MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — After just one successful field goal of 50-plus yards all season, it was only fitting that the Miami Dolphins’ playoff hopes came down to a 50-yard kick.
“I felt like I owed it to the guys,” said Jason Sanders, whose booming go-ahead kick with 18 seconds left helped Miami squeak past the New York Jets, 11-6, on Sunday to clinch a postseason berth for the first time since 2016.
Miami (9-8) snapped a five-game losing streak, and then had to wait a few minutes for Buffalo to defeat the Patriots to make the Dolphins’ playoff appearance official. “We’re In” was displayed on the videoboard at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Jason Sanders, to come through the way he did and have all the points, you have to be built different for that,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I’m very, very happy with the entire locker room, the entire building, and I feel they wanted no part of this season to be over, and it’s not.”
Miami will play at Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs next weekend. The AFC East rivals split the season series, with each winning at home.
The Jets (7-10) ended the season with six straight losses, finishing a disappointing collapse for Robert Saleh’s squad. New York failed to score a touchdown in its final three games.
“Next year, we’re going to be in December football and the challenge is going to be finish,” Saleh said. “Not just be satisfied with December football, but finishing December football.”
On the Jets’ last-ditch effort with time running out, they lateraled the ball a few times before Elijah Moore fumbled, the ball was recovered by Garrett Wilson, and he was ruled to be tackled in the end zone for a safety.
“Everybody gave it their all,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “Comparing last year to now, there’s so much improvement, so much building to talk about.”
The Jets reached midfield with 7:28 left on a 27-yard defensive pass interference call on Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou. That drive ended in a punt by an offense that finished with just 187 total yards.
The Jets had tied it with about 12 minutes left on a 35-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. Joe Flacco led the team down the field on a 14-play, 75-yard drive. Flacco completed 18 of 33 passes for 149 yards for the Jets in the place of Mike White, who is dealing with broken ribs.
In their most important game of the season, the Dolphins’ offense was limited, with veteran left tackle Terron Armstead inactive and rookie Skylar Thompson at quarterback. But Thompson, with no turnovers and 152 yards passing, did enough to get the first win of his career.
“Hasn’t always been perfect, but I believe everything that I went through set me up and prepared me for this moment,” Thompson said. “I had so much confidence coming into this game because looking back at this year, it was like, ‘What have I not experienced? I’m ready for this.’ ”
Thompson started his second game of the season after replacing the injured Teddy Bridgewater in last Sunday’s loss in Foxborough. Bridgewater, who dislocated the pinkie finger on his throwing hand, was in for Tua Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa remains in the concussion protocol after sustaining his second known concussion of the season on Christmas against Green Bay. McDaniel did not say whether Tagovailoa might be available against the Bills.
Miami punted on two of its first four drives. The other two ended in a turnover on downs and a 37-yarder by Sanders.
Miami got close to the end zone midway through the third quarter, set up by tough runs of 14, 11, and 21 yards by Raheem Mostert. The Dolphins lost 11 yards on first down at the Jets 13, however, Thompson couldn’t connect with Tyreek Hill in the end zone on third-and 16, and the Dolphins settled for a field goal.
Hill was limited by an ankle injury sustained in the first half, but he only briefly left the game. He caught two passes on five targets for 23 yards, his fewest in a game this season.
Mostert and Jeff Wilson combined for 143 yards rushing, and tight end Mike Gesicki led the Dolphins with 46 yards receiving, including a 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
Garrett Wilson had 89 yards on nine catches for the Jets. Wilson had a 9-yard catch overturned in the fourth quarter after Miami’s first successful challenge of the season. New York ended up punting on the drive, and Sanders’ winning kick came a couple drives later.