Dolphins slip past Jets, clinch AFC's final playoff spot

Kicker Jason Sanders lines up the go-ahead field goal attempt against the New York Jets on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Thom Baur/UPI
1 of 6 | Kicker Jason Sanders lines up the go-ahead field goal attempt against the New York Jets on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Thom Baur/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders caressed a 50-yard field goal just inside the left upright to clinch a win over the New York Jets and secure the final playoff spot in the AFC on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Sanders split the uprights with 18 seconds remaining in the 11-6 victory at Hard Rock Stadium. The Jets recovered a fumble in their own end zone on the final play of the game a few seconds later for a safety.


"The game today was the definition of just fighting," Dolphins rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson told reporters. "It wasn't always pretty, but we did what we had to do to win.

"That's all that matters."


The Dolphins (9-8) and Jets (7-10) combined for just 489 yards in the ugly offensive showing. Both teams started the game with quarterbacks who were listed as third-string options earlier this season, but were forced into action due to injuries at the position.

Thompson completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards. Jets veteran Joe Flacco completed 18 of 33 passes for 149 yards. The Dolphins out-gained the Jets 162 to 38 in rushing yards. The Dolphins defense also held the Jets to just 1.9 yards per rush.

The Dolphins snapped a five-game losing streak with the playoff-clinching victory. They will open the postseason next weekend with a game against the No. 2 Buffalo Bills.

"It feels tremendous," Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. "The goal wasn't just to get to the playoffs, but understanding [everything] involved. ... It's very fulfilling for the way it happened."

Neither offense had chemistry or balance from the opening whistle until time expired. The Bills failed to put the first points on the board when Greg Zuerlein missed a 55-yard field goal attempt about four minutes into the second quarter.


Sanders ended the resulting drive with a made 37-yard attempt for a 3-0 Dolphins lead. Zuerlein made a 32-yard attempt about four minutes later to tie the score.

The Dolphins went on a 15-play, 8:12 drive on their first possession of the second half. Sanders ended that drive with another 37-yard field goal for a 6-3 edge.

Zuerlein answered with a 35-yard field goal about three minutes into the fourth quarter to tie the score once more.

Both offenses continued to exchange ugly drives down the stretch, but the Dolphins put together a clutch 8-play, 36-yard possession with under three minutes remaining. Sanders ended that possession with his long, go-ahead field goal.

Flacco threw two incompletions to start the final drive of the game. He then completed a pass to Garrett Wilson. Wilson lateraled and eventually recovered a fumble in the end zone, before he was tackled for a safety.

Dolphins running backs Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert ran for 72 and 71 yards, respectively, in the victory. Wilson totaled a game-high 89 yards on nine catches for the Jets.


The NFL playoffs will start Saturday and run through Feb. 12.

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