The Miami Dolphins found a spark in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, riding a little Fitzmagic to two touchdowns and a chance to end the talk of Miami being the worst team of all time. The team came up a failed two-point conversion and one point short of stealing a win in the final minute. It was an exciting finish to a game most expected to be lackluster and two winless teams trying to find the easier way to lose - and for much of the game, it seemed that way.
It was a game which featured 14 punts. There were missed field goals and interceptions. It had 11 drives that resulted in three-and-outs. It was not a pretty game for most of the game. But, when Miami made a move to bench quarterback Josh Rosen for Ryan Fitzpatrick, something changed for the Dolphins.
“I felt like we needed a spark,” head coach Brian Flores said of deciding to make the quarterback change. “We were down 17-3 at that point. The defense actually made a good stop to keep it to a two-score game or 14-point game. We just felt like that was the right move in that moment, the way we were going offensively. We had to get a spark going. We had to get something going. We tried to make a couple plays in the kicking game. We just felt like we needed a spark, and this team fought hard. I mean they didn’t – there’s no issue with effort. There’s no issue with trying to go out here and get a win. We just came up short at the end.”
It was not great under Fitzpatrick, with two of Miami’s punts, one of them on a three-and-out and the other coming on a four-play possession, came after Fitzpatrick entered the game. But, his first drive lasted nine plays, covering 55 yards, scoring Miami’s first points in any second half this season as Kalen Ballage rushed for a one-yard touchdown.
His last drive took nine plays, covering 75 yards, and ended with an 11-yard pass to DeVante Parker for the score. Now trailing 17-16, Miami elected to try a 2-point conversion rather than go for a tie and overtime with an extra point kick.
After a timeout from the Redskins, Miami attempted a bubble screen with Kenyan Drake, a play that did not look like it had a chance of succeeding, even if Drake had caught the pass. Miami lost with the failed 2-point conversion.
“We were trying to win the game, pretty much,” Flores said of the decision to go for two. “We talked about it. We felt good about the play. It’s something we worked on all week. We thought we had an opportunity to win the game, and that was the thought process there. They made a good play. They were ready to go on it; but we’re going to try to win the game in that situation with the amount of time left.”
“I was happy that we decided to go for two,” Fitzpatrick said. “That was the right move, and I wish we would have got in there.”
“I respect it. I love it,” Drake said when asked about the decision to make the two-point try. “I want to be in the situation to win the game each and every time. We know he has the utmost faith in his offense and the ability to go out there and call a play, run it, and execute it and make a play. I personally did not hold my bargain of the deal. That’s what we do as professional athletes in this game. This world, this league, it’s all about what have you done for me lately. As a professional in any aspect, you are expected to perform and hold your job up to the utmost of your ability. I did all I could out in that game. Everybody from a team standpoint, we went out there and did our best and just fell short.”
Offensive lineman Jesse Davis agreed with the aggressiveness. “I was like, ’Hell, yeah let’s do this.’ I don’t want to play overtime,” Davis said. “I think it was a good call. I think we’ve got to be aggressive doing that. What do we have to lose? You go for it. If you kick (and go to) overtime, you string it out and maybe end up in the same situation. I like the call.”
Flores also spoke of the defense and if Drake could have scored if he had caught the pass. “It looked like they played it pretty well,” Flores stated. “Drake would have had to make a pretty spectacular play, break a tackle – which he’d been doing a good job breaking tackles all day. I think obviously the first part of it is a good throw (and) a good catch. If you don’t have that, then the rest of it is a moot point.”
“I felt like giving arguably our best guy the ball and giving him a chance to win it for us, those are the types of situations that I think everybody on the team wants to be in,” Fitzpatrick told reporters. “Kenyan is one of our best playmakers.
“I think it gave him a chance,” Fitzpatrick continued. “Was he going to walk in the end zone? No. He wasn’t going to walk into the end zone. He would have had to do something significant and special; but that’s what we think of him, so we wanted to give him the chance to do it.”
“I have to hold my end of the bargain up,” Drake repeated. “Everyone has their job to do, their 1/11th, and my job is to catch the ball and get in the end zone. Regardless of what the situation was, I have to make sure that I hold my end of the bargain up and make the play that needs to be made, especially when Coach puts us in that situation to go and get the win.”
Flores said the Dolphins were planning to go for two in that situation for most of the final quarter, “We were going for two all the way. We were thinking two-point at the 10-minute mark.”
“I mean it’s something we’ve run a lot in practice and felt good about it,” Flores continued. “(We) just didn’t execute it. They made a good play as well.”
“I love the fact that we went for it,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Dolphins went for it. They were aggressive. They came up short. They failed to convert and they lost by one point. But, the team and the coaches feel they made the right choice and they went for the win.