The Miami Dolphins defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday 34-28, improving their record to 7-6 and strengthening their playoff chances. The game was well-played and remained close until the final seconds ticked away. An unbelievable final play provided the nation with one of the most improbable finishes in recent memory.
Ben Roethlisberger took the final snap from the Pittsburgh 26-yard line with one second remaining. Roethlisberger would throw a 20-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders and chaos would ensue.
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Sanders lateraled to Jerricho Cotchery, who handed off to Le'Veon Bell, who would flip the ball to offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert tossed the ball back to Roethlisberger who then made an across-the-field throw to Antonio Brown. Brown avoided Miami defenders as he sprinted toward the goal line. Brown crossed into the end zone, and the Heinz Field crowd erupted.
The cheers quickly turned to boos once it was determined that Brown had stepped out of bounds at the 12-yard line. Another blown opportunity for the Dolphins suddenly became the biggest win of the season.
The bizarre ending may have overshadowed the fact that Miami played a solid game. Ryan Tannehill completed 20 of 33 pass attempts for 200 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Tannehill also rushed for a season-high 56 yards. Daniel Thomas had 16 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown, and Charles Clay pulled down seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
The Dolphins were fortunate to come away with a win at Heinz Field, but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Miami's first victory in Pittsburgh since 1990 sent twitter into a frenzy.
Karma, thy name is Pittsburgh: Steelers lose game because Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds http://t.co/qkQ4Om72rc— Sporting News (@sportingnews) December 8, 2013
Armando Salguero: Once NFL laughingstock, Miami Dolphins now playoff contender— Maria Macquarrie (@MarMacq) December 10, 2013
Tony on Antonio Brown stepping out: "This is karma for the Steelers. Where's Mike Tomlin when you need him?" pic.twitter.com/iQXWTNyaVA— PTI (@PTI) December 9, 2013
Did the Dolphins play a perfect game? No, but they went into Pittsburgh in Dec in the snow and beat a Big Ben lead Steelers team. Impressive— Daniel Eliesen (@PhinsDaniel) December 8, 2013
Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake described the emotion and wild finish to the Associated Press (via ESPN) by simply saying, "I think I need some blood pressure medicine or something. Now that's December football."
That improbable win also puts the Dolphins a step closer to January football.
Miami must now turn the page to the division-leading New England Patriots. The Patriots won the first meeting between the AFC East rivals 27-17 in a game that was a tale of two halves. Miami held a 17-3 halftime lead but was outscored 24-0 in the second half.
The Patriots are the class of the division with or without Rob Gronkowski. Miami will have to play their best football of the season to pull out a victory against Tom Brady and friends.
The Dolphins finish the season by hosting the Patriots and New York Jets, with a trip to Buffalo in the middle. Miami is currently tied with Baltimore for the sixth seed in the AFC, with the Baltimore Ravens holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Baltimore's road is considerably more difficult than Miami's, with games at Detroit, at Cincinnati and at home against New England.
It's not ridiculous to think Miami could finish the season 10-6, if they are able to defeat New England. With Baltimore set to run the gauntlet, a 10-6 record would certainly earn Miami a playoff spot.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com