Dolphins eliminate Patriots from playoff race with 22-12 win

NFL

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP)Undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed and veteran Matt Breida combined for 208 yards rushing Sunday to lead the Miami Dolphins to a 22-12 victory over the New England Patriots, who were eliminated from playoff contention, ending their NFL-record run of 11 consecutive postseason appearances.

The Dolphins entered the game last in the league in yards per carry, and Ahmed became their first 100-yard rusher since 2018, totaling 122 yards and scoring a 2-point conversion on a trick play.

Breida added 86 yards and the Dolphins totaled a season-high 250 against the Patriots, who were gashed for more than 150 on the ground for the fifth time this year.

The Dolphins (9-5) bolstered their wild-card chances and are assured of a winning record for only the second time since 2008.

The Patriots (6-8) will finish at .500 or worse for the first time since 2000, the year they drafted Tom Brady. They fall one year short of matching the Dallas Cowboys’ NFL record of 20 consecutive winning seasons.

Buffalo clinched the AFC East title with a win Saturday.

With their three most productive pass catchers sitting out the game because of injuries, the Dolphins kept it on the ground. They mounted a 14-play, 90-yard touchdown drive midway through the second half to take the lead for good. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ran it in from the 3 on third down after he couldn’t find an open receiver.

The Dolphins then sprang a hook-and-ladder for the 2-point conversion, with receiver Isaiah Ford flipping a lateral to Ahmed, who ran into the end zone untouched. That put the Dolphins ahead 15-9, and they sealed the victory by mounting a grinding 75-yard touchdown drive on their next possession.

They were shut out in the first half, but mounted a 72-yard touchdown drive to start the second half for a 7-6 lead.

Four times the Patriots settled for a field goal after driving inside the Miami 30. Cam Newton finished 17 for 27 for 209 yards.

Ahmed became the first undrafted rookie in Dolphins history to rush for 100 yards.

FAILING TO SCORE

The Dolphins were unable to convert several scoring chances, including when they drove 95 yards in the first quarter before J.C. Jackson made his eighth interception of the year, picking off a third-down pass by Tagovailoa at the goal line.

An 86-yard touchdown on a fumble return by Miami’s Xavien Howard was reversed by a replay review that showed the loose ball touched another player with a foot out of bounds. The reversal represented a 10-point swing, because New England kept the ball and kicked a field goal on the next play.

Miami’s Jason Sanders missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of the first half. A successful fake punt that put the Dolphins in scoring range was negated by a penalty.

INJURIES

Patriots: CB Stephon Gilmore (right knee) left the game in the second quarter and was helped to the locker room. LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (arm) also went to the locker room in the first half. DE John Simon (hamstring) and C David Andrews (calf) were sidelined in the second half. Leading rusher Damien Harris was inactive because of an ankle injury.

Dolphins: G Solomon Kindley limped off the field in the third quarter. WRs DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Jakeem Grant (hamstring) and TE Mike Gesicki (shoulder) were inactive.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: They play Sunday at the Las Vegas Raiders (7-7), who have lost four of their past five games.

Patriots: They play host on Monday, Dec. 28 to the Buffalo Bills (11-3), who have already clinched the AFC East to end New England’s 11-year reign.

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