Plays of the year: Ten moments that defined a memorable Miami Dolphins season

The Dolphins didn’t end their playoff drought by accident. They did it by making plays — lots of them, in fact, to go 10-6. Now, in no special order, we offer the 10 special moments that brought out the best in them.

Ryan on the run can be dangerous weapon

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) rolls out to throw a 53-yard pass to tight end MarQueis Gray against the Steelers. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) rolls out to throw a 53-yard pass to tight end MarQueis Gray against the Steelers. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins 30, Steelers 15

Oct. 16

The situation: Pittsburgh was up 8-3 in the second quarter when Miami had the ball on its 46.

The play: With No. tackle Daniel McCullers in his face, Ryan Tannehill rolled left, raising the degree of difficulty for a right-handed passer. McCullers didn’t give up easily and pursued Tannehill, who was running out of room as he approached the sideline. Tannehill never took his eyes off the secondary and spotted tight end MarQueis Gray, who had eluded cornerback William Gay. Tannehill let it fly for a 53-yard completion that nearly was a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Gray was tackled at the 1. They ended up settling for a field goal.

Watch: See Tannehill’s escape act as he throws a strike against the grain.

Quote: “Especially rolling to the left, he never set his feet and then he threw it a long ways it seemed like,” coach Adam Gase said. “Good play by him, because the scheme was really garbage, and he didn’t have anywhere to go, and he made a play.”

Ajayi haunts the Bills once more

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs 57 yards to set up the winning field goal in overtime against the Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs 57 yards to set up the winning field goal in overtime against the Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Dolphins 34, Bills 31 (OT)

Dec. 24

The situation: The Bills had the Dolphins pinned on their own 15 with four minutes left in overtime.

The play: Out of the shotgun, Matt Moore  handed off to Jay Ajayi, who nearly ended the game with his run. Left tackle Branden Albert set up Ajayi with his block on Lorenzo Alexander while left guard Laremy Tunsil occupied Kyle Williams. As Ajayi burst past the line of scrimmage, Williams began to slide away from Tunsil, but Ajayi brushed him aside with a stiff-arm, then was off to the races for a 57-yard gain to the Bills’ 28. Six plays later, a 27-yard field goal by Andrew Franks gave Dolphins fans an early Christmas present. Speaking of presents, the Bills had only 10 men on the field for Ajayi’s run. Ajayi finished with 206 rushing yards, his second 200-yard rushing performance against Buffalo this season.

Watch: The Bills never did find an answer to Ajayi, as this 57-yard run proves.

Quote: “His name is Jay Ajayi and he does what he wants,” Tunsil said.

Kiko could have run all the way to L.A.

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Kiko Alonso #47 of the Miami Dolphins intercepts and returns it for a touchdown as Tyrell Williams #16 of the San Diego Chargers chases during the second half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Linebacker Kiko Alonso intercepts Philip Rivers and returns it for a touchdown as Tyrell Williams of the San Diego Chargers chases. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dolphins 31, Chargers 24

Nov. 13

The situation: It was 24-all with a minute left when Philip Rivers got greedy from the Miami 42-yard line.

The play: Rivers tried to hit Tyrell Williams. Rivers threw it right into the hands of linebacker Kiko Alonso, who was sitting on the route and waited for Rivers to make his move. Alonso easily returned it 60 yards for a pick-six and a win.

Watch: See Alonso bait Rivers into a pick-six.

Quote: “It’s the team that goes and takes it,” Alonso said. “That’s what we really stressed: We have to go take it.”

Drop a distant memory as Stills goes deep

Kenny Stills (10) celebrates his 66-yard touchdown catch against the Bills with DeVante Parker. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

Kenny Stills (10) celebrates his 66-yard touchdown catch against the Bills with DeVante Parker. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

Dolphins 28, Bills 25

Oct. 23

The situation: With the Dolphins looking to build on their 21-17 lead with 2 1/2 minutes left, Ryan Tannehill hit a home-run ball from his 34-yard line.

The play: Two Bills were in the vicinity of Stills along the right sideline, which was their problem. Once Stills caught the ball, he took a step to his left, sending the two defenders into one another and making the rest of the 66-yard play academic. What’s significant about this is it helped Stills erase the memory of dropping a sure touchdown in the opener in Seattle. It helped send Stills on his way to a career-best nine touchdowns this season.

