Dolphins backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Tua Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter and completed nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. He led the Dolphins to 13 points in the final 4:05. Tagovailoa completed 17 of 22 passes but amassed just 94 passing yards before being benched.
Miami's win knocked Las Vegas out of playoff contention. The 7-8 Raiders lost their fifth game in six tries with the defeat.
Numerous scenarios exist for the 10-5 Dolphins to make the playoffs, but the simplest is a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 17.
Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa: 17-of-22, 94 passing yards, 1 TD; 3 carries, 11 rushing yards
Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: 9-of-13, 182 passing yards, 1 TD
Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin: 14 carries, 87 rushing yards; 5 catches, 82 receiving yards, 2 TD
Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki: 4 catches, 54 receiving yards
Raiders QB Derek Carr: 21-of-34, 336 passing yards, 1 TD
Raiders WR Nelson Agholor: 5 catches, 155 receiving yards, 1 TD
Raiders TE Darren Waller: 5 catches, 112 receiving yards
Fitzpatrick Pilots Dolphins to Miracle Win as Tua Sits
Tagovailoa is a rookie who suffered a devastating season-ending hip injury playing for Alabama just 13 months ago. The fact that he's even on the field starting for a playoff-contending team is an impressive enough feat, but he's excelled as well, notably coming off a 316-yard passing performance against the defending Super Bowl champion (and this year's championship favorite) Kansas City Chiefs.
He didn't throw an interception in any of his first five starts, and Miami is now 6-2 with him starting under center.
However, the Dolphins offense scuffled Saturday against a Raiders team that allowed the fourth-most points per game in the NFL leading into Week 16. With the team trailing 16-13 in the fourth quarter, head coach Brian Flores made the call to bench Tagovailoa and play Fitzpatrick.
"There are a lot of guys in that locker room trying to win. That's at the forefront of all the decisions I'm going to make today, and moving forward," Flores told reporters postgame.
Miami sorely needed a win to help its playoff chances and maintain control of its playoff destiny. Ultimately, the win-now move worked.
Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins on a 13-play, 84-yard drive capped by a Sanders field goal to tie the game at 16. He completed five of his first six passes for 73 yards, including a 31-yarder to Mike Gesicki.
Las Vegas immediately responded with an 85-yard touchdown toss from Derek Carr to Nelson Agholor for a 22-16 edge, but a missed extra point kept the score that way.
Miami then bounced back three plays later when Fitzpatrick found running back Myles Gaskin for a 59-yard score. After the extra point, Miami led 23-22.
Las Vegas then flew down the field largely because Agholor drew a 49-yard defensive pass interference penalty. The Raiders played for a field goal and drained the clock down to 19 seconds after Daniel Carlson knocked home a 22-yard chip shot.
Following a touchback, the Dolphins realistically needed to go around 40 yards to get Sanders into the outer edges of his field-goal range. They had no timeouts to do so.
Undeterred, Fitzpatrick found Mack Hollins for a 34-yard gain despite Raiders defensive end Arden Key grabbing his face mask in the process. That put the ball at the Raiders' 26-yard line. Shortly thereafter, Sanders knocked home the game-winner.
As for next week, Tagovailoa is back under center, per Flores.
"I have a lot of confidence in Tua, he said. "We felt like we needed a spark the way the game is going. ... He's a young player, he's developing. He's learning from his experiences. He'll be better next week."
Miami has a tough one ahead against the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills on the road. Tagovailoa could certainly be up for the task, but if he struggles, the Dolphins know they have the NFL's best backup and insurance policy waiting.
Raiders Defensive Breakdown Leads to Loss, Dashed Playoff Hopes
The Raiders lost this game for numerous reasons.
Four Raiders drives that went 55 or more yards resulted in field goals as Las Vegas' offense struggled deep in Dolphin territory.
Las Vegas failed to convert a 4th-and-1 from its own 46-yard line in the third quarter.
Carlson missed an extra point that proved costly.
The Raiders' decision to drain clock and play for a field goal as opposed to a touchdown at the end of the game ultimately backfired.
However, these moments would be irrelevant if the Raiders didn't suffer a complete defensive meltdown in a seven-second span.
ESPN's Matt Bowen explained what happened. Ultimately, it came down to execution.
Matt Bowen @MattBowen41
Miami ran 4 verticals from a 3x1 set (“999” concept). Fitz did look to the trips side at the snap. Might have pulled the safety off his landmark (top of the numbers). But when you give the outside receiver (to the boundary) a free/outside release, it opens up the deep window. https://t.co/2YuSSYjNFT
Matt Bowen @MattBowen41
I like Cover 2 in that situation. No timeouts left for Miami. Have two-deep there — with underneath defenders gaining depth. Force Fitz to throw to the flats or the middle of the field. Catch & tackle. But you still have to execute the coverage techniques to win. https://t.co/9KZtrGZiND
Ted Nguyen of The Athletic provided a take as well:
As for the penalty, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden used the words "inexcusable" and "horrific."
The Raiders allowed a quarterback off the bench to immediately execute a 13-play, 84-yard drive. They then gave up a 75-yard drive in three plays capped by a 59-yard Gaskin touchdown where he evaded a group of Raider defenders and scampered down the sideline for six.
And yet the Raiders still had a chance to win.
However, Fitzpatrick then executed the coup de grace off a Raider defensive breakdown. The face mask gave the Dolphins the extra yardage needed for a more comfortable field-goal try. That was the ballgame, and the Raiders' season as well.
Miami will visit the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 3 at 1 p.m. ET in Bills Stadium. Las Vegas will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos on Jan. 3 at 4:25 p.m. in Empower Field at Mile High.