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AFC East Report: Week 12; Dolphins’ win earns them the 6th playoff seed

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Miami was not the only successful AFC East team this week.

The AFC East had a successful week 12. Three of the four teams won with the lone loss coming in an intra-divisional matchup. Furthermore, a second team from the division currently joins the New England Patriots in the playoff picture: the Miami Dolphins.

Let’s take a look at their game and the Buffalo Bills’ in this week’s AFC East report:

2. Miami Dolphins (7-4)

Week 12: win (31-24 against the San Francisco 49ers, in Miami Gardens FL)

One week after the Patriots played the 49ers, their main competitor in the AFC East had to do the same. The Dolphins’ game against San Francisco was a lot closer, though. After a quick 3-and-out to open the game, Miami’s defense allowed the visitors to march 62 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. It took until the early second quarter for the home team to respond – and more.

First, the Dolphins tied the game on a 2-yard touchdown run by Jay Ajayi (18/45 yds, 1 TD). On the ensuing 49ers possession, cornerback Byron Maxwell forced a fumble in Miami’s red zone that was recovered by linebacker Kiko Alonso. The offense was able to turn the takeaway into seven points: The subsequent 84-yard drive was capped by a touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill (20/30, 285 yds, 3 TDs) to Dion Sims (4/53 yds, 1 TD). Thus, the Dolphins headed into the locker room up 14-7.

On the very first offensive play of the second half, Alonso made another big play when he intercepted 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (29/46, 296 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT) to set up a field goal. This time, San Francisco was able to answer and scored a touchdown to make it a one-possession game again. However, Tannehill’s second touchdown pass of the day – this one a 43-yarder to Kenny Stills (3/72 yds, 1 TD) – gave Miami a 10-point lead entering into the final period.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins scored another touchdown when Tannehill connected with rookie Leonte Carroo (1/15 yds, 1 TD) to take a 31-14 lead. The game was far from over, though, as Miami’s defense allowed the 49ers to score 10 unanswered points on their next two possessions to set up a potentially game-tying drive with 1:44 left in regulation. However, when a stop needed to be made, Alonso and Ndamukong Suh delivered: They stopped a scrambling Kaepernick at the two-yard line as time expired. Miami 31, San Francisco 24.

While Miami did not play its best, the team made enough plays in all three phases of the game to beat the now 1-10 49ers. Thanks to the victory, the Dolphins have now won sixth straight games, tied for the second-longest streak in the NFL – and best in the AFC. More importantly, they currently hold the conference’s sixth playoff seed thanks to a better in-conference record than the Denver Broncos.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

3. Buffalo Bills (6-5)

Week 12: win (28-21 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in Orchard Park NY)

For the first time since week 7, the Bills are above .500 again – courtesy of a hard-fought 28-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game did not start well for the Bills, who fell behind 7-0 after the visitors’ opening drive. Buffalo was unable to answer as much of the first half was a defensive stalemate. However, a late first half 43-yard punt return by former Patriot Brandon Tate set up the Bills deep in Jacksonville territory. Five plays later, the team scored its first touchdown of the day on a 7-yard LeSean McCoy (19/103 yds, 2 TDs) scoring run.

After missing the extra point kick, the two teams headed into the locker rooms with the Jaguars up one point. The Bills would take the lead on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, though: McCoy was able to break free for a 75-yard touchdown. The Jaguars answered with their second touchdown of the day but Buffalo was able to take the lead again late in the third period when quarterback Tyrod Taylor (12/18, 166 yds, 1 TD) scrambled for a 7-yard score.

On the first play of the final quarter, Jacksonville was able to go on top again. Down 21-20, the Bills engineered an 8-play, 76-yard drive to re-take the lead. First, Taylor connected with Justin Hunter (1/16 yds, 1 TD), then McCoy converted a two-point try. Up a touchdown, Buffalo’s defense was able to stop the Jaguars on two consecutive drives to set up the game-icing drive by Taylor and the offense.

While the game started slowly, it turned into an entertaining affair in the final 30 minutes; one that saw the Bills come through by answering the Jaguars’ score for score and making key defensive stops in the fourth quarter. Overall, Buffalo has now improved to 6-5 to keep its playoff hopes alive. The team is currently seeded 9th but will host two of its playoff contestants – Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins – in the upcoming weeks.

To watch highlights of the game, click here.

4. New York Jets (3-8)

Week 12: loss (22-17 against the New England Patriots, in East Rutherford NJ)

Pats Pulpit is already in the process of analyzing this game:

Patriots vs Jets 22-17 final score: Chris Long, defense come up clutch in second half

Tom Brady wins his 200th game; ties Peyton Manning for most all-time among quarterbacks

6 instant observations from the Patriots 22-17 victory over the Jets

AFC Playoff Picture: Patriots back in 1st place, Dolphins steal the Broncos wild card!

Patriots become first former AFL team to celebrate 500 victories

6 winners and 5 losers from the Patriots 22-17 victory over the Jets

Patriots vs Jets snap counts: WR Malcolm Mitchell played less than you might have thought

Patriots vs. Jets: Fan Notes from the Game

To watch highlights of the game, click here.