Watch: See Stills leave two Bills defenders in a heap.

Quote: “They’re doing everything they can to stop the run,” Tannehill said. “They’re going to make us throw it to win it, basically. It was a critical situation. The offensive line did a good job, Jay (Ajayi) actually stepped up and blocked the linebacker in the hole for me and Kenny did a great job adjusting to the ball downfield and making a play.”

Parker makes plenty of noise in L.A.

Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker catches a 9-yard touchdown pass as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson looks on.. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker catches a 9-yard touchdown pass as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson looks on. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dolphins 14, Rams 10

Nov. 20

The situation: The Dolphins awoke from their long slumber to cut the deficit to 10-7, but with less than a minute left, somebody still had to make one more play.

The play: DeVante Parker usually is a man of few words but left Southern California with a bang, making a nice diving catch of Ryan Tannehill’s 9-yard pass for a touchdown. The Rams figured they’d put heat on Tannehill by rushing five, but that left Parker one-on-one against Tremaine Johnson. Relying on a quick release, Tannehill perfectly led Parker toward the pylon with 36 seconds to spare.

Watch: See Parker extend to catch this winning pass from Tannehill.

Quote: “As long as there’s time on the clock, I believe we’re going to win,” Tannehill said.

Full speed ahead for Jay Train vs. Steelers

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates his 62-yard touchdown against the Steelers with receiver Jakeem Grant. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates his 62-yard touchdown against the Steelers with receiver Jakeem Grant. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins 30, Steelers 15

Oct. 16

The situation: The 1-4 Dolphins seemed poised to pull off the improbable — an upset of the Steelers — when Ben Roethlisberger got Pittsburgh back in it with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Cobi Hamilton with a minute left, making it a one-score game at 23-15.

The play: Ajayi used a block by tight end MarQueis Gray to find space and simply outrun the defense for a 62-yard touchdown to seal it. It was a season-defining moment for both Ajayi and the Dolphins. Ajayi finished the day with a career-high 204 yards — which he surpassed the following week against Buffalo. Even though nobody could know it at the time, the Dolphins had turned around their season.

Watch: The highlight clip of Ajayi’s run.

Quote: “I told him before the game, ‘Let’s go for a couple of hundred,’ ” guard Jermon Bushrod said. “He said 150. And I said, ‘No, a couple of hundred.’ ”

No speed limit as Franks goes 55

Andrew Franks noticed he was kicking the wrong ball as he swung his leg but didn't let it deter him. (Getty Images)

Andrew Franks noticed he was kicking the wrong ball as he swung his leg but didn’t let it deter him. (Getty Images)

Dolphins 34, Bills 31 (OT)

Dec. 24

The situation: The Dolphins trailed 31-28 with 25 seconds left. They were out of timeouts. They had to get their offense off the field and their field-goal unit on the field to have a shot at forcing overtime. Their playoff hopes were resting on this one.

The play: The Dolphins got their kicking unit on the field in time. Problem was, they didn’t get their ‘K’ ball — designated and prepared specifically for kickers — onto the field. If that weren’t bad enough, Andrew Franks noticed the problem as he started to swing his leg for a 55-yard try, which was 14 yards longer than his previous long for the season. Oh, and it was coming in frigid Buffalo, a tough place to kick. Franks made it, then added the winner from a mere 27 yards in OT. Somewhat overlooked: The Bills were signaling for a timeout just before the snap on the 55-yarder. The officials didn’t see it.

Watch: Franks rushes out, hits from 55.

Quote: “It’s one of those things where you just see it, it’s like, ‘Awesome!’ ” Franks facetiously said of having to kick the wrong ball. “The odds were already not in our favor. This is getting better and better. At this point, you’re just like, ‘All right. Let’s just hit a clean ball and see what happens.’ You never know how those things are going to fly.”

