Kicker Jason Sanders hadn't attempted five field goals in a game since 2020. Sunday night in a Christmas Eve showdown between two 10-4 teams, he converted all five of his kicks, three from over 50 yards out and the fifth from 29 yards away as time expired to give Miami a thrilling 22-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys and clinch the team's second consecutive playoff berth.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was 4-of-5 for 31 yards on the game-winning drive and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for 14 yards and a key first down on three carries to help run out the clock to set up Sanders and give Miami its first 11-win season since 2008.
Head Coach Mike McDaniel has the Dolphins in the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 1997-2001 and joins Dave Wannstedt and Don Shula as the third coach in franchise history to reach the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.
"A win. We got a win," Tagovailoa said after the game. "That's all you can ask for in this league any which way you can get it. That's all you can ask for. Very proud of our guys. They played their hearts out against a really good team."
In addition to sacking Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott four times, the Dolphins defense began the game with a huge turnover when safety Brandon Jones recovered Prescott's fumble on first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
That turnover turned into Sanders' first made field goal of the night, a career-long 57-yard kick.
Dallas quickly responded though as Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb found a rhythm. Prescott started the drive with a 22-yard completion to Lamb, who ended the drive two plays later on a 49-yard catch and run that gave Dallas a 7-3 lead with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
But after that quick touchdown drive, it was Miami that took control of the game and outgained Dallas 128-8 in the second quarter.
Another Sanders field goal and a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to running back Raheem Mostert just before halftime gave Miami a 13-7 cushion at the break.
The Dolphins got stopped on third-and-9 to open the second half, but a 58-yard punt by Jake Bailey pinned the ball all the way down to Dallas' two-yard line. The Cowboys gained just one yard in three plays and kicked right back to Miami.
Sanders then connected on a 54-yard field goal to put the Dolphins back up nine, 16-7 with 8:59 to play in the third quarter.
It was the first of four straight field goals - two from each team - in the second half.
Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey answered with a 43-yard kick to cut Dallas' deficit to 16-10 with 5:28 to play in the third quarter.
A 35-yard field goal from Sanders followed by a 33-yard boot from Aubrey kept Miami's lead at six points with 12:31 remaining in the game.
The Dolphins' opportunity to regain a two-score lead came and went in three plays and the defense returned to the field.
That's when Prescott and the Cowboys offense embarked on a lengthy 17-play, 69-yard scoring drive that took up 7:39 of game time.
Backed up deep in the red zone, it looked like Miami's defense was going to come away with a crucial stop, but a pass interference penalty wiped away what would have been a fourth-down incompletion.
It gave Dallas first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and Bradley Chubb then sacked Prescott for a seven-yard loss on first down and again, it appeared as if the Dolphins might hold on.
But on Dallas' seventh play inside the Miami 7-yard line, Prescott found wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the left corner of the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown pass to take a 20-19 lead with 3:27 left in the game.
Tagovailoa, who completed 24-of-37 passes (64.9 pct.) for 293 yards and one touchdown, then orchestrated his eighth-career game-winning drive (12 plays and 64 yards) and for the second time in two years, Sanders used his leg to send Miami to the postseason.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill finished with nine receptions for 99 yards (11.0 avg.) while wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (one reception for 50 yards) became the first Dolphins player in franchise history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Miami plays its final road game of the regular season on Sunday, Dec. 31 against the Baltimore Ravens before returning home to Hard Rock Stadium for its regular season finale versus Buffalo in Week 18. A win in either game would clinch the AFC East crown for Miami for the first time since 2008.
Kickoff versus Baltimore is set for 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS.