The Anatomy of a Wild Finish

The Miami Dolphins were able to steal a victory at Las Vegas thanks to an improbable pass that featured a lot of subplots
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Ryan Fitzpatrick's "no-look pass" that helped the Miami Dolphins pull out their incredible victory at Las Vegas will go down as one of the most memorable plays in franchise history.

It's a play that deserves a deeper look, particularly considering all the layers involved, including an officiating mistake, a pre-planned strategy by the Dolphins, a controversial Raiders decision and, of course, help from a baffled Raiders secondary.

The record will show a 34-yard completion from Fitzpatrick to Mack Hollins plus a 15-yard facemask penalty on defensive end Arden Key that moved the ball from the Dolphins 25-yard line to the Raiders 26 and set up Jason Sanders' 44-yard game-winning field goal to secure Miami's 26-25 victory.

The Dolphins had the ball at their 25-yard line down by two with 19 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, and ESPN gave the Raiders a 99.9 percent win probability before "The Pass."

It was the 5,053th regular season pass of Fitzpatrick's NFL career and he said after the game his might have been the biggest of his career — and we'll forgive him if he became a prisoner of the moment.

"I think the odds were pretty low there of us to be able to complete something with the proper yardage and not have to throw a Hail Mary but actually kick a field goal," Fitzpatrick said. "I didn’t know that it was complete. As you guys saw, my facemask was getting pulled and my head was getting ripped off. I turned around to say, ‘Hey, facemask,’ just to make sure they saw it. I think Jesse Davis, or maybe Myles (Gaskin) had to tell me that it was complete, but I didn’t know that we completed it.”

But before that play happened, there were a lot of interesting things that set the stage.

Of course, the Dolphins needed the miracle largely because of a fringe defensive pass interference penalty on cornerback Byron Jones. While, yes, Jones made contact with wide receiver Nelson Agholor, he hardly impeded his ability to make the catch, and it also was not as much contact as when Agholor pushed off on his 85-yard touchdown a few minutes earlier.

And that's not just us saying it.

That call put the Raiders in position to take the lead after they trailed 23-22 — because kicker Daniel Carlson missed an extra-point attempt after Agholor's long touchdown. 

And this is where we get to more interesting stuff.

We'll start with the officiating error.

On the first play after the two-minute warning, Josh Jacobs rushed for 2 yards to make it third-and-1 at the Dolphins 13-yard line. Miami called their second timeout on the play, though Raiders tackle Trent Brown was injured during the play and trainers came out to tend to him.

This is where the officiating mistake came in because the Dolphins should have gotten their timeout back because of the injury on the play, and it's the Raiders who should haven been charged with a timeout.

That extra timeout the Dolphins should have had would have made a big difference in the end and would have changed the way both teams played at the end of that possession.

Because the Dolphins were out of timeouts, the Raiders focused more on killing as much of the clock as possible — even if it meant settling for a field goal and a two-point lead instead of trying to score a touchdown that would have made it 28-23 and would have led to a two-point conversion attempt.

The reason Raiders coach Jon Gruden chose that route is because he had flashbacks of Patrick Mahomes driving down the field for a game-winning touchdown after he left him too much time on the clock.

Again, would Gruden have gone for the touchdown if not for the missed PAT because then a simple extra point would have given them a seven-point lead?

In any event, the Dolphins were aware of what the Raiders were trying to do, which is why you saw defenders getting out of the way of Jacobs on the second-and-goal run from the 6. Jacobs, though, didn't want to score, which is why he slid at the 1-yard line.

"They were trying not to score, (and) yeah, we were trying to let them score," head coach Brian Flores. "At the end of the day, they were OK with taking the lead with 19 seconds, which obviously there’s a high probability of winning given that situation, and we made a play at the end, a couple plays at the end. And again, like games in this league, they come down to one or two plays, but strategy-wise, I understand why they did what they did.”

In essence, the Raiders preferred being up two with 19 seconds left instead of, say, being up six or seven with around a minute left.

Again, if not for the timeout mistake, it's almost certain the Raiders would have gone for the touchdown instead of opting to go up by two with around a minute left.

That obviously would have presented a different challenge for the Dolphins, who would have needed to drive 75 yards for a game-winning or game-tying touchdown depending on the two-point conversion attempt.

As it was, the Dolphins already were facing what seemed to be an insurmountable task.

Getting his facemask yanked from the side made it a pretty impressive throw by Fitzpatrick, whose pass wasn't necessarily a work of art but still got to a wide open Hollins near the sideline because the Raiders secondary somehow failed to account for him.

Even though Hollins rushed to get out of bounds, that became unnecessary because of the penalty called on the Raiders.

On the other end, Fitzpatrick had just added to the legend of "FitzMagic."

Even the king of the no-look pass had to acknowledge the brilliance of the moment.