MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Jason Sanders remembers his first game-winning kick, a 53-yarder to beat Tulsa during his senior season at New Mexico in 2017.

His final kick Sunday was a bit easier.

The Miami Dolphins kicker nailed a 29-yard field goal as time expired to seal a 22-20 win over the Dallas Cowboys, clinching a playoff berth for the second consecutive season. Sanders also made a 50-yard field goal to beat the New York Jets in 2022 to clinch Miami's first playoff berth since 2016.

Despite connecting on just 6 of his previous 16 kicks of at least 50 yards, Sanders connected on attempts of 57, 54 and 52 yards in a perfect 5-for-5 performance.

"Not every year can be an all-pro year, so I think I'm still hitting the kicks," said Sanders, who is 22-for-26 on field goal attempts this season. "I'm still right where I need to be - a couple blocks here and there; I don't think there's anything to worry about."

The win was the Dolphins' first of the season against a team with a winning record - a narrative that had permeated the Dolphins' locker room to some extent. Head coach Mike McDaniel has consistently recognized the presence of any concern about his team's record against winning opponents, while also challenging his players to change it.

The second-year coach said he was proud of the way his team responded to the criticism surrounding it.

"With the advent and heavy push of social media, I think it's really hard to ignore the noise, so to speak, or not hear it," he said. "I think you're going to hear it ... I thought this is a big win for this team, because it's always big when you do something that internally you know that you're capable of, and when it comes to fruition, it's pretty satisfying."

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw for 293 yards and a touchdown, but the Dolphins largely struggled to pull away despite leading for most of the second half.

His touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert at the end of the second quarter was their lone touchdown of the night. Both teams traded field goals in the third quarter before Dallas scored 10 unanswered points to take a 20-19 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

Miami Dolphins place kicker Jason Sanders (7) celebrates with punter Jake Bailey (16) after kicking the game-winning field goal against the Dallas Cowboys at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday. Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

Tagovailoa then led a 12-play, 64-yard drive to set up Sanders' game-winning field goal, completing 4-of-5 passes for 31 yards on the final drive. After taking a knee with 16 seconds remaining on the clock, Tagovailoa said he didn't even watch Sanders' kick sail through the uprights.

But he knew it was good.

"I don't think I watched when Jason kicked it. I think I just walked onto the field with my hands up," he said. "I didn't even look at it. But when we took that final knee, that was really cool. I just think of the amount of work that it takes to play a game week in and week out, to prepare for a really good team on Sunday.

"Every team is good. So to do that and then come out with a victory, a hard-fought victory, that makes it all worth it."

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Dolphins are a half game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC's top seed. Miami can earn the conference's top seed if it beats the Ravens and Buffalo Bills in its final two games.

More prevalent is the Dolphins' two-game lead over the Bills in the AFC East; they can clinch their first division championship since 2008 with a win next week over Baltimore.

While Miami is relieved to put an end to its losing streak against winning teams - linebacker Bradley Chubb repeatedly asked, "who can't?" as he returned to the locker room after the game - winning the division remains its biggest goal for now.

"It's cool, man, it's cool, but we're not done. We're not even close to being where we want to be," Chubb said. "There's a lot of plays we left out there and championship teams don't leave those plays out there - it's just finally good to get over that hump of the narrative and changing the narrative to be what we want it to be, and how we want to approach everything. It's just been dope to see this team come together, not worry about the outsiders, the naysayers and just do what we do and prepare like we're a championship team each and every week.

"I got emotional with the 'who can't' because at the end of the day we put our heart and put our soul into this and for somebody to tell us we can't do it, we're going to want to go out there and prove them wrong every time."