Patriots vs Dolphins recap: Miami goes toe-to-toe with New England and comes out on top

Dec 15, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas (31) runs off the field after the defeating the New England Patriots 24-20 at Sun Life Stadium. - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots by a final of 24-20 yesterday. The win keeps Miami's playoff hopes alive, as well as damages their AFC East rivals' attempt to gain control of the top spot in the conference's post season tournament.

The Miami Dolphins had not beaten the New England Patriots since 2009. Until yesterday.

The Miami Dolphins had four straight losing seasons, dating back to 2009. Until yesterday.

Dan Marino and Chad Pennington were the only Dolphins quarterbacks to throw for 3,500 yards in a season. Until yesterday.

Michael Thomas had never appeared in an NFL game and had not played cornerback since his freshman year in college. Until yesterday.

The Patriots had control of the AFC Playoff picture and controlled their own destiny for the conference's home-field advantage. Until yesterday.

Oh, what a difference a day makes.

With a 24-20 victory over the Patriots yesterday, the Dolphins reset much of what was known about them. No longer are they the Patriots' whipping boy. No longer are they a sub-.500 team. Marino and Pennington now share the Dolphin's 3,500-yard club with Ryan Tannehill, who could be in the 4,000-yard by the end of the year, a club only containing Marino so far. Thomas went from being a San Francisco 49ers practice squad player five days before to hero for the Dolphins as he not only made his NFL debut, but recorded his first interception as well. And, the Denver Broncos reclaimed their hold on the AFC's top-playoff position with the Patriots' loss.

Oh, what a difference a day makes.

The game featured a Tom Brady come back to take the lead, only to have Tannehill answer with a drive of his own. Then, a furious drive from Brady that seemed destined to be another heartbreak for the Dolphins. Instead, Thomas, who after the game admitted he knew the Dolphins' play calls, but does not yet know the signals and was having to rely on safety Reshad Jones to tell him what to do, stepped up and made two great plays.

With no timeouts and 27-seconds remaining in the game, Brady took aim at the end zone. On first-and-ten from the Miami 19-yard line, Brady tried to find Danny Amendola deep down the right side of the field. Thomas broke up the pass, keeping Miami in the lead.

After three more attempts, due to an offsides penalty on defensive end Cameron Wake giving the Patriots two second downs, the Patriots again tried to target Thomas. This time, Brady threw for Austin Collie in the end zone, only to see Thomas not just break up the pass, but step in front of Collie and intercept it.

A Tannehill kneel down on the next snap, and Miami withstood the best Brady could muster, and walked away with the victory.

Thomas rightfully is receiving a ton of recognition for an amazing performance from a player who had been with the Dolphins just five days. But, he wasn't the only noteworthy performance for Miami on Sunday.

Tannehill threw for 312-yards on 25-for-37 passing, with three touchdowns, earning him a 120.6 passer rating for the game. He completed passes to ten different receivers: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, Michael Egnew, Marcus Thigpen, Marlon Moore, Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Daniel Thomas, and Lamar Miller. Wallace led the group with six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. Thigpen and Thomas also caught touchdown passes, including Thigpen's game winning score, and his first offensive touchdown.

On the ground, Miller added 61-yards on 15-carries, while Daniel Thomas carried the ball five times for 16-yards.

On defense, joining Michael Thomas' performance was rookie Will Davis, with both reserve cornerbacks thrust into the lineup when both Brent Grimes and Nolan Carroll had to leave the game with injuries. Brady took advantage of Davis most of the day, but the rookie gained experience, and, in end, recorded seven tackles.

Safety Chris Clemons led the team with nine tackle, while Jones added eight of his own. Wake recorded the lone sack of the game for Miami.

Brady finished the game 34-for-55, with 364-passing yards, two touchdowns, and the interception. He had an 85.7 passer rating for the contest. Legarrette Blount led the ground attack for New England, gaining 47-yards on 11-carries. Both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the Patriots, with Edelman tallying 139-yards and a touchdown while Amendola recorded 131-yards.

New England was able to sack Tannehill four times on the day.

The win moves the Dolphins into the sixth, and final, spot for the playoffs in the AFC, pending the result of tonight's Monday Night Football game between the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions. Baltimore has the head-to-head tie-break over the Dolphins, and will move into the sixth seed with a win. If Baltimore loses, Miami will control their postseason destiny.

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