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Dan Shaughnessy

This one had the makings of a Strange finish, but instead we’re left to wonder what to make of these Patriots

The Patriots signaled first down, but guard Cole Strange was ruled inches short, effectively ending the game.Barry Chin/Globe Staff


No fun.

No fun at all.

The Patriots lost to the Dolphins, 24-17, Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, a loss especially frustrating because we almost saw a dramatic comeback.

Bob Kraft’s new 22-story lighthouse is not exactly a good luck charm. The Patriots are 0-2 All Along The Watchtower. A Bill Belichick team is 0-2 for the first time in 22 years. Like the moribund Red Sox, the Patriots have secured sole possession of last place in their division.

“Not too much to say about this one,” said Belichick. “Tough loss.”

This one had the makings of one of those goofy Patriots-vs.-Dolphins finishes; like prison inmate Mark Henderson snowplowing a spot for a Patriots’ game-winning field goal in 1982; or like the hideous Miracle-in-Miami double-lateral play that crushed the Patriots in the closing seconds of a late-season game in 2018.


After being dominated most of the night, the Patriots looked as if they might force a tie when tight end Mike Gesicki caught a short Mac Jones pass on fourth and 4 and lateraled to 310-pound guard Cole Strange, who fell forward and appeared to have a first down inside the Dolphin 30 with less than a minute left.

The Pats had life. The crowd, quiet for much of the night, went wild.

But then the play was reviewed and it was determined that Strange didn’t make it to the first-down marker.

Ball game.


For the second straight week, the Patriots came up short. We didn’t get a chance to see Jones go for the win in the closing seconds. It was similar to the frustrating finish against the Eagles at Gillette a week earlier.

So we are left empty, wondering what to make of these Patriots. Are we going to see another 15 rock fights this season? Will every game feature two teams held under 30 points?


If it’s going to be like this all year then the Celtics and Bruins can’t start training camp soon enough.

“We need to be a lot more disciplined," said tight end Hunter Henry, who caught a touchdown pass. “We’ve lost two weeks in a row on close games. Two big turnovers. We’re putting our defense behind the eight ball and we’ve got to be better offensively."

Patriots tight end Hunter Henry said the team needs to be "a lot more disciplined" if it hopes to turn around these close losses.Maddie Meyer/Getty

There was considerable local optimism coming into the game. The Patriots were competitive in their season-opening loss to the NFC champion Eagles, with multiple chances to win in the final minutes. With Jets savior Aaron Rodgers KO’d for the season, and the mighty Bills losing their opener, there seemed to be a surprise path to the playoffs.

All that feel-good stuff went away Sunday as Bill O’Brien’s “new” offense made us long for the days of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. The Patriots didn’t have an offensive play of more than 12 yards until the first minute of the fourth quarter. A couple of turnovers killed crucial drives (three first-quarter turnovers in two weeks) and the Patriots couldn’t muster a real threat until they went no-huddle after falling behind, 24-10, with less than nine minutes to play.

When asked about the slow starts, Belichick said, “Can’t turn the ball over."

Rookie wideout Demario “Pop” Douglas was stripped of the football on the Patriots’ second series and never returned to the offensive unit. With the exception of special teams duty, poor Pop spent the rest of the game on the bench, cradling a football in his right hand.


What else is there to say about the Patriots at this hour? The O-line didn’t look very good. The offense demonstrated no explosiveness. No big plays. For a second straight week, the Patriots heard boos at home in the first half. They are 0-5 lifetime against Tua Tagovailoa. Jones is 0-4 in head-to-head matchups against his old Alabama teammate.

The best moments for Patriots fans came when special teamer Brenden Schooler blocked a field goal attempt and minutes later when Jones took the locals 75 yards in 3:20 to cut the margin to 24-17 on a TD run by Rhamondre Stevenson.

Brenden Schooler's blocked field goal attempt might have been the highlight play of the night for the Patriots.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

We thought it was going to get even better in the final minutes, but the zebras and their New York conspirators decided Strange did not get the first down.

Strange indeed.

“I know it looks bad, but we’re not a bad team," said linebacker Matthew Judon. “We’re going to get our corrections corrected. We got to just play how we played in the second half from the first play. We can’t wait till we down 17, 13, to make a comeback. You can’t come out here and have slow starts."

“We’re close," said Jones. “We drove the ball pretty well. We just didn’t get it in. We have to make it easier on the defense and special teams . . . We have to stay positive and try to stay together."


Are the Jets the cure? The Patriots have beaten the Jets 14 consecutive times and play at New York next weekend. The Zach Wilson Jets were waxed by the Cowboys, 30-10 Sunday.

Maybe the Pats are not as bad as the Jets.

Right now, that’s all we’ve got.

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Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.