MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins heard the talk all week about their 0-3 record against winning teams entering their matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. They couldn’t completely ignore the criticism — social media makes it hard to do that, coach Mike McDaniel said.
But he felt his team didn’t let “narratives” become a distraction, and Miami (11-4) finally got over that hump.
“Regardless of what people say, you have to get to a mode where you’re solely worried about doing your job and being responsible for that with your teammates,” McDaniel said after Sunday’s 22-20 defeat of the Cowboys. “And anything else, you get distracted and lose focus on what actually matters.”
What matters to the playoff-bound Dolphins now is beating two more winning teams: Baltimore on Sunday and then division rival Buffalo in their season finale.
Sunday’s victory put the AFC East-leading Dolphins in position to win the division for the first time since 2008 with either a win at Baltimore or a Bills loss to New England in Week 17, or a win over Buffalo in Week 18.
Miami would also overtake the Ravens for the top spot in the conference — with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye — if it wins its remaining two games. A division title would give the Dolphins at least one home playoff game.
“It’s exactly what you want,” McDaniel said. “You want to be playing the best football teams in December and January. You want to go toe to toe with them, and you want to earn victories. To do that, we’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to play the Baltimore Ravens this week.”
Miami’s offense has come up short with a chance for a game-winning drive twice this season. It happened against Kansas City in Week 9 and again vs. Tennessee two weeks ago.
Against Dallas, the Dolphins came through. With Miami trailing 20-19, Tua Tagovailoa completed 4 of 5 passes on a 12-play, 64-yard drive that took the remaining 3:27 off the clock and set up Jason Sanders’ game-winning field goal.
Tyreek Hill caught two passes on the decisive drive, one of which converted a third down.
“We have to be able to have good drives,” Hill said, “and the way Tua orchestrated the last drive, it was a thing of beauty.”
Miami has gotten strong play from its linebackers, even with starting LB Jaelan Phillips out for the season with an Achilles tendon tear. Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkel recorded 1 1/2 sacks apiece on Sunday. The Dolphins had four sacks total, giving them a franchise-best 52 on the season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Situational defense. Two weeks after allowing the Titans to score twice in the final five minutes, Miami allowed a 17-play, 69-yard drive that used over seven minutes of the clock and ended in Dallas scoring a go-ahead touchdown.
Sanders. He had struggled on long field goals all season before nailing three kicks of 50-plus yards — including a career-long 57-yarder in the first quarter — as well as the 29-yarder as time expired on Sunday.
The Dolphins again left points on the field because of struggles in the red zone, where they were 1 of 4. In the first quarter, McDaniel went for it on fourth down at the Dallas 5 and opted for a goal-line fade pass that was unsuccessful.
WR Robbie Chosen is in the concussion protocol after leaving in the first quarter. … WR Jaylen Waddle left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. … RT Austin Jackson (oblique) did not play. … RB Raheem Mostert was limited in the second half because of a shin injury. McDaniel said Mostert wanted to come back into the game, but the team could tell the injury was very painful.
1,000 — Mostert surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career with his 46 yards Sunday. The 31-year-old is the first player in his 30s to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since then-33-year-old Adrian Peterson had 1,042 yards for Washington in 2018. … Waddle had a 50-yard catch in the first quarter to put him over 1,000 yards receiving. He’s the first Dolphins receiver to post three straight 1,000-yard seasons.
The Dolphins won at Baltimore last season. Miami lost at Buffalo in Week 4.
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