A lot was riding on Sam Sloman’s late-game field goal attempt Sunday evening. The kick wouldn’t just decide the AFC South title; it also would determine how high the Dolphins would pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
When Sloman’s 37-yard kick doinked off the right upright and then bounced through, the Titans (11-5) claimed a division title by beating the non-playoff Texans 41-38. And because Houston had traded its 2021 first-rounder to the Dolphins in the Laremy Tunsil deal, the loss secured the No. 3 overall selection for Miami in April’s draft.
For Texans fans, the kick added one more bit of insult to injury related to Bill O’Brien’s bad trade ledger. On Sept. 1, 2019, O’Brien gave up first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a 2021 second-round pick for Tunsil, wide receiver Kenny Stills and two later-round picks.
The swing from Sloman’s kick was sizable: Had Houston gone on to win in overtime, then the Dolphins would have been picking eighth.
Gaining five spots is at least some consolation for Miami, which missed the playoffs following a Week 17 loss to the Bills. Miami needed a win, or it would have at least benefited from losses by the Titans, Ravens, Browns and Colts. But all four teams won and the Dolphins gave up 56 points to Josh Allen and the Bills’ backups.
Miami will now have two selections in the top 18; its own pick is No. 18 overall because it has the best record among non-playoff teams. That’ll give the Dolphins two chances to boost the talent around Tua Tagovailoa as they attempt to get over the final hurdle in 2021.
Sloman’s kick gave Tennessee its first division title since 2008, and it was also a major moment for Sloman himself. The Rams took Sloman in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Miami (Ohio) as a potential successor to Greg Zuerlein, but they waived him on Oct. 27. The Titans picked him up off LA’s practice squad on Dec. 1.
Veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday and was inactive for Sunday’s game, forcing Tennessee to call up Sloman. In his Titans debut, Sloman made all five of his extra point kicks and both of his field goal attempts. He nailed a 47-yarder earlier in the game.
The performance may have earned the 23-year old Sloman another NFL opportunity once Gostkowski returns and likely knocks him out of the role. The fortunate bounce of an oddly shaped ball at the finish definitely earned the Titans the AFC’s No. 4 seed — and the Dolphins a much better draft pick in 2021.
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