Ajayi, Franks nudge Miami closer to clinching playoff berth

Miami Dolphins punter Matt Darr (4) and Miami Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks (3) celebrate after kicking a field goal during an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Jay Ajayi’s legs and Andrew Franks’ foot powered the Miami Dolphins a step closer to their first playoff berth since 2008.

Now the Dolphins will spend Christmas Day hoping the Kansas City Chiefs can ensure Miami a postseason spot by beating the Denver Broncos.

Coach Adam Gase and his Dolphins (10-5) could be in for an especially celebratory holiday after winning Saturday for the ninth time in 10 games with a 34-31 overtime victory against the Buffalo Bills.

Gase said he’s given his team Sunday off, but he wouldn’t say if he’ll be watching football.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Though one more Broncos’ loss — either against Kansas City or next weekend at Oakland — will put the Dolphins through, Gase is focused on Miami’s season finale against New England next weekend.

Rather than let others control Miami’s playoff hopes, he’d rather the Dolphins clinch it themselves.

Ajayi did his part against Buffalo with 206 yards rushing and a touchdown. His 57-yard run in overtime set up Franks’ 27-yard field goal with 47 seconds left. Franks also forced overtime by hitting a career-best 55-yarder with 6 seconds remaining.

The Bills (7-8) were eliminated from playoff contention to extend the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 17 seasons. Buffalo’s skid is tied for the fifth longest in NFL history, and the longest since the New Orleans Saints went 20 years before qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in 1987.

The loss firmly placed coach Rex Ryan on the hot seat after his prized defense gave up 200 yards rushing for the third time this season and the second time to the Dolphins — Ajayi had 214 yards rushing in a 28-25 win at Miami on Oct. 23, and Le’Veon Bell had 236 yards in Pittsburgh’s 27-20 win two weeks ago.

“We came in knowing that they were going to run the ball,” safety Corey Graham said. “And we’ve got eight, nine guys in the box sometimes, and we still couldn’t stop the run.”

MILESTONES

Ajayi became the fourth NFL player to run for at least 200 yards three times in a season. Earl Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Tiki Barber are the others. He also became the third player to gain more than 200 yards against the same team twice in one season. Buffalo’s Simpson did it in 1973 against New England, and Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis did it in 2003 against Cleveland.

TYROD TIME

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 26-of-39 passing for 329 yards and three touchdowns, including a 7-yarder to Charles Clay on fourth-and-goal to put Buffalo ahead 31-28 with 1:20 remaining. Taylor became the Bills first player with 300 yards passing since journeyman Kyle Orton had 329 yards in a 43-32 loss at Oakland on Dec. 21, 2014.

Taylor also had 60 yards rushing to up his season total to 580 and break the single-season franchise record by a quarterback of 568 he set last year.

OH, THE OFFENSE

The Bills set a franchise record with 589 yards offense, seven more than the previous franchise record they had against Miami on Sept. 1, 1991.

It also marked the third-highest total by an NFL team in a loss. San Francisco had 598 yards in a 34-31 loss at Buffalo on Sept. 13, 1992, and New Orleans had 595 yards in a 31-16 loss to Cincinnati on Nov. 19, 2006.

MISSED TACKLES

Bills defensive lineman Leger Douzable said the players — and not Ryan — are to blame for the loss because of missed tackles.

“The players need to take ownership,” he said. “I understand if guys were nowhere near the ball to make a play. But guys were in position to make them.”

On Ajayi’s 2-yard touchdown run to open the scoring, Douzable had him wrapped up in the backfield but lost his grip.

On Ajayi’s 57-yard overtime run, Douzable was in the hole ready to make a stop, only to be pushed aside by Ajayi’s stiff arm.

TIME OUT!

Ryan insists he wasn’t late when calling timeout in a bid to ice Franks before his tying field.

“I’m trying to signal it to the guy, but I’m assuming the thing’s going to be done. But I’m over there yelling, ‘Timeout!’ even,” Ryan said.

Replays showed Ryan might have been a split-second late in calling for time.

Referee Craig Wrolstad said head linesman Mark Hittner called time after the ball was snapped, or at least that’s when he heard Ryan. Wrolstad said the play is not reviewable.

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