Miami's win Saturday night in Las Vegas guarantees at least a five-game improvement from the 2019 season, which would be tied for the third-best year-to-year improvement in franchise history.
"We're excited to win," Head Coach Brian Flores said. "It was a tough game, a good team win. I thought they fought to the bitter end. We'll enjoy this one then we've got to turn the page and move on."
The big play that sparked the fourth and final lead change of the final four minutes came via a 34-yard completion from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Mack Hollins. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the play was the third-most improbable completion in the NFL this season with a completion probability of 10.9 percent.
"We needed a chunk play. There was pressure, (Fitzpatrick) stepped up in the pocket, made a throw under duress, Mack was open and he got it to him," Flores said.
Andrew Van Ginkel recorded his first career multi-sack game when he dumped Raiders quarterback Derek Carr twice in the first half. The first sack pushed the Raiders out of field goal range and the second set up a third-and-18 situation for the Las Vegas offense.
Without the services of defensive end Shaq Lawson, Van Ginkel personified Miami's next-man-up mentality, just as he did in the Week 5 win over the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, Van Ginkel went from averaging 13.5 snaps per game over the first four weeks, to 46 snaps in the 43-17 win. In that game, he recorded a sack and a forced fumble.
"Gink's done a nice job really the entire year for our team regardless of who's up and given more opportunity he's come through for us and he did last night," Flores said. "We've had a lot of guys come through for us over the course of the season and we're going to need that next week."
The kickoff to end the game might've lacked significance to some, but the Dolphins managed to extend their impressive, league-leading streak of consecutive games with a takeaway. Safety Clayton Fejedelem fell on the football after a failed Raiders' lateral attempt went awry making it 21 straight games that the Dolphins have forced a turnover.
Fejedelem found his way into the postgame notes on a separate special teams play. His 22-yard gallop on a fake punt was the longest run by a Dolphins non-skill player since 2003, when punter Matt Turk tucked a punt and scampered for 23 yards in a Monday night game against the Eagles.
"(Special Teams Coordinator) Danny (Crossman) does a great job with the kicking game," Flores said. "How that unit has played the entire year is a big reason why we've had some of the success we've had. It was a great design."
Running back Myles Gaskin caught a pair of touchdowns in the 26-25 win. It was the first time a Dolphins running back has scored multiple receiving touchdowns since Reggie Bush in 2012.
If the Dolphins win next week in Buffalo, they will clinch a playoff berth. Miami can also crash the playoff party if any of the following happens in Week 17:
Browns lose to Steelers
Ravens lose to Bengals
Colts lose to Jaguars
The Dolphins will end the day with no worse than the fifth pick of the 2021 NFL Draft (via the Houston Texans). The pick can climb as high as three and fall as low ninth. Houston plays Tennessee in the finale and a loss by the Texans in that game will secure the pick as a top-five selection.
The win was the 200th road victory in the history of the Dolphins. The five road wins on the season is the most for Miami since 2010.
The Dolphins improved upon their league-best third-down defense holding the Raiders without a conversion on 10 attempts on the money down. On the season, opponents are converting just 30.7 percent of their third down tries against Miami.
Brian Flores discussed the decision to make the switch to Ryan Fitzpatrick Sunday, and his feelings about his rookie quarterback through the first eight starts of the career of Tua Tagovailoa.
"Tua has brought us a spark in a lot of other games," Flores said. "I think people forget that because we just remember the last thing. I think Tua's played well. I think he's made a lot of improvement over the course of the season. I think he's developing. I don't make judgments and decisions based off of one instance. There's a lot that goes into the decisions we make. Not just one game or one quarter. Tua's done a lot of good things for this team. He knows that; this team knows that."
"Whatever people want to speculate about as far as what we should or shouldn't do based on last night," he continued. "I wouldn't do that. You forget the body of work over the course of the season, to include the last, however many games Tua's started. I think he's played fairly well. People may disagree but I think we'll just agree to disagree in that instance. That's kind of my take on that. It's not based on game or one quarter. There's a lot of practices people don't see, meetings people don't see, walkthroughs no one sees, but everyone wants to make a judgement and try to make a decision for us and what we should do without all that information."