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Dolphins hold off Patriots, finish season 9-8

Dolphins hold off Patriots, finish season 9-8
Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard scored on an interception return in a win over the New England Patriots on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by the Miami Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Miami Dolphins linebacker Sam Eguavoen intercepted a lateral, jumped into the end zone and was mobbed by teammates to seal a season-ending 33-24 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Eguavoen's score ended a late Patriots rally and resulted in a winning regular-season record for the Dolphins (9-8), who failed to make the playoffs.

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"We had ups and downs," Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. "It's a year I'll certainly remember. I'm proud of this team."

Dolphins running back Duke Johnson ran for 117 yards and a score in the win. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed 15 of 22 passes for 109 yards and a score. The Dolphins defense forced three turnovers.

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The Dolphins allowed the Patriots to cut the lead to three points with 4:49 remaining before they secured the victory.

Tagovailoa started off sharp, completing 7 of 7 pass attempts for 54 yards and a touchdown on the Dolphins' first drive. He ended the possession with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle in the left corner of the end zone.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard doubled the advantage when he intercepted Patriots quarterback Mac Jones' first pass of the game. He returned the interception 37 yards for a score.

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Kicker Jason Sanders made a 30-yard field goal on the Dolphins' next drive to push the lead to 17-0 about four minutes into the second quarter.

The Patriots got on the scoreboard about midway through the quarter. Running back Brandon Bolden ran through defenders for a 15-yard score to end that drive.

The Dolphins led 17-7 at halftime.

Patriots kicker Nick Folk made a 43-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half. The Dolphins then increased their advantage to 14 points with a short Duke Johnson touchdown run with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter.

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Sanders made a 49-yard field goal to make the score 27-10 about four minutes into the fourth. The Patriots answered when Jones connected with Bolden for an 18-yard score.

They cut the lead to three points with a six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive on their next possession. Damien Harris ran for a 1-yard score to end that drive. The short run made the score 27-24 with 2:53 remaining.

The Dolphins punted to the Patriots in the final minute. Jones took the game's final snap from the Patriots 2-yard line. He tossed the ball to Jakobi Meyers at the start of the play. Meyers, who then threw the ball back toward the end zone.

Eguavoen ran into the area, intercepted the flipped feed and landed in the end zone to end the game.

"We just beat a tough team," Tagovailoa said. "We wanted to end the season with a bang. That's what we did."

Jones completed 20 of 30 passes for 261 yards and one score in the loss. He also threw an interception and lost a fumble. Bolden totaled 66 yards and two scores on nine touches.

Waddle totaled 27 yards on five catches. He finished the season with 104 receptions, setting an NFL rookie record.

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The Patriots (10-6) will face the Cincinnati Bengals (10-7) or the Buffalo Bills (11-6) next weekend in the first round of the playoffs.

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