Dolphins nip Cowboys 22-20 on Jason Sanders’ last-second field goal, secure playoff spot

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By ALANIS THAMES | AP Sports Writer

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jason Sanders kicked his fifth field goal of the game, a 29-yarder as time expired, and the Miami Dolphins secured a playoff berth with a 22-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Tua Tagovailoa threw for 293 yards and a touchdown for the AFC East-leading Dolphins (11-4), who beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season. He connected with Tyreek Hill twice on the decisive drive, which covered 64 yards and took the final 3:27 off the clock.

Hill, who leads the NFL in receiving yards, had nine catches for 99 yards after missing last week’s victory over the New York Jets with an ankle injury.

Miami Dolphins place kicker Jason Sanders, center, celebrates after kicking the game winning field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo)

Dak Prescott went 20 of 32 for 253 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys (10-5), who have already clinched a playoff spot but fell a half-game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East.

Prescott put Dallas in front 20-19 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Brandin Cooks in the corner of the end zone. But the Cowboys were haunted by their red-zone struggles earlier in the game, including a fumble by Prescott on first-and-goal from inside the 1 on Dallas’ first possession.

Sanders’ first field goal was a career-long 57-yarder in the first quarter. He added kicks of 52, 54 and 35 yards to help the Dolphins take a 19-10 lead late in the third.

Prescott rallied the Cowboys with some dynamic playmaking. On the go-ahead drive, he completed a pass to Michael Gallup as Miami linebacker Duke Riley was pulling him to the ground at the 21.

After Miami safety DeShon Elliott was flagged for defensive holding in the end zone on fourth-and-goal, Prescott got the ball to Cooks, who hauled in the ball over over All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) walks off the field after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Michael Laughlin/AP Photo)

CeeDee Lamb caught six passes for 118 yards for the Cowboys, including a 49-yard score in the first quarter.

Raheem Mostert scored his NFL-leading 21st touchdown of the season on a grab from Tagovailoa just before halftime. The 31-year-old, who was undrafted out of Purdue in 2015 and bounced around the league earlier in his career, had 46 yards rushing Sunday to put him over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He’s the Dolphins’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Jay Ajayi in 2016.

The Cowboys drove 78 yards in 15 plays on their first possession, but a bad exchange between Prescott and running back Hunter Luepke resulted in a fumble that the Dolphins recovered at their 1.

Miami defensive coordinator Vic Fangio opted to not have Ramsey shadow Lamb, and it initially looked like the dynamic fourth-year receiver would make him pay for it. Lamb torched the rest of Miami’s secondary early for 93 yards on four catches in the first quarter.

Prescott hit Lamb on a crossing route that went 22 yards on the Cowboys’ second possession. A few plays later, Lamb beat second-year cornerback Kader Kohou in the slot for a catch-and-run touchdown that put Dallas ahead 7-3.

After giving up more than 150 yards on Dallas’ first two drives, Miami’s defense settled in. Fangio dialed up more pressures, and it worked. The Dolphins sacked Prescott four times, which gave them a franchise-best 50 on the season and forced four straight Cowboys punts.

Dallas got back into the red zone early in the fourth quarter, but Miami’s defense held and the Cowboys settled for a field goal to get within 19-13.


Miami: WR Robbie Chosen left in the first quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return. … WR Jaylen Waddle left briefly after being poked in the eye in the second quarter. He returned, but then limped off the field after a tackle in the third quarter. He was ruled out with a shin injury.


Cowboys: Host Detroit on Saturday night.

Dolphins: At Baltimore next Sunday.