MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Dolphins won the game on the last play. The Cowboys might have lost it on their first drive.
Hunter Luepke's fumble on the 1-yard line cost the Cowboys a chance to score and set the tone early. That play certainly won't be forgotten, but here are a few more, including two right before that play, that definitely factored into the final outcome.
Cooks, Pollard can't find the end zone – Without a doubt, the fumble by Luepke on the 1-yard line was a killer, ending the Cowboys' opening drive. But let's not forget the two plays before when both Brandin Cooks and Tony Pollard had chances to get the ball into the end zone but were stopped short. Pollard was especially close, and it still looked favorable for the Cowboys with first-and-goal from the 1, but Luepke never got the handoff and the Dolphins recovered.
Deep ball to Waddle out of the end zone – After the fumble by Luepke, the Cowboys still had third-and-long with the Dolphins throwing out of their own end zone. But on third-and-9 at their own 3-yard line, Tua Tagovailoa heaved a pass to Jaylen Waddle for 50 yards to flip the field position. The Cowboys had a shot to get the ball right back and go score. Instead, the Dolphins were on the move now, and they finished the drive with a field goal by Jason Sanders, the first of five for him in the game.
Micah's penalty on Tua – The Dolphins trailed, 7-6, and were driving at the end of the half. An incomplete pass was about to make it third-and-1 with 21 seconds left at the 9-yard line. But a penalty on Micah Parsons, who smacked Tagovailoa in the back after his throw, put the ball at the 4. That turned Miami's chances from getting a field goal into a touchdown, and they scored on the next play to grab a 13-7 halftime lead. Without Parsons' penalty, the Dolphins were without a timeout and probably had a to be more conservative, likely only getting a field goal.
Punt pins Cowboys back to the 1 – The Cowboys got the stop they were looking for to begin the third quarter, but not really. While they did force Miami to punt the ball for the first time, Jake Bailey's punt rolled to the Cowboys' 1-yard line. Dallas had no shot to get a first down, barely getting 2 yards before having to punt as well. Miami was right back in business on the next drive and added to its lead with a field goal. But pinning the Cowboys back at the 1-yard line was a huge play.
Illegal motion erases chance for TD – The Cowboys were down, 16-7, but driving after a long pass to Jalen Tolbert. On third-and-11, Dak Prescott scrambled for 14 yards to the Dolphins' 11. But a questionable illegal motion call negated the play when the officials said that both CeeDee Lamb and Jake Ferguson were not set at the snap. The Cowboys had to settle for just a field goal, trimming the lead to 16-10.
Facemask call on Clark – On the final drive, the Dolphins only needed a field goal but giving them an extra 15 yards wasn't in the plans. Yet, Damone Clark added on to a 6-yard gain by De'Von Achane, pushing the ball out to the 46-yard line after just one play. The Dolphins were able to stay within their entire game plan and not rush anything based off of being near midfield right off the bat.