Miracle in Miami
Hard Rock Stadium, the site of the game.
|Date||December 9, 2018|
|Stadium||Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida|
|Favorite||Patriots by 9|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, and Evan Washburn|
The Miami Miracle, also known as the Miracle in Miami was an American football play that took place at the end of a game on December 9, 2018, between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. It is the first walk-off game-winning touchdown in NFL history to involve multiple lateral passes, and the first multi-lateral touchdown since the River City Relay in December 2003. After the game, the play was known by several names, most commonly the "Miami Miracle" and the "Miracle in Miami". The play went on to win the Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year Award at the 8th Annual NFL Honors Award Show on February 2.
Desperation lateral attempts have been used before in American football. In the history of the NFL, only twice in the 21st century has a team successfully converted a lateral pass for a touchdown at the end of a game. The first was on January 8, 2000, when the Tennessee Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle with a lateral pass from the Titans' tight end Frank Wycheck to wide receiver Kevin Dyson for a 75-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills. The second touchdown was the River City Relay on December 21, 2003, where the New Orleans Saints successfully completed three lateral passes culminating in a 75-yard touchdown by Jerome Pathon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, kicker John Carney missed the extra point, resulting in a 20–19 loss by the Saints.
Lead-up to the play
Entering the game, the Patriots were leading the AFC East with a record of 9–3, while the Dolphins had a record of 6–6. A Patriots win would clinch them their 10th consecutive AFC East title. After the Patriots struck first with a touchdown, there would be a total of eight lead changes, but Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski would miss not only the extra point on the aforementioned first touchdown, but a field goal attempt later on. Leading 30–28 after an unsuccessful attempt to score a touchdown in the waning seconds, he would score another field goal to put them up 33–28 with 16 seconds left to play.
Trailing by five points with seven seconds to go, the Dolphins had the ball at their own 31-yard line. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a pass over the middle that was caught by wide receiver Kenny Stills, who lateraled the ball to the right side of the field that was caught by DeVante Parker at midfield. Parker then tossed the ball to running back Kenyan Drake, who ran the ball 52 yards for a touchdown to win the game 34–33. The Dolphins declined to kick the extra point, per the rule change for the 2018 season following the Minneapolis Miracle.
One of the keys to the play was the Dolphins left guard Ted Larsen diligently following the play 40 yards downfield and springing a vicious block on the Patriots' Patrick Chung, who otherwise might have tackled Drake.
- Commentators Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts called the game for CBS's NFL coverage. Interestingly, Eagle and Fouts also called the near miracle in Pittsburgh against Miami five years earlier, when the Steelers tried a similar play and appeared to have pulled it off, except for Antonio Brown stepping out of bounds at the thirteen.
Eagle's call of the play:
Seven seconds left. Tannehill will throw it... and this will end it after the shovel. Or will it? Miami running around. Circling. Oh look out! Gronkowski! Didn't have the angle! Touchdown! Oh ho Kenyan Drake! A miracle! Miraculous in Miami! Stills... to Parker, to Drake! A lateral... heard 'round the world!
Tannehill. Last shot. Back to throw. They throw it down, they try to pitch it, and they do. To Parker, Parker pitches it, and it's Drake. DRAKE! 30, 20, GRONKOWSKI'S GONNA TACKLE! OH! THAT'S IT! HE GOES INTO THE END ZONE! TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THAT IS UNBELIEVABLE! I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW! There are no flags and the game is over!
Tannehill throws down the middle caught by Stills, laterals, back to Butler. (sic) Or rather Parker, who flips it to Drake, he runs across the 40 of New England, angling inside to the 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, He's gonna win the footrace to the end zone! The Dolphins are going to win it! On the lateral! Once then twice! And Drake takes it in! And the Patriots stand stunned in disbelief!
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was criticized after the game for substituting out safety Devin McCourty for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the final tackle leading to Drake's touchdown. Retired Patriots players Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, as well as McCourty and Patriots safety Duron Harmon, argued that since the Dolphins were too far away from the end zone to try a conventional Hail Mary pass play, Gronkowski, who has historically been used to defend against long passes in late-game situations, should not have been substituted in for a defensive back on the play.