Scrum’s the word as Williams, Landry score twin touchdowns

Dolphins running back Damien Williams (26) begins to feel the pressure on his 12-yard touchdown run against the Bills. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins running back Damien Williams (26) begins to feel the pressure on his 12-yard touchdown run against the Bills. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins 28, Bills 25

Oct. 23

The situation (Part 1): The Dolphins trailed 17-14 with four minutes left when Jay Ajayi was given a breather after four carries in five snaps, which moved the Dolphins into the red zone.

The play: The Bills weren’t given a breather when Damien Williams got the ball instead on the Buffalo 12. Williams appeared to be stopped by four defenders at the 5 but the mass of bodies was shoved across the goal line by Branden Albert, Ja’Wuan James and Jarvis Landry. Officials reviewed the play to see if the ball reached the end zone before Williams’ knee hit the ground, but there were so many bodies around him, it was impossible to tell. Call upheld.

Quote: “It wasn’t all just me,” Williams said. “I had Jarvis pulling me. I had the line pushing me. I’m the type of person that doesn’t quit, so my leg’s always pumping.”

Watch: Williams somehow hits pay dirt.

Jarvis Landry somehow scores on a 10-yard reception from Ryan Tannehill against the Rams. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Jarvis Landry somehow scores on a 10-yard reception from Ryan Tannehill against the Rams. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Dolphins 14, Rams 10

Nov. 20

The situation (Part 2): The Dolphins trailed 10-0 with four minutes left when Ryan Tannehill flipped a pass to Landry from the L.A. 10-yard line.

The play: Landry obviously was inspired by Williams’ TD against Buffalo. Only this time, he wanted to be the guy scoring, not assisting. Landry was met by two would-be tacklers at the 3 and seemed certain to be stopped before James, Jermon Bushrod and, fittingly, Williams shoved him into the end zone.

Quote: “I saw ‘70’ (James) hit that thing, and you saw the rest of those guys get involved in it. Jarvis did a great job of staying (up),” coach Adam Gase said. “Initially, he should’ve went down and somehow stayed up and then did a great job of keeping his feet. I know, especially at that point in the game, he was exhausted. He has pretty much exerted everything he had, and the fact that he could stay on his feet was impressive.”

Watch: Landry gets a little help from his friends.

Drake makes Jets shed 96 tears

Kenyan Drake scores on a 96-yard kickoff return vs. the Jets. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

Kenyan Drake scores on a 96-yard kickoff return vs. the Jets. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

Dolphins 27, Jets 23

Nov. 6

The situation: The Jets had just taken a 23-20 lead with five minutes left when they kicked off. Problem was, Antonio Allen was offside, forcing the winded Jets to kick off again.

The play: This time, Kenyan Drake, not Jakeem Grant, fielded the kick on the Miami 4 and was no match for the coverage team. Drake began to stumble as he broke past the pack at the Miami 25, but once he got in high gear, he was gone — 96 yards, touchdown. Drake had atoned for an illegal block in the back game that had wiped out Grant’s 57-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Quote: “I’m just a little sick,” Drake told reporters after initially excusing himself to throw up. “I had to run back and forth” on various special teams. “Just a little winded still. But hey, that win makes it feel a lot better, I guess.”

Watch: Drake takes it to the house.

Bringing Kaepernick down to his knees

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7, center), is bent backward by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93, left) and linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) on the last play of the game against the 49ers. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7, center), is bent backward by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93, left) and linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) on the last play of the game against the 49ers. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins 31, 49ers 24

Nov. 27

The situation: The 49ers had driven to the Dolphins’ 6-yard line with two seconds left.

The play: San Fran quarterback Colin Kaepernick had been a thorn for the Dolphins’ defense all day, finishing with 113 rushing yards, passing for 296 and three touchdowns and looking like the Kaepernick of old. This time, he opted to keep the ball and try to squeeze up the middle into the end zone. With the defense stretched, it appeared Kaepernick had a decent shot at forcing overtime before Kiko Alonso and Ndamukong Suh corralled him at the 2 to end the game.

Quote: “There was some bad blood there for me with Kaepernick,” Alonso, whose father is a Cuban exile, told The Miami Herald. Alonso was referring to pro-Castro remarks made by Kaepernick to the South Florida media before the game.

Watch: Dolphins deny Kaepernick the end zone.

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