The Fairy Tale Season For Miami Continues
By Joe Scumaci
Not even the best screenwriters and film directors could have created a movie that could depict what the Miami Dolphins season has looked like.
And it looks like we've only hit the climax part of the movie.
The Dolphins beat the “bully” on Sunday, holding off a frantic Tom Brady comeback that would have clinched the AFC East division for the Patriots, but instead keeps Miami alive for the division and moves them into the leade for the AFC’s 6th seed.
The Patriots have owned the Dolphins as of late, winning the last 7 contests between the two teams. The most recent win was the week 8 matchup in New England where the Dolphins dominated the first half, but let the game get away from them in the second half and suffered a dissapointing 27-17 loss.
The week leading up to this pivotal game felt different. The fan base was excited and the players talked about the opportunity in front of them. Surely the coaches knew what was at stake if they found a way to beat the almighty Patriots, even if they didn't want to say it.
But it was how they won that was so promising for the Dolphins psyche going forward.
Down 20-17 with 4:07 remaining, the Dolphins went 9 plays and 60 yards that included a gutsy 4th and 5 play call on their own half of the field, in which Charles Clay recorded his only catch of the game, but was good for 6 yards and a crucial first down. A few plays later, Ryan Tannehill finds Marcus Thigpen for the go ahead score.
But every Dolphins fan knew what was still to come over the next 1:15. It felt inevitable. Tom Brady would find a way to lead the Patriots down and rip the throats out of Miami fans, as he’s done so many times in the past.
Not so fast. Enter Michael Thomas.
A practice squad player for the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the week, Thomas entered the game in the 4th quarter due to injuries to Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll. (Gulp) Brady drove the Patriots all the way down inside the red zone, converting a 4th and 8 in the process. But with 7 seconds left, Brady’s final pass was intercepted in the end zone by Thomas and Miami fans could exhale. He made a big play just a few seconds earlier, knocking the ball away from Danny Amendola on a perfect throw from Brady, which would have won the game for the Pats.
This Michael Thomas story is almost comparable to the movie Invincible, where Mark Wahlberg played a 30-year old bartender who made the Philadelphia Eagles team on an open tryout and contributed in special teams and made some game changing plays.
So to recap the Dolphins season to this point:
- 3-0 start with road wins at Cleveland and Indianapolis.
- Lose 4 straight games, including two close home losses to Baltimore and Buffalo.
- The bully scandal: Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito were excused from the team and haven’t been back since. To be honest, the offensive line has played better since both players have left thanks to the trade for Bryant McKinnie and the hidden gem Sam Brenner.
- Beat the Cincinnati Bengals 22-20 in overtime on Halloween night.
- Then the lowest point of the season, a Monday Night Football loss to the then-winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Things could have unraveled at that point, but Coach Philbin and the Dolphins held strong. They beat San Diego 20-16, but then followed that up with a bad 20-16 home loss to the Carolina Panthers.
- Two road wins in a row in New York and Pittsburgh had the Dolphins at 7-6
But now here they are, 3 straight wins later, sitting at 8-6 and in control of their own destiny with two games remaining. And they are winnable games may I add: at Buffalo (5-9) next Sunday and back home for the finale against the New York Jets (6-8).
Despite the ups, downs, bullies, scandals, trades and signing guys off the streets, this Miami Dolphins team is two wins away from going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
How will the fairy tale end?
Or better yet...is it just beginning?