The press conference following this game is where the well-known "Nobody died" comment from Belichick hails from. Following the game he replied to questioning from reporters by saying, "Look it's the National Football League. Nobody died. Gotta big game against Pittsburgh this week." 
The victory improved Miami's record to 7–6, keeping them in contention for a postseason berth and an AFC East title. However, the win turned out to be their final win of the 2018 season. Miami lost all its remaining games, finishing 7–9 and missing the postseason for the second year in a row.
The Patriots' loss dropped them to 9–4, meaning they could not match their 13–3 record from 2017. Ultimately, the Patriots clinched the division for the 10th consecutive season, finishing with an 11–5 record. They fell to the second seed in the AFC playoffs, marking the third time in six seasons that an upset Miami victory over New England cost them the top seed, forcing them to play the AFC Championship game on the road. Unlike the previous two times, however, the Patriots won the conference championship game over the Kansas City Chiefs, and then finished the season with a victory in Super Bowl LIII. After the Super Bowl, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that he doesn't consider the Miami game a loss.
One year later, the only player who touched the ball on that play for Miami who was still with the team was Parker. Tannehill, Stills, and Drake were traded to the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. Gase was fired after the season and moved on to coach the New York Jets; one of the Patriots defensive coaches in the game, Brian Flores, was hired to replace him. Flores himself would lead Miami to another upset victory over New England in his first season, this time knocking them out the number two seed and forcing them to play in the first round of the playoffs, where they would lose to Tannehill-led Titans.
- Referee: Pete Morelli (#135)
- Umpire: Steve Woods (#54)
- Down Judge: Steve Stelljes (#22)
- Line Judge: Jeff Seeman (#45)
- Back Judge: Keith Ferguson (#61)
- Side Judge: Boris Cheek (#41)
- Field Judge: Anthony Jeffries (#36)
- Replay Official: Brian Matoren
- Knoblauch, Austin (December 9, 2018). "Ryan Tannehill on Miami Miracle: 'Pretty amazing'". NFL.com. NFL Enterprises, LLC. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Miracle in Miami: Dolphins Stun Patriots with Last-Second Touchdown". Boston: WBZ-TV. December 9, 2018. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
- Armando Salguero asalguero@miamiherald. com. "A behind-the-scenes look at the Miami Dolphins after the Miami Miracle". miamiherald. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "MIAMI MIRACLE: Kenyan Drake, Dolphins Stun Patriots". www.miamidolphins.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Hoffman, Benjamin (December 9, 2018). "Dolphins Shock Patriots With a Miracle in Miami". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- King, Peter (December 10, 2018). "FMIA Week 14: On Mahomes, Midway Monsters And The Miracle In Miami". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Miami Miracle Named Bridgestone Clutch Performance Play Of The Year". February 2, 2019.
- Beasley, Adam H. (December 9, 2018). "Kenyan Drake was the hero. But Ted Larsen might have been Dolphins' real MVP Sunday". Miami Herald. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Dolphins Home Radio Call of the Miracle in Miami". YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
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- Zucker, Joseph (December 10, 2018). "Bill Belichick Takes Blame for Miami Miracle, Decision to Have Gronk in the Game". Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 13, 2018.
- Yang, Nicole. "2 former Patriots were critical of the Patriots' decision-making against the Dolphins". www.boston.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Patriots' meltdown in Miami was bad, but not the end of the world: 'Nobody died'". masslive. December 10, 2018.
- Smith, Michael David (February 5, 2019). "Tom Brady: I don't count the Miami game, so we had one loss after the bye". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
- Wolfe, Cameron (March 15, 2019). "Dolphins trade quarterback Tannehill to Titans". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
- Gantt, Darin (August 31, 2019). "Dolphins fire sale sends Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills to Texans". ProFootballTalk.NBCSports.com. Retrieved August 31, 2019.
- Patra, Kevin (October 28, 2019). "Dolphins trade RB Kenyan Drake to Cardinals". NFL.com.
- Sullivan, Tyler (December 29, 2019). "Patriots vs. Dolphins final score: Miami pulls off stunner, sends New England down to No. 3 playoff seed". CBSSports.com. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Fortier, Sam (January 5, 2020). "Patriots are done in by uncharacteristic mistakes in playoff loss to Titans". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2020.