scorecardresearch
Dolphins 34, Patriots 33

Patriots lose as Dolphins score improbable touchdown on final play

Kenyan Drake races past J.C. Jackson and Rob Gronkowski for the game-winning score.
Kenyan Drake races past J.C. Jackson and Rob Gronkowski for the game-winning score.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Just seconds away from clinching their 10th consecutive AFC East title and increasing their chances for a bye in the playoffs, the Patriots let one slip away, surrendering a 69-yard touchdown on the final play of the game to lose 34-33 to the Miami Dolphins.

After Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 33-28 lead with 16 seconds remaining, Miami had the ball on its own 31. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed to Kenny Stills 14 yards downfield. Stills tossed a lateral to DeVonte Parker, who flipped it to Kenyan Drake, who raced 50 yards through the New England defense for the winning touchdown with no time remaining.

Advertisement



“They made a good play,” said Tom Brady, who completed 27 of 43 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. “They did a good job executing it. They got it to their fast guys. Football’s a crazy game. It shouldn’t have come down to that. I think we left a lot more points off the board offensively.”

It was a crushing loss, as the Patriots failed to keep pace with Kansas City in the quest for the No. 1 seed in the AFC after the Chiefs prevailed over the Baltimore Ravens, 27-24 in overtime, to improve to 11-2. The Patriots also missed out on a chance to gain some separation from the Houston Texans, who lost to the Indianapolis Colts, 24-21. Both the Patriots and the Texans are now 9-4.

“That’s a real disappointing ending for us today. There’s a lot of things we could have done better,” said coach Bill Belichick. “It came down to one play, but there are a lot of other things beside that. In the end we just have to do a better job than we did.”

Advertisement



It was a strange ending to a strange game in which the usually reliable Gostkowski missed a field goal and an extra point, but also saw the special teams come up big with two blocked punts, both by Albert McClellan.

The Dolphins improved to 7-6 and pulled within two games of the Patriots in the division. The victory also allowed Miami to draw even with the Ravens and the Colts for the final wild-card spot.

The Patriots led 27-21 at halftime after a wild first half that saw the lead change hands on five consecutive possessions. Former Patriot Brandon Bolden, who had just one carry all season for the Dolphins, scored two touchdowns on his only two rushing attempts, including a 54-yarder.

“You kind of just practice those plays all week, waiting for a perfect look, and once I got past the safety, I was just like ‘I just hope nobody catches me,’” said Bolden. “I even peeked up at the [video] board to make sure nobody was catching me. Just hit the jets and keep running until the whistle blows.”

Brady surpassed Peyton Manning for most touchdown passes in NFL history with a two-yard toss to Julian Edelman in the second quarter. He added two more before the half was over to bring his total to 582.

He made an uncharacteristic mistake though at the end of the half that cost the Patriots a chance to kick a field goal. After McClellan’s second blocked punt gave the Patriots the ball on the Miami 15 with 30 seconds remaining in the half, Brady overthrew a wide open Chris Hogan in the end zone on third down, then took a sack on fourth down. With the Patriots out of timeouts, they were unable to stop the clock before the half ended.

Advertisement



Below are updates as posted during the game.

Fourth quarter

Dolphins 34, Patriots 33 (0:00): The Dolphins pulled off a miraculous walk-off touchdown, flipping laterals on the last play of the game to reach the end zone and beat a stunned Patriots team. On 1st and 10 from the Miami 31-yard line, Ryan Tannehill passed to Kenny Stills 14 yards downfield. Stills tossed a lateral to DeVonte Parker, who flipped it to Kenyan Drake, who raced 50 yards through the New England defense for an incredible six points.

Patriots 33, Dolphins 28 (0:16): Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 22-yard field goal for the Patriots.

The highlight of New England’s drive came when the officials whistled Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick for a pass interference penalty that put the Patriots on the Miami 7-yard line. Josh Gordon beat Fitzpatrick down the left sideline, and the safety grabbed his arm as Tom Brady’s deep ball arrived.

Early in the drive, Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel looked to have snapped off a long run, but the play was called back for offensive holding. Brady found Gordon for 12 yards two plays later, then looked to the wideout once more for the big gain.

Advertisement



Patriots 30, Dolphins 28 (4:26): Kenny Stills picked up a first down for Miami on the first play of the drive, but the wide receiver couldn’t hold on to another crucial pass. On 3rd and 4 at the Miami 40-yard line, Ryan Tannehill’s pass over the middle slipped away from Stills and the Dolphins were forced to punt.

Patriots 30, Dolphins 28 (6:45): Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Patriots the lead. The Patriots traveled 55 yards in eight plays to set up the score. Tom Brady kept the chains moving with a 3-yard rush on 2nd and 1, then went back to the air for a 16-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski. The drive came to a halt when his third down pass intended for Rex Burkhead sailed out of bounds.

Dolphins 28, Patriots 27 (10:28): On 2nd and 16, Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills slid to the ground a yard shy of the first down marker. Patriots defensive end John Simon made Miami pay for the extra down, sacking Ryan Tannehill for a 7-yard loss to force the Dolphins to punt. The Patriots started at their 31-yard line.

Dolphins 28, Patriots 27 (14:54): Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain reached Tom Brady for a third down sack to stall the Patriots drive. Brady had completed two passes to Rob Gronkowski for gains of 13 and 11 yards as New England neared midfield, before the offensive line failed to block McCain’s blitz.

