The Miami Dolphins have had their share of remarkable finishes over the years. But nothing quite like this. Nothing that can compare to the events that unfolded late Saturday night in Las Vegas, the Dolphins somehow, someway leaving town with a 26-25 victory.
And nothing, not even remotely, can compare to the play that realistically won this game and kept the Dolphins’ playoff hopes alive and certainly thriving heading into the season-finale at Buffalo.
It was literally a head-turner for the ages, a play you can watch over and over for days and days and still have no idea how Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to get off that 34-yard pass to Mack Hollins with 19 seconds left only after Raiders defender Arden Key had twisted Fitzpatrick’s helmet so far around his head it was impossible to see.
So how did he complete that pass? How did he have the presence, obviously in serious discomfort, to blindly fling the ball deep down the sideline, hitting Hollins at the perfect spot, as he stepped out of bounds?
I’m truthfully not sure. Maybe there’s something to this FitzMagic thing after all. Maybe it was just one of those indescribable moments when everything aligns at the perfect time. Or maybe we should stop trying to figure out how it happened and simply enjoy the fact that this team is 10-5 with one game left thanks to that pass by Fitzpatrick and a game-winning 44-yard field goal by Jason Sanders that followed.
See, the Dolphins lost this game. And then won it. And then lost it again. And then won it again. And then watched helplessly as the Raiders milked down the clock to kick what they thought was a game-winning chip shot field goal with those 19 seconds left. The Raiders could have scored a touchdown on that drive. Appeared to take a knee at the 1-yard line to avoid doing just that. Figured it was better to leave the Dolphins with only a few seconds on the clock than to score that touchdown with about a minute left.
How terribly wrong they were. Those 19 seconds turned out to be solid gold for the Dolphins and fool’s gold for the Raiders. It also validated the decision by Brian Flores to replace Tua Tagovailoa with Fitzpatrick with just under 10 minutes left and the offense floundering badly.
Fitzpatrick did everything Tua couldn’t. He was magnificent. But did he do enough to justify starting in Buffalo next Sunday? Flores made it clear after the game that he will stay with Tua just as he did after his first benching earlier this season in Denver and have Fitzpatrick ready in relief. Kind of like what the Dolphins did in the 1980’s with WoodStrock.
Then again what we saw from Fitzpatrick against the Raiders clearly showed us what a difference he can make while Tua learns the nuances of pro football life. But it’s also important to remember this: The Raiders are not a top-echelon team and the Dolphins remain far too limited on offense to expect a run deep into the playoffs.
As much as we want to believe in this team – and it has given us so many reasons to do just that – the big picture says they are still a year and another draft away from being a serious Super Bowl contender.
That, in part, is what has made this season so special. The Dolphins are doing it with an incomplete team. They are doing it with superior coaching, with some excellent defense, with some trickery on special teams and with the remarkably accurate right leg of Sanders.
And now you can add “a little bit of FitzMagic” to that list.
How else can you explain what happened against the Raiders, how Fitzpatrick got that pass off with his helmet so badly twisted, how there was no possible way the Dolphins could pull this out.
And then they did.
And their season lives on.
Enjoy the moment because there is so much to enjoy.