Coaching beats all. It matters more than anything in football. Consider the 2019 Miami Dolphins. They are the prime example of what good coaching leads to. It was a rocky 5-11 season and hell, it shouldn’t have even gotten to 5-11. The team traded away Laremy Tunsil, Ryan Tannehill, Kenny Stills and Kenyan Drake, all core pieces of the 2018 Dolphins. They acquired draft picks, loaded up for 2020 and it worked. To top it all off, the Fins won in Foxboro yesterday — the first time since 2008.
It was a throwaway game on the New England Patriots’ schedule, a matchup between mentor and mentee, Coach Flo vs. Bill Belichick, but the Dolphins slowly showed the Patriots why this Week 17 matchup was different.
The game started with a quick three-and-out by the Patriots’ offense, resulting in a Fins’ chance to strike first, which has been rare in recent years. Ryan Fitzpatrick continued to be good for the Fins and a leader in offense. He found DeVante Parker off the rip and got the first down. Add in a trick play to Isaiah Ford and the Fins were in striking distance. Ultimately it resulted in a field goal by Jason Sanders, 3-0 Fins.
A few drives later, Thomas Edward Brady threw a pick-six to former Patriot defensive back Eric Rowe, and it was 10-0 Fins. It was a pick-six that Brady had never thrown against the Dolphins, which ironically made Fins’ fans nervous. Since Brady and Belichick have dominated the AFC East, you can always catch them off guard once, but then they figure you out a quarter later. After the pick-six, the Patriots went on to score 10 straight, but things didn’t feel the same. The Patriots looked weak. Add a touchdown run by Fitzmagic and a touchdown pass from Brady to linebacker Elandon Roberts, and it was 17-17. Both teams answered each other with touchdown scores. It seemed like each team felt the pressure, but the Dolphins were mentally ahead of the Patriots, a rare occasion. Throughout each drive Parker was even dominating, to quote Pro Football Network Editor Corey Ashburn, “the best corner in football,” Stephone Gilmore.
DeVante Parker got the best of Stephon Gilmore, who lined up across from Parker on 40 of 45 routes (89%).
Parker caught 7 of 9 targets with Gilmore in coverage for 119 yards, the most receptions & yards given up by Gilmore since joining the Patriots in 2017.#MIAvsNE | #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/hEkYFwSZ0c
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 29, 2019
With 8:32 left in the game, a 32-yard field goal was drilled in by Jason Sanders to make it 20-17, and then it happened. Brandon Bolden, a member of the Fins last season, broke a kickoff return for a huge gain. Brady went to work, driving down the field against the Fins like he’s done so many times before, making it 24-20 Patriots lead. Even if the Dolphins were there mentally, Brady and his 15-1 record in Foxboro against the Dolphins was on the line.
It seemed the team would just go into the offseason 4-12. This was until Fitzpatrick turned into Fitzmagic. Driving the offense down the field, he threw an absolute dime to Mike Gesicki — take that Adam Gase — and the Dolphins led the game 27-24. With 29 seconds left, the Patriots attempted to beat the Dolphins with a lateral sequence that ultimately failed.
The Dolphins’ win yesterday makes it a 1-1 record for Coach Flo against Bill Belichick. The Patriots will now play the Tennessee Titans and ex-Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill on wildcard weekend, from which they have never reached the Super Bowl, with a 3-3 playoff record.
🔥 Every play from the game winning drive 🔥#FinsUp pic.twitter.com/9T1Bpf0sYI
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 29, 2019
It was truly a game all Dolphins fans should remember as preparation for Coach Flo’s future career. He showed the NFL media and fans why his team was different from those of years past. He won’t win the award, but he should 100 percent be considered for coach of the year. What he and his staff did with the talent they were given was purely magical. He said it himself, “How bout’ them Dolphins?”
There will be a few more Dolphins-related articles from me before the offseason kicks into gear, but thank you all for sticking with SFMN and me throughout this rocky season. Next year will be great for the Dolphins. Fans should look forward to offseason and the NFL draft, as well as the Super Bowl in our own backyard on Sunday, Feb. 2.