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Dolphins escape Buffalo with 34-31 OT victory

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It turned out closer than it should have, but the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 in overtime on Saturday in upstate New York. Andrew Franks tied the game at the end of regulation with a 55-yard field goal and won it with only 55 seconds left in the extra period.

With the victory, the Dolphins moved to 10-5, the first time they have won that many games since 2008. That is also the last time Miami qualified for the NFL playoffs.

They are on the verge of clinching a wild card spot. A win next week at home over New England or a Denver loss puts Miami in the playoffs.

The Dolphins led 21-7 in the third quarter, but the Bills, who had 589 yards of total offense, came back to eventually take a 31-28 lead with only 1:20 left. Backup quarterback Matt Moore, filling in for the injured Ryan Tannehill moved the team down field setting up Franks’ game-tying kick.

Moore finished with 233 yards passing with two touchdowns. The hero of the day was running back Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 206 yards on 32 carries.

It was the third time this season Ajayi has run for more than 200 yards. No NFL back has done that since 2005 when Tiki Barber of the New York Giants turned the trick.

“It’s about running hard through the whole game and finishing strong,” said Ajayi. “Division rival game, December game, a lot was on the line.”

The Dolphin defense was seemingly out of gas late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, but they made plays when it mattered most. On Buffalo’s first possession in overtime, they were forced to settle for a field goal try after reaching the red zone. Former Dolphin Dan Carpenter’s try from 45 yards out was wide to the right.

On the game-winning drive, Ajayi accounted for 75 of the 77 yards that set up Franks for the deciding kick.

If the Dolphins do need to defeat the Patriots next week, they would like for New England to be in a position to not need the win themselves. They are playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs and held a one game advantage over the Oakland Raiders when the day began.

If the Patriots have clinched home field, they are certain to either rest many of their key players or have them play sparingly. If Miami must face a motivated New England team, they should be expected to be ready.

Everyone is motivated to play the Patriots.

 

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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