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Dolphins vs. Cowboys - Week 16 Immediate Reactions - 2023

The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys faced off in Week 16, in a game with huge playoff implications for both teams. We react to everything throughout the game.

Dallas Cowboys v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The 10-4 Miami Dolphins hosted the 10-4 Dallas Cowboys in Week 16 of the 2023 NFL season.

The Cowboys jumped ahead early, but the Dolphins quickly answered back, and entered the second half up 13-7. From there, they never looked back, and won the game by a score of 22-20. With the win, the Dolphins improve to 11-4, and have officially clinched a spot in the 2024 NFL Playoffs.

Standout performers include Jason Sanders, who was 5/5 on the day on field goals, including 57, 54, and 52 yard field goals, as well as the game winner.

Final Score

Dallas Cowboys 20 - 22 Miami Dolphins

First Quarter Reactions

The Cowboys won the toss, and elected to receive the ball. Quarterback Dak Prescott connected with wideout CeeDee Lamb on the game’s very first play, a theme that remained throughout the game. On their first drive, the Cowboys drove down the field with relative ease, but a turnover on the 1-yard line from fullback Hunter Luepke shifted the momentum Miami’s way. A real sucker punch for the Cowboys, who were on a 15-play drive at that point.

The Dolphins got right down to business on their first drive, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa delivering a 49-yard strike to Jaylen Waddle on a crucial 3rd down. However, the Dolphins struggled to move the ball on the ground, with running back Raheem Mostert managing just 10 yards on his first four carries. The Dolphins eventually settled for a field goal to open the scoring, with kicker Jason Sanders drilling a 57-yard attempt through the uprights (career high).

The Cowboys went right back to Lamb on their second drive, ending in a 49-yard catch-and-run touchdown via Lamb, pushing the score to 7-3.

Second Quarter Reactions

The Dolphins failed to answer back in the second quarter, with a 12-play, 70-yard drive ending in a turnover on downs on the 5-yard line. Through two drives, the Dolphins have 103 yards through the air, 31 yards on the ground, but just 3 points. Star receiver Tyreek Hill hasn’t caught a ball yet, but his presence on the field is keeping Dallas’ defense on their toes.

The Cowboys got the ball back deep in their own territory, but a questionable roughing-the-passer call on Christian Wilkins wasn’t enough to save their drive. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel managed to record a key sack on second down, and the Cowboys were forced to punt.

With 7:21 left in the second quarter, the Dolphins again got the ball back, hoping to record their first touchdown of the game. Hill finally got involved, with a 20-yard reception on 2nd-and-4. But, a missed throw by Tagovailoa on the following 3rd down killed the drive, and the Dolphins again had to settle for 3 points, with Sanders kicking a 52-yard field goal.

The Cowboys got the ball back with 4:31 left in the half, but Miami’s defense stayed strong, and forced a punt. The Dolphins finally managed to enter the end zone on their final offensive drive, with an 8-play, 71-yard drive ending in a four-yard touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert. It was quick, efficient, and it was classic Miami.

Halftime Reactions

The Dolphins feel somewhat outmatched in this contest, but are somehow leading 13-7.

On offense, head coach Mike McDaniel needs to stop getting cute, and stick to the basics. Establish the run, set up quick throws, and keep the defense on their toes. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio needs to have an answer for Lamb on defense, who’s torched the Dolphins throughout this game for four receptions, 93 yards, and a touchdown. That being said, the defense has largely kept the Cowboys’ offense in check.

Third Quarter Reactions

The Dolphins received the second half kickoff. Miami got off to a great start, with Mostert scampering away for a 14-yard run on the very first play of the second half. However, a miscommunication with Tyreek Hill killed the drive on 3rd down, and the Dolphins were forced to punt.

A great punt by punter Jake Bailey pinned the Cowboys inside their own 5-yard line. Running back Tony Pollard managed just one yard on 1st down, putting the Cowboys in a tough spot on 2nd-and-9 from their own 2-yard line. Vic Fangio dialed up the blitz on 2nd down, leading to an incompletion from Prescott. On 3rd-and-long, Prescott overthrew tight end Jake Ferguson, and the Cowboys called in the punting unit on 4th down.

