5 things to know from Dolphins’ win over Patriots

Joe Philbin cracked a joke, which was just the latest surprise

from the Miami Dolphins.

Their season seemed derailed in November by a bullying scandal,

but Miami moved into the lead for the AFC’s final wild-card berth

Sunday by beating AFC East leader New England 24-20.

Dolphins newcomer Michael Wilson intercepted Tom Brady in the

end zone on fourth down with 2 seconds left to seal the victory,

the third in a row for Miami (8-6). The seesaw win left even stoic

second-year coach Philbin in a mood to celebrate.

”I might jump in my pool,” he said. ”I’ve been in it once

since I’ve been here.”

The Dolphins snapped a streak of seven consecutive losses to the

Patriots (10-4), who missed a chance to clinch their fifth

consecutive AFC East title. Here are five things we learned from

the game:

STYMIED COMEBACK: The Patriots had mounted second-half rallies

to win their past three games, and were on the verge of doing it

again when Brady led them from their own 20 with 1:15 remaining to

the Miami 14.

”I think it took about two years off my life,” said Miami

receiver Mike Wallace, who squirmed as he watched Brady from the

sideline. ”With that guy over there, you have to be nervous.”

New England was out of timeouts when Brady threw for the end

zone four times in a row. The first three passes went incomplete,

including one intended for Danny Amendola that Thomas broke up on

first down. Then Thomas stepped in front of Austin Collie to make

his interception.

Brady threw for 364 yards but was frustrated by a succession of

squandered scoring chances. He answered only two questions at his

postgame news conference and cut the session short after saying,

”We had plenty of chances all day. We made some good plays, and we

made some (lousy) plays. Thank you.”

THE HERO WAS WHO?: Thomas, a reserve safety, made his NFL debut

after being signed last week off the San Francisco 49ers’ practice

squad. He celebrated his interception by flopping to his back and

was swarmed by his new teammates.

”I didn’t know what his first name was,” defensive tackle

Jared Odrick said. ”That’s being thrown in the fire and reacting.

That’s a pure athlete.”

Thomas was part of an injury-depleted secondary that also

included backups at both cornerback spots on the final drive.

TERRIFIC TANNEHILL: Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill shook off

four sacks to throw for 312 yards and three scores with no

turnovers. His passer rating was a season-high 120.6, compared with

Brady’s 85.7.

Tannehill has led Miami to a 5-2 record since tackle Jonathan

Martin left the team in a bullying scandal that drew national

notoriety.

”We’ve grown a lot,” Tannehill said. ”Each of us has gotten

stronger through the adversity we’ve faced off the field and on the

field.”

WINNING DRIVE: New England took a 20-17 lead when Justin Edelman

scored on a 24-yard reception with four minutes left, but the

Dolphins caught a break when the ensuing kickoff by Stephen

Gostkowski went out of bounds, allowing them to start at their

40.

Charles Clay kept Miami’s chances alive when he turned a short

pass into a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-5 at midfield, and five plays

later Marcus Thigpen put the Dolphins ahead to stay with a 14-yard

touchdown reception.

”They were in some tight situations, especially late in the

game,” New England cornerback Kyle Arrington said. ”They just

wanted it more.”

WHAT’S NEXT: The victory gave Miami a half-game lead over

Baltimore in the race for the sixth and final AFC playoff berth.

The Ravens play at Detroit on Monday night, then play host to New

England on Sunday.

The Dolphins will end their streak of four consecutive losing

seasons. They conclude the regular season with games at Buffalo and

at home against the New York Jets.

”We have a good thing going right now,” Wallace said. ”We

have to keep going. People were ready to bury us a few weeks ago

and throw us under the dirt.”

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