Their prayers were answered in the form of a Ryan Tannehill pass up the middle, a pair of laterals and some shifty running from Kenyan Drake, as the Dolphins stunned the Pats 34-33 with a game-winning 69-yard trip to the end zone. It was the longest game-winning touchdown with no time left in regulation in the Super Bowl era, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Here's how the crazy play worked, how Drake found space, what happened on defense and more nuggets to know from NFL Next Gen Stats:
The play: On first-and-10 at the Dolphins' own 31-yard line with mere seconds left, Tannehill took a shotgun snap and threw to Kenny Stills near midfield. Stills quickly lateraled to DeVante Parker on the right sideline, who promptly lateraled again to Drake. The Miami running back ran 52 yards down the sideline behind a few key blocks to score.
The Dolphins won the game and postponed the Pats' AFC East title celebration for at least another week.
What happened: The Patriots sat in extremely soft coverage, but by the time Tannehill's pass arrived in the hands of Stills, Jonathan Jones was just 0.8 yards from the Dolphins' receiver, per NFL Next Gen Stats. It could have ended right there, but it didn't. Stills eluded Jones before tossing to Parker, who rugby tossed it to Drake running up the right sideline.
Some players force a panic lateral in that situation, but Drake relied on his own elusiveness and blocking from teammates to race toward the end zone. In the end it basically came down to a one-on-one between Drake and Rob Gronkowski, two players who stood more than 52 yards apart when the ball was snapped. Gronkowski, who had begun the play inside the Patriots' own 20-yard line, covered the least amount of ground (39.3 yards) of any player on the play, but turned on the jets at the end to try to catch Drake, hitting 17.04 miles per hour. But the Dolphins' RB, who reached 18.65 miles per hour on the play, was able to run around the veteran tight end. In fact, no one made contact with Drake beyond the Patriots' 44-yard line, despite four different defenders getting within three yards of Drake at some point, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola said after, "I've never seen anything like that in my entire life. It was f------ crazy."
Why it worked: The Patriots lined up in their deep prevent defense, with Gronkowski in the game to defend a potential Hail Mary attempt. New England brought three pass-rushers with linebacker Kyle Van Noy playing a spy technique and eventually matching Drake coming out of the backfield.
The playcall? A classic hook-and-lateral with Stills running the inside curl route and Parker trailing the play. This allowed Stills to make the catch and then pitch the ball to Parker when defensive back J.C. Jackson closed on the receiver.
This is where the Dolphins took it another step, however, with Drake becoming the second trailer and working up the boundary. That put Parker in a position to pitch the ball outside to Drake, who had created 2.79 yards of separation from Van Noy after the LB worked back down the field.
Now in the open field, with Amendola and guard Ted Larsen in position to block safety Patrick Chung, Drake cut the ball back to daylight. That left one defender -- Gronk -- alone in space on Drake. And sorry, Gronk, that matchup is going to favor Drake every time. Make one cut, erase the angle and get to the house for a miracle finish. Here's how it looked animated by NFL Next Gen Stats:
Stat to know: The Patriots went extremely soft in prevent defense. Four New England defenders were at least 37 yards away from Miami center Travis Swanson at the time of snap.
Win-probability swing: More than 99 percent. This play had the largest win-probability swing of any this season.
Next up: The Dolphins had just a 1 percent chance to reach the postseason before this crazy play began. But the moment Drake crossed the goal line, that number jumped to 9 percent, according to live FPI probabilities. The Patriots had a 27 percent chance to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC entering the day, but that number (as of 4:30 p.m. ET) was down to 14 percent. New England now has a 64 percent chance to earn a bye.