On 1st-and-10 from their own 40-yard line with 11:53 left in the third quarter, the Dolphins lined up for their second drive of the second half. Tua connected with Tyreek on a 17-yard pass on 1st down, putting Miami in Dallas territory. But, a bad call from McDaniel on 3rd-and-short ended the drive, and the Dolphins again settled for 3 points. Sanders hit a 52-yard field goal, his third 50-yarder of the game.

On the ensuing drive, Cowboys finally got something going on offense with a 45-yard pass to Jalen Tolbert, placing the Cowboys at Miami’s 24-yard line. But, an illegal shift on 3rd-and-11 stopped Dallas’ momentum, and they were forced to settle for a field goal.

With the ball back in Tua’s hands, the Dolphins opened up their drive with an 18-yard pass to Hill. As the game has gone on, the Dolphins have involved Hill more and more in their offense. A 21-yard pass to tight end Durham Smythe put the Dolphins in a good position to score a touchdown, but an overthrow by Tua on 3rd-and-7 ended the drive. Jason Sanders knocked through his fourth field goal of the day, this one from 35 yards.

The Dolphins are playing well, but keep tossing the ball behind the line of scrimmage for some reason. One has to question McDaniel’s play-calling here.

With 1:24 left in the third quarter, the Cowboys took over on offense. Back-to-back throws to Ferguson helped calm the waters, as time expired. Three gone, one to go, 19-10 Dolphins.

Fourth Quarter Reactions

The Cowboys got off to a great start in the fourth, with a 22-yard run by Prescott putting the Cowboys at Miami’s 32-yard line. An illegal contact penalty by Nik Needham on 3rd down saved the Cowboys, who used their good fortune to kick their second field goal of the game, making the game 13-19, Dolphins.

Now would be a great time for Miami’s offense to score a touchdown. The Cowboys are gaining momentum, and the Dolphins need to shut that down. Need 7, not 3.

With 12:15 left in the game, the Dolphins opened up their drive with a toss to Achane, who picked up seven yards. A poor throw by Tua on 2nd down and a false start on 3rd down pushed the Dolphins back to 3rd-and-8. A sack by Micah Parsons, and on comes the punting unit.

The Cowboys take over on their own 31-yard line, with all the momentum on their side. Dak went straight to Lamb, who picked up 15 yards on a big third down. Soon after, another third down, but this time the Cowboys failed to convert. However, keeping their offense on the field on 4th-and-2, the Cowboys managed to convert this time around. With 5:25 left in the game, the Cowboys are now facing 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Pollard runs it up the gut for 3 yards, then Prescott overthrows Lamb in the end zone. 3rd-and-goal, and the Cowboys fail again. But, 4th-and-goal, and the Dolphins can’t hold on, as DeShon Elliot gets called for pass interference. A real sucker punch, as Dallas scores for the touchdown on the next drive with a beautiful catch by veteran Brandin Cooks. 20-19, Cowboys.

Confidence feels low at the moment, and his team doesn’t feel like they have what it takes to come back and win this game. Let’s see what happens, I hope I’m wrong.

The Dolphins get the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 3:27 left in the game and two timeouts. On first down, a quick screen to Achane who draws a face mask, giving the Dolphins 15 additional yards. Now, 1st-and-10 from the 46-yard line. A quick pass to Cedrick Wilson for nine yards, and the Dolphins enter into Cowboys territory. Another short pass, this time to Tyreek, for five yards. 1st-and-10 from the Cowboys’ 41-yard line, and Tua can’t find Tyreek. A seven yard catch-and-run from fullback Alec Ingold puts the Dolphins in field goal range, as we hit the two-minute warning. Third-and-short to go, Mike McDaniel’s kryptonite...but the Dolphins convert.

With 1:53 left, 1st-and-10 from the 28-yard line. Jeff Wilson Jr for 8 yards on the ground. Then Jeff Wilson Jr. again for 6 yards on a crucial third down. Sets up Jason Sanders for the win...and he hits! DOLPHINS WIN! PLAYOFFS, HERE WE COME!