Dugger INT return helps lift Pats over fading Dolphins 23-21

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — His team clutching a two-point lead, the ball on the 1-yard line and the season in the balance, Mac Jones decided to improvise.

Facing third-and-goal, the Patriots quarterback looked to his left and saw a Dolphins defense guarding against a run and linebacker Duke Riley spread out covering Jakobi Meyers. Jones made eye contact with his receiver, took the snap and tossed a short fade where only Meyers could reach it. He did, falling into the end zone for a touchdown.


It may prove to be the play that saved the Patriots’ season.

Jones added another touchdown pass to Tyquan Thornton and Kyle Dugger intercepted Teddy Bridgewater and returned it 39 yards for a go-ahead TD late in the third quarter as the New England kept its playoff hopes alive by rallying to beat Miami 23-21 on Sunday.

“We made some big plays in some big moments and that’s what the NFL’s all about,” Jones said.

The Patriots (8-8) snapped a four-game losing streak to their AFC East rivals and can earn a playoff berth with a win at Buffalo next week. Jones finished 20 of 33 for 203 yards.

The Dolphins (8-8) entered with a chance to clinch a postseason berth with a victory and loss by the New York Jets at Seattle. Instead, Miami lost its fifth straight game and will need to win next week against the Jets and Buffalo to beat New England to qualify for the postseason.

Miami played without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who’s in the concussion protocol for the second time this season. Bridgewater started in his place and was solid, completing 12 of 19 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown before leaving late in the third quarter with an injured right ring finger.

Bridgewater, who didn’t return, was replaced by Skylar Thompson. McDaniel thinks Bridgewater suffered the injury on the pick-6 trying to make a tackle. The team will wait to find out the extent of the injury over the next few days.

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