The Miami Dolphins were gifted with a post-Christmas dose of FitzMagic.
Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Tua Tagovelloa in the fourth quarter Saturday and led his team to a remarkable game-winning drive to a 26-25 road win over the Las Vegas Raiders, making Miami’s playoff The prospects were greatly encouraged.
The game came down to 25-23 with the Dolphins and only 19 seconds left. Fitzpatrick dropped back and warmed up a Hale Mary effort down the left flank, where he found an open receiver for a 34-yard completion at McHillins. It was a redemption for Hollins, who had dropped a potential touchdown just minutes earlier.
“For lack of a better word,” Hallins said, “I live for that s —.”
“In that case, really you’re throwing a prayer,” Fitzpatrick said. “I had no idea it was initially complete. My face mask was being pulled, and my head was ripped off. I turned around to make sure they saw the face mask, then [right tackle] Jessie Davis or [running back] Miles Gaskin had to tell me that it was complete. “
The Raiders defensive faceman Arden had a stunning Fitzpatrick’s face mask, which allowed a penalty of 15 yards in the play. Yardage set the Dolphins up for a 44-yard winning field goal by Jason Sanders.
It was a wild five-minute wild moment involving Fitzpatrick’s go-forward, a 59-yard touchdown pass to Gaskin, a Raiders go-forward field goal with 19 seconds to go, aided by a very questionable pass interference call, and Fitzpatrick’s late Hive eventually.
Fitzpatrick said that during the fourth quarter, it was the first time in his 16-year NFL career that he had to go to the bathroom of the locker room. When he returned, Dolphins coach Brian Floers told Fitzpatrick that he would go to the game. After a handful of roller-coaster series for both teams, Fitzpatrick threw the best drama of his career with the Hollins.
The Raiders had a unique decision to cross the goal line for a touchdown, instead of setting a field goal by the Raiders to slide Josh Jacobs to the 1-yard line.
The 10-5 Dolphins now have a 62% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, and their path is very simple: win next weekend at the Buffalo Bills and they are postseason-bound for the first time since 2016.
This is the second time Tagovailoa has been fielded in the fourth quarter of a tight game in search of an aggressive game this season. The other Denver Broncos had a Week 11 loss. Fitzpatrick was able to comeback in that game, ending an incredible move on Saturday.
Despite the theatricality in Las Vegas, Floers said Tagovailoa would be the starter next weekend against the Bills. Floers said he went to Fitzpatrick on Saturday because the team needed a “spark to win the game”, but that the rookie would still be No. 1 on the depth chart.
“If we went to a relief pitcher in the ninth [inning]”That’s what we’ll do,” Floors said. Fitz, he is always ready to go. … I trust Tua very much. He has done a lot of plays for us. He has done plays today. We just felt like we needed a spark. Fitji gave us that.
“Tua is a young player. He is developing. He is improving on a daily basis. He is learning from these experiences. He will be better next week.”
Fitzpatrick threw for 182 yards in the fourth quarter, tied for his most yards in a final frame (2013 Week 15 vs. Arizona Cardinals).
Fitzpatrick was successful in completing passes thrown more than 5 yards lower than Tagovelloa, who struggled fiercely on those same throws. Fitzpatrick went 5-6 for 154 yards and a touchdown, while Tagovilleao went 3-of-7 for 35 yards. Fitzpatrick averaged 9.8 yards for Tagovailoa to attempt 4.2.
Tagovelloa, 22, said it’s a learning experience after the win and he knows he needs to take more chances on the field, especially when the game is on the line. This is a continual balance for him which the defense gives him and makes splash plays like physitric.
“It wasn’t really something that was shocking in a way. They call him Fitzmagic for a reason,” Tagovelloa said. “This is the second time [getting benched has] happened. This is something you have got to learn. When Fitz is there, I’m going to support him. “
Flores is consistently counted by Fitzpatrick, 38, as a close when needed in a sticky situation, with little concern about him getting into the lineup, reflecting Tagovalloa’s mentality. Both quarterbacks have said that whatever they do the staff believe Miami will have the best chance to win. The team supports both of them, and there appears to be no dispute as to who the quarterback will be, although players often note the magical spirit of Fitzpatrick upon entering the lineup.
“Different energies. Everyone knows Fitz, this is a different type of man. It’s a change,” Gaskin said. “Probably the funniest game I’ve ever played in my life.”
Ultimately, the moves that Floors did have paid off, and they may have saved the Dolphins’ chances of a playoff. There will be questions about Tagovelloa in the short term and Fitzpatrick in the short term, but Floors focuses on what he believes is best for the team with his choice now.
“There are a lot of people in that locker room who are trying to win. This is at the forefront of the decisions I’m going to make here today and moving forward while I’m here,” said Floers. “Tua is a resilient kid. He’s a tough-minded kid. He’s happy that Fitji went there and we won the game because he’s a selfless, first man on the team; that’s why he’s here.”