Week 14 provided an ample supply of sizzle during a slew of game-winning sequences. In Dallas, Amari Cooper reeled in a deflected pass, waltzed into the end zone and put the Cowboys firmly in control of the NFC East. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes likely locked up his first MVP with a ridiculous no-look pass, an incredible throw on 4th and 9 late in the fourth quarter, followed up by a fourth-down touchdown pass on the same drive that forced overtime. However, the most impactful play of the week occurred in the waning seconds of Miami’s clash with the AFC East-leading New England Patriots.
In a back-and-forth contest in which the Patriots typically win, they failed to take advantage of multiple opportunities to put Miami away on their final two drives. On their penultimate drive, New England settled for a field goal and on their final possession, Bill Belichick went conservative and took the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands on third down. Instead, Sony Michel took the handoff from the 6-yard-line and was stopped after a two-yard gain. The Patriots would kick a field goal to put them ahead 33-28 with 16 seconds remaining.
It was a decision they would soon regret. Left with a measly seven seconds remaining on the clock after a kickoff return, the Dolphins had few options. From their own 31-yard-line, Miami could have tried to whip a quick pass 15-20 yards down the sideline and launch a Hail Mary from near midfield, but the Dolphins couldn't take that type of risk with no timeouts left.
Instead, with the Pats in a prevent defense and Rob Gronwkowski in as the deep free safety, Tannehill dropped back and lasered the ball across the middle to Kenny Stills at the 45-yard-line. Surrounded by the Patriots secondary, he lateraled it to Devante Parker, who ran towards the sideline before shoveling it to running back Kenyan Drake who was running along the sideline. Drake escaped an ankle tackle, cut it back inside and found an alleyway between blockers, allowing him to pick up steam and run downfield unbothered.
Center Ted Larsen found himself in the right place at the right time at the Patriots 32-yard-line when he obstructed cornerback JC Jackson’s path to Drake. Gronkowksi had the angle on Drake as he cut inside, but the Pats tight end tripped over his own feet and faceplanted grasping at air in an attempt at making a game-saving goal-line tackle.
While Drake cruised into the end zone as the hero, Gronk became the butt of multiple jokes and Belichick was rebuked for having him in on a play where a Hail Mary was impossible.
Miami's once-in-a-million touchdown was the apex of a disappointing season for Drake, who has been woefully underutilized. Previously, one of the most dangerous backs in the open field last season, Drake saw his role reduced dramatically this season in a timeshare with the immortal Frank Gore. Before the final play of regulation, Drake was only given six carries to work with on Sunday, which he converted into 24 yards and didn't record a single catch.
The loss was a devastating blow to the Pats aspirations for home field advantage throughout the postseason. While the Pats were letting a win slip through their fingers, Kansas City was engineering a comeback win against the Baltimore Ravens. New England, now at 9-4, dropped behind 10-3 San Diego and 11-2 Kansas City, while the Texans also sit at 9-4 in the race for an AFC first-round bye.
The win was instrumental for Miami's postseason odds as well. Instead of languishing at 6-7, they improved to 7-6, tied with the aforementioned Ravens and Colts in a race for the final wild card playoff spot. In addition to needing a little help from the Ravens and Colts opponents, Miami would also appreciate the return of the football Drake flung into the stands.
If the Dolphins make a successful playoff push, Drake's miraculous touchdown will have been the impetus they needed.
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.
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