By Simon Evans
MIAMI (Reuters) - A last-second, 43-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter gave the Miami Dolphins a surprise 24-21 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.
After three successive defeats the win was much-needed for a Miami team which is not yet totally out of the running in the AFC East.
"It's huge. From a team standpoint they were three tough losses. We were just looking to get back on track," said quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"To have a big game like this where it was a total team effort - the defense got a big stop at the end when we needed it, offense executed a two-minute (drill) and Dan made a big field goal to win it - that feels good," he added.
The loss was a blow to the Seahawks' hopes of making the post-season as they slip to 6-5 in the NFC West despite an impressive performance from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
Looking composed, quick on his feet and alert, Wilson threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, with an additional 38 yards rushing.
Miami (5-6) opened the scoring with a 21-yard run from Reggie Bush in the second quarter.
But Seattle responded when Wilson wriggled free and lobbed a gentle three-yard pass into the corner of the end zone for Anthony McCoy, to tie the score at the half.
The Seahawks got in front when Wilson, after making a key 20-yard rush to get his team into the red zone, threw a four-yard pass to Michael Robinson.
The game's crucial moment came with just over eight minutes remaining on the clock in the fourth when Tannehill's throw into the end zone was intercepted.
But the officials spotted Seattle free safety Earl Thomas had hit Tannehill after his throw and the penalty gave the Dolphins a first-and-goal, leading to Daniel Thomas's three-yard rushing touchdown.
Miami didn't stay on level terms long though as the lightning fast Leon Washington promptly returned the kickoff 98 yards to put Seattle up 21-14.
The Dolphins kept finding ways to bounce back though. Tannehill found Charles Clay open in the right corner of the end zone with a 29-yard touchdown pass to level the score.
With the ball in his hands one final time, rookie Tannehill led an impressive seven-play, 65-yard drive culminating in Carpenter's game-winning kick.
Seattle have won only one of their six games on the road this season but head coach Pete Carroll said his team simply performed below par.
"We didn't play like we normally play," he said. "We had issues on both sides of the ball, making little mistakes that we normally don't."
Carroll said allowing the team plenty of time off during their bye week had proved to be a mistake.
"I didn't do it right with the week off, I didn't handle it well and I screwed it up," he said.
(Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Gene Cherry)