The writing was on the wall for the Miami Dolphins. After going from 8-3 and the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff standings, the Fins were less than a minute away from potentially having their season come to an end in an epic collapse.
Sitting 8-8 on the season and being one game out of the AFC playoff race, Miami used the leg of kicker Jason Sanders for his third field goal of the game with 18 seconds left Sunday in the regular season finale. When the Dolphins tackled Garrett Wilson of the rival New York Jets in the end zone for a safety and an 11-6 win, it was all over and Miami was back in the postseason for the first time since the 2016 season.
Let me clear that up for a moment: when that happened and the Buffalo Bills finished up their domination of the New England Patriots minutes after Miami’s game went final, the Dolphins found themselves back in the postseason for the first time since the 2016 season.
For Miami, it continues a tradition of needing someone else’s help to advance to the postseason after watching their own efforts fall flat. Remember how they got into the playoffs in 2016? That’s right, it took a Kansas City win over Denver to get Miami into the postseason and lose in the Wild Card round to Pittsburgh.
If it sounds like I am being cynical or mean spirited right now, I’m really not. Though I may not be the same diehard Dolphins fan who cried when Dan Marino was injured in the 1993 season, there was part of me that was happy to see what took place Sunday – and, like most sports fans, I hate the New York Jets so watching them lose was great.
The reality is that I am happy the Dolphins were able to avoid matching or even topping what previously had been the biggest letdown in franchise history. In that ’93 season, the Fins went from 9-2 and in the playoff race to 9-7 and watching the postseason from home.
For a while over the last month and for much of Sunday, it did look like that collapse would be topped. This year’s Miami team was at one point in the lead in the AFC East and thought they could make a serious postseason run. Five straight losses, with three of them coming to teams that made the playoffs, put a damper on those hopes and had people wondering if that would take place again.
What Sunday’s win does is keep the word “collapse” from being mentioned with the 2022 Miami Dolphins. It keeps the franchise relevant for another season, adds validity to the argument that head coach Mike McDaniel actually knows what he’s doing and gives the Dolphins another chance to maybe…just maybe…get quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the field after he went into the concussion protocol weeks ago for the second time this season.
It also sets up a third meeting this season between the Bills and Dolphins next weekend in Orchard Park, New York – where the forecast calls for temperatures below freezing and the possibility of snow, the same as Miami saw when they lost to Buffalo during that five-game slump.
Whether Miami’s postseason ends after one game or expands into early February and Super Bowl LVII, at least it didn’t end with a collapse that would have been talked about for decades.