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Surging Dolphins control own playoff fate

The SportsXchange

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have won three consecutive games and four of their past five to vault to an 8-6 record with two regular-season games to play and are now in control of their own playoff fate.

If the Dolphins win their next two games - this week at the Buffalo Bills and next week playing host to the New York Jets - they're in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

And it's largely because of Sunday's dramatic 24-20 victory over New England.

Safety Michael Thomas, signed Tuesday off San Francisco's practice squad, intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the end zone with two seconds left to preserve the victory. This was after Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill drove his team 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:15 left, allowing Miami to snap a seven-game losing streak against its AFC East rival.

"This is big because it was a division opponent and one that we haven't beaten in the last seven tries," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "This feels like finally getting over the hump of facing this team."

Coach Joe Philbin, who has a 1-0 philosophy (he only wants his team to focus on going 1-0 each week, nothing else), won't publicly acknowledge his team's playoff situation.

"We're focused on the Buffalo Bills," he said. "We've already talked about it. We've talk to the team. This is a good football team. All we have to do is throw on the tape of our last game against them (a 23-21 Bills victory at Miami in Week 7). We're going to have to improve and play better."

But the Dolphins are doing well. If they finish 10-6 they get an AFC wildcard playoff berth.

If Baltimore (7-6) finishes 10-6 that would include a victory over Cincinnati (9-5) in the regular-season finale and the Ravens would win the AFC North by virtue of their two victories over the Bengals.

If the Bengals tie with Miami at 10-6, the Dolphins get that tiebreaker thanks to their 22-20 overtime victory against Cincinnati.

And if Baltimore loses one more game and the Dolphins don't lose, the Ravens finish a game behind the Dolphins.

Tannehill, whose emergence has led the way for the Dolphins recently, echoed Philbin by saying the Dolphins have to think of the present, not the future.

"It feels good to beat a divisional team," Tannehill said of the Patriots victory, "but we have big things ahead of us. We have to focus on this week."

--Thomas, undrafted out of Stanford in 2012, spent his entire NFL career on San Francisco's practice squad until Miami called on Dec. 9 and signed him the following day. He didn't know the way to the stadium or out of the postgame locker room.

Many teammates didn't even know his name when he made Sunday's game-saving interception in the end zone. Many called him "No. 31," his jersey number.

"I met him earlier in the week," Tannehill said. "Did I know he was going to come out here and make the game-saving play? No, but that's the NFL."

Said Philbin: "I don't know him that well."

Thomas' game-saving play was so emotional he cried on the sideline and in the tunnel after the game.

A few plays earlier Thomas knocked an apparent touchdown reception out of the hands of Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola.

"I knew being the new guy Tom Brady was going to come after me," Thomas said. "I saw the ball was in the air, but at that point I didn't think I was in the position to actually go up to make the pick and I just wanted to get the ball out."

As for the interception...

"That was just a game-time situation in football," Thomas said. "We knew if we tackled them ... even if they caught the ball, if we tackled them inbounds, game was over. So everybody was playing not to give up a touchdown."

--DT Paul Soliai (ankle) left the New England game in the first half and didn't return. His status is unknown.

--CB Nolan Carroll (knee) left the New England game in the second quarter, returned, and left again in the fourth quarter and didn't return. His status is unknown.

--CB Brent Grimes (apparent leg injury) left the New England game in the fourth quarter and didn't return.
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