attempt with 18 seconds left. Miami, adding a safety on the final play, won its must-win Week 18 meeting with New York, 11-6, on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Dolphins (9-8) snapped a five-game losing streak to narrowly avoid the franchise’s worst collapse in its history. Miami, capturing the AFC’s No. 7 seed, will visit the division-rival and second-seeded Bills (13-3) in the wild card round of the playoffs. The date and time are to be determined, and kickoff in Orchard Park could take place next Saturday, Sunday or even Monday night, Jan. 16.
The Jets (7-10), who were already eliminated entering the regular-season finale, had their season come to an end. The Patriots (8-9), fresh off a 23-21 win over the Dolphins on Jan. 1, were also eliminated, vacating the final AFC playoff spot they entered the weekend holding.
Hard Rock Stadium screens showed the final minutes of Buffalo’s 35-23 win over New England after Miami’s result went final.
With rookie third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson leading Miami as fellow quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater were unavailable to start, Thompson managed the game for a 20-of-31 performance for 152 yards in an offensively challenged game for both sides where no touchdown was scored.
A key horse-collar penalty was drawn by Jaylen Waddle late to set Miami up for the late 50-yard field goal.
In a 6-6 game deep into the fourth quarter, the Dolphins got a key stop by way of coach Mike McDaniel’s first successful challenge of his rookie head coaching season. Previously 0 for 5 on challenges, the first one won — reversing a Garrett Wilson catch — forced the Jets to punt with just more than six minutes to play.
The Dolphins broke a 3-3 tie in the third quarter when kicker Jason Sanders converted his second field goal of 37 yards.
Miami marched down the field for 72 yards over 15 plays on a drive that consumed 8:12 with the run game anchoring the effort. Raheem Mostert had runs of 14, 11 and a 21-yarder where he lowered his shoulders through a defender.
The Jets countered with a 14-play, 58-yard drive of their own that took 8:19 and tied the game at 6 with 11:59 to play on kicker Greg Zuerlein’s 35-yard field goal.
Miami got on the board first Sunday when Sanders’ first 37-yard field goal was good to cap a drive that took 5:31 and went 36 yards in 10 plays. Running back Jeff Wilson had a key first-down run, and Thompson found Jaylen Waddle for another chunk in the series.
The Jets responded with their ensuing drive, going 11 plays and 61 yards for a Zuerlein field goal of 32 yards that eventually sent the teams into halftime tied, 3-3. Flacco hit Garrett Wilson on a key 36-yard play to get the Jets in position for the tying points after Miami allowed a checkdown on third-and-9 to go for a first down.
The Dolphins and Jets played to a scoreless first quarter where the two best plays may have come from New York punter Braden Mann, who pinned one punt down at the 2-yard line and booted another one 61 yards. It wasn’t all great on Jets special teams early, though, as Zuerlein missed a 55-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter.
The Dolphins had a drive late in the first quarter that reached the Jets’ 39-yard line come to a halt by an airmailed Connor Williams snap, over the head of Thompson as he was making a call to his offense.
This story will be updated.