MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The mistakes started almost immediately for the Dolphins, and despite a strong defensive performance, they made a few too many to hang with the Patriots on Sunday.
A short rain shower during the Dolphins’ first possession led to a slick ball and a fumbled snap on a punt deep in their territory. Punter Brandon Fields was tackled at the 12-yard line, which set up a short touchdown drive for the Patriots. The Miami errors kept coming from there.
“It’s tough to beat a football team like that with missed opportunities, whether it be big plays down the field or turnovers or sacks,” guard Richie Incognito said after the Dolphins’ 23-16 loss. “We’re a team where there’s really no margin for error. We have to make those go away. That’s the story of the game; we didn’t make enough plays, they did.”
All three Miami units had their share of blunders, and the Patriots, as they have done many times before, were able to capitalize.
“At the end of this game, you can say we had a couple of miscues on special teams that really hurt us,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “Defensively, as well, we did some things in keeping them out of the end zone, but we didn’t stop them when we had to, when it was a one-possession game. Offensively, 13 points isn’t good enough to beat the Patriots.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a few opportunities for big plays with receiver Brian Hartline, including in the end zone in the fourth quarter when Hartline couldn’t get his second foot down in bounds. Dan Carpenter ended up kicking one of his three field goals. Tannehill had a couple of other chances for big gains downfield with Hartline open that fell incomplete.
“You can’t play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game, but they were big plays,” Hartline said. “To beat a team like that, you’ve got to make those kinds of plays, and I think, if anything, we fell short on our end offensively making the plays we needed to make.”
Bad penalties frustrated the Dolphins throughout.
In the first quarter, safety Reshad Jones picked off a Tom Brady pass intended for Aaron Hernandez and returned it to the end zone, only to have the score called back after low blocks were called on each team.
Jones’s interception ended Brady’s streak of 201 passes without a pick, the longest such active streak in the league.
Instead of a touchdown, the Dolphins settled for a Carpenter 44-yard field goal.
“It kind of hurt,” Jones said of his touchdown being called back. “It could have kept us in it toward the end of the game. But it’s all about winning. We have to keep fighting, I guess.”
Jimmy Wilson also plowed into Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko early in the second quarter, extending a New England drive that ended in a touchdown.