On Halloween the 2021 Miami Dolphins were, historically speaking, dead.
That day Miami lost to the Buffalo Bills to fall to 1-7. No NFL team has ever gone from 1-7 to the playoffs. Even with the extra week this season and the expanded playoff field, it was crazy to think Miami could make a playoff push.
Two months later, the Dolphins currently hold the No. 7 seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Dolphins moved into the bracket for now with a 20-3 win over the New Orleans Saints. It was their seventh straight win and they’re back over .500 at 8-7. The Dolphins caught a break on Monday night. They didn’t face a full-strength Saints team. New Orleans, which fell to 7-8, had many players on the COVID-19 list including their top two quarterbacks. Rookie Ian Book started at quarterback and threw a pick-six to start the game. Still, the Dolphins don’t need to make any apologies for a win. The Dolphins are the first team in NFL history with a seven-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak in the same season.
The Dolphins have tough games remaining against the Titans and Patriots. They’re no lock to finish the race and make the postseason. But the fact that we’re having a discussion about Dolphins playoff scenarios with two weeks to go is incredible.
Dolphins score right away
The Dolphins’ seven-game winning streak has come against some bad teams. Still, seven in a row in the NFL is hard no matter who you play.
The Saints would have been a legitimate test, but COVID-19 scuttled that. The Saints were without several key players, including quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, who were put on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Book, a rookie fourth-round pick, started at quarterback. He’d never taken an NFL snap before. On his first series he threw a pass that was tipped at the line, picked off by cornerback Nik Needham and returned 28 yards for a touchdown. That was all the Dolphins would need.
The Dolphins didn’t do a ton on offense. They didn’t get a touchdown until 5:10 left in the third quarter, when Tua Tagovailoa hit Jaylen Waddle on a misdirection shovel pass for a 1-yard touchdown. At that point the decimated Saints offense had 85 yards. They weren’t coming back from a 17-3 deficit.
The game was elementary after that. The Dolphins swarmed Book, who was in obvious passing situations behind a line that couldn’t protect him. Book had no shot to succeed, starting at the last minute surrounded by a team that couldn’t help him.
It wasn’t the most impressive performance by the Dolphins, but the win was a big one.
Dolphins in playoff mix
The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals have perhaps the greatest basement-to-penthouse story in one NFL season. They started 1-6. Then they won their last seven games to make the playoffs. That season, young Bengals assistant Bill Walsh tweaked the offense to cater to light-armed quarterback Virgil Carter, which sparked the turnaround and was the origin for the West Coast Offense. That’s the only 1-6 team to make the playoffs.
The Dolphins have a shot to make their own history. Tua Tagovailoa gets a lot of criticism, but the Dolphins offense has been better since he got healthy from some early season injuries. It wasn’t good on Monday night, but it didn’t need to be. The Dolphins defense got healthy too and has played much better.
Maybe the Dolphins will fall just short. But halfway through the season, no Dolphins fan figured they’d be wondering about the postseason as the calendar turned to 2022.
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