DAVIE, Fla. — Family and friends of Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle met up with him after Sunday’s 24-20 victory over the Patriots without an inkling of the team’s personnel shuffle.
Michael Thomas snared the victory-clinching interception despite no reps in practice since his arrival from San Francisco last week. Will Davis saw his first live action in crucial downs. Jimmy Wilson moved from nickel to corner for the first time in two seasons.
“Nothing really surprises me anymore in this league,” Coyle said. “Nobody had a clue who was in the game at the end really. A portion of the people just thought it was business as usual, and it wasn’t really. Credit those guys for stepping up doing a heck of a job.”
A secondary already without Dimitri Patterson (injured reserve) and Jamar Taylor (hamstring) also lost Brent Grimes (groin) and Nolan Carroll (knee) during the game.
New England quarterback Tom Brady, poised for a fourth consecutive second-half comeback with 1:15 remaining, led the Patriots (10-4) from their own 20 to Miami’s 14.
But the Dolphins (8-6) clamped down, forcing three straight incompletions before Thomas’ pick.
“I thought our team made some plays in the fourth quarter,” coach Joe Philbin said. “It was a tough, competitive football game. … I thought our guys made the plays we had to to win the game.
“Certainly they weren’t flawless or perfect. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I thought they stepped in and contributed. It wasn’t too big for them. We were able to function.”
Miami’s defense, which ranks 17th in total yardage allowed (356.1), gave up 364 yards and two touchdowns to Brady. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley combined for 81 rushing yards.
Like most of the season, including a Week 14 win at Pittsburgh, the unit bent but didn’t break.
Not when the Patriots converted a fourth-and-8 on the final drive. Or when Thomas broke up a potential touchdown from Brady to Julian Edelman two plays before his interception.
Ninth in the NFL with 21.1 points allowed, the Dolphins permitted just 20 to New England. The Patriots average 26.4 points per game, which ranks seventh.
Following Cincinnati’s loss Sunday night, Miami controls its own destiny for an AFC playoff spot. Win the final two games and the team is in.
“It was almost surreal at the very end as the ball was moving down the field, but it was the same thing a week ago,” Coyle said. “We’ve had about 10 games this year where it’s come down to the very end of the game.
“We hung in there the whole way and battled. I’m really proud of the way the guys competed, and we were able to finish.”
When asked whether offensive lineman Richie Incognito would remain on the inactive list for the remainder of the season, Philbin said there was “no update at this time.”
“I’ll be happy to answer any questions related to the Bills,” he said.