Dolphins players realized during their miracle final play that they were going to beat the Patriots when they saw Rob Gronkowski was on the field

  • The Miami Dolphins took down the New England Patriots in stunning fashion Sunday afternoon, employing a hook-and-ladder play as the clock ran out to notch the improbable 34-33 win.
  • In a widely-criticized decision, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick put tight end Rob Gronkowski out on the field to play deep defense on the final play of the game.
  • Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake blew past Gronkowski at the end of his 69-yard game-winning touchdown reception to keep his team's postseason hopes alive.
  • Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and wide receiver DeVante Parker felt a surge of hope when they saw Gronkowski on the field during the play.

The Miami Dolphins took down the New England Patriots in stunning fashion Sunday afternoon with a hook-and-ladder play as the clock ran out for an improbable 34-33 win.

With the ball on their 31-yard line and seven seconds left on the clock, the Dolphins' prospects of pulling off the upset looked bleak. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill found wide receiver Kenny Stills at the 47-yard line, and a series of laterals put the ball in star running back Kenyan Drake's hands.

Drake was nearly dragged down at the 45-yard line, but he found a hole and burst into open space so that only one man stood between him and the game-winning touchdown.

That man was Rob Gronkowski.

In a widely criticized decision, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick put the large tight end out on the field to break up any Hail Mary pass attempts on the final play. The 69 yards between Tannehill and the end zone were too many for a deep throw. To make matters worse, Gronkowski is unlikely to stop a running back with space should the situation arise.

When it did arise, Drake blew past Gronkowski and trotted into the end zone to keep his team's postseason hopes alive.

Read more:Dolphins pull off stunning upset over Patriots with last-second hook-and-ladder play

Some of Drake's teammates recognized the mismatch and felt a surge of confidence when they saw Gronkowski as the last line of defense.

See photos from the incredible play: 

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Miami Dolphins beat Patriots on last-second miracle play
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Miami Dolphins beat Patriots on last-second miracle play
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Adam Butler #70 of the New England Patriots pursues Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins as eh runs for the game winning touchdown during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Rob Gronkowski #87 and J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots are unable to stop Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins from scoring the winning touchdown during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins breaks the tackle by Kyle Van Noy #53 of the New England Patriots to run for the winning touchdown during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins eludes the attempted tackles by J.C. Jackson #27 and Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots to score the winning touchdown during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Adam Butler #70 of the New England Patriots pursues Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins as eh runs for the game winning touchdown during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 9: Kenny Stills #10 falls down in the end zone to celebrate the winning touchdown by Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins against the New England Patriots during an NFL game on December 9, 2018 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) scores to defeat the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)
El running back Kenyan Drake (32), de los Dolphins de Miami, corre para touchdown en la última jugada del partido de NFL ante los Patriots de Nueva Inglaterra, el domingo 9 de diciembre de 2018, en Miami Gardens, Florida. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 34-33. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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"When I see Kenyon [Drake] there I'm like 'pitch it pitch it!' and he pitches it," Tannehill said. "[Drake] came back inside and then I saw him and Gronk about 10 yards away, and I'm like 'Gronk's on the field! We got this!'"

 

"I'm [already] like 'he's gonna score,'" wide receiver DeVante Parker said. "Then I saw Gronk back there, and I'm like 'there's no way Gronk is tackling him.'"

 

Former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills head coach and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan questioned the rationale for Gronkowski's involvement in the final play and called Belichick's decision to put him out on the field a "huge mistake."

 

Both New England and Miami will face tough opponents on the road next week. The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers and the Dolphins head up to Minnesota to face Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. New England will have another chance to clinch a playoff spot this week. Meanwhile, Miami's win over the Patriots puts the team in prime position to vie for an AFC wild-card spot.

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