Advertisement



Punter Ryan Allen pinned the Dolphins on their 8-yard line.

Third quarter

Dolphins 28, Patriots 27 (3:58): Miami wide receiver Brice Butler overcame Stephon Gilmore’s tight coverage and reeled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill. Frank Gore led the Dolphins downfield, powering for a 16-yard gain on the ground then taking a short Tannehill toss 24 yards to the edge of the red zone.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (6:21): Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake got a hand to Tom Brady’s throwing arm as the quarterback released the ball on third and 8 at the Miami 24. Stephen Gostkowski’s 42-yard field goal attempt missed wide right.

Brady had completed a pass to Josh Gordon earlier in the drive, who sidestepped his defender and raced for a 29-yard gain. Sony Michel rushed for two yards before Brady threw two incompletions, the second a result of Wake’s intervention.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (10:06): Ryan Tannehill, back in the game but limping on the injured ankle, found Danny Amendola for a 10-yard gain on 3rd and 24 as the Dolphins drive stalled. Miami was forced back 10 yards after the officials flagged Laremy Tunsil for illegal use of hands, then Patriots defensive tackle Adam Butler stuffed Kenyan Drake in the backfield. Julian Edelman returned Matt Haack’s punt to the New England 22-yard line.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (14:10): Miami running back Frank Gore fumbled on the first play of the second half. The Dolphins recovered, but not before the players fighting for the loose ball dug up a chunk of the field. Play was delayed as the officials called for the grounds crew to fix the turf.

Ryan Tannehill screamed in pain as he was sacked late in the first half by Adam Butler. Tanehiill had his foot stepped on by a teammate on the play.
Ryan Tannehill screamed in pain as he was sacked late in the first half by Adam Butler. Tanehiill had his foot stepped on by a teammate on the play.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Halftime: Patriots 27, Dolphins 21

Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and surpassed Peyton Manning for most touchdown passes in NFL history.

A few stats:

Total yards: NE 259, MIA 204

Plays: NE 42, MIA 24

Yards per play: NE 6.2, MIA 8.5

First downs: NE 16, MIA 11

Third down: NE 7-10, MIA 0-3

Penalties: NE 2-10, MIA 1-5

Tom Brady: 18-26, 232 yards, 3 TDs, 135.3 rating

Ryan Tannehill: 5-8, 96 yards, 1 TD, 143.8 rating

Second quarter

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (0:00): The Patriots failed to capitalize on the short field position. On third and goal from the Miami two, Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn sacked Tom Brady for a 7-yard loss. The Patriots, who were out of timeouts, could not kick a field goal before time ran out in the first half.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (0:30): Ryan Tannehill walked to the locker room after a teammate stepped on his ankle. Brock Osweiler, who replaced him under center for Miami, was sacked on his first play for a 6-yard loss on third and long. Patriots special teammer Albert McClellan again blocked the punt and New England took over on the Miami 15-yard line.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (0:51): The Patriots matched the Dolphins with a three-and-out of their own. On 3rd and 8 from the New England 28-yard line, Tom Brady passed to James White, who was stopped short of the first down marker. Danny Amendola returned Ryan Allen’s punt to the Miami 32-yard line.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (2:00): The string of five back-and-forth touchdowns finally broke as the Dolphins went three-and-out. After two short rushes, Kyle Van Noy and Jonathan Jones sacked Ryan Tannehill for a 8-yard loss on 3rd and 4. Matt Haack punted 57 yards to Julian Edelman.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 21 (3:49): Tom Brady lofted a 16-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown. The quarterback led the Patriots 75 yards in eight plays, completing passes to Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and Gronkowski for double-digit gains before the tight end reeled in the touchdown throw.

Dolphins 21, Patriots 20 (7:28): Brandon Bolden added his second touchdown of the afternoon for Miami, bowling through a collection of Patriots for a 6-yard score. The run capped a six play, 75-yard drive for the Dolphins, sparked by a 43-yard Ryan Tannehill toss to Kenny Stills on the first play.

Patriots 20, Dolphins 14 (10:32): Tom Brady rifled a deep ball to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 37-yard touchdown as the Patriots quickly responded to the Dolphins’ tally.

New England drove into Miami territory, via a 17-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski and a 16-yard strike to Julian Edelman on 3rd and 10, before Patterson beat the Dolphins secondary over the top.

Dolphins 14, Patriots 13 (13:26): Former Patriots running back Brandon Bolden broke free from his old teammates, racing for 54 yards and a touchdown for the Dolphins.

Bolden’s sprint came on the second play of the drive, after Ryan Tannehill connected with Kenny Stills for a 21-yard gain. Miami needed just two plays and 48 seconds to travel 75 yards for the score.

Patriots 13, Dolphins 7 (14:14): The Patriots made the most of the short field position granted by the blocked punt. On third and goal from the Miami 2-yard line, Julian Edelman found an inch of separation from his defender and Tom Brady found him for a touchdown. It was the third catch of the drive for Edelman, who was also targeted for a 10-yard gain as the Patriots took back the lead.

First quarter

Dolphins 7, Patriots 6 (2:06): After Dont’a Hightower sacked Ryan Tannehill on third and 10 to bring out the Dolphins punt unit, Albert McClellan blocked the punt and Ramon Humber recovered for the Patriots. The New England offense took over at the Miami 24-yard line.

The Dolphins had picked up one first down, via a defensive holding penalty, before two incompletions led to the 3rd down blitz.

Dolphins 7, Patriots 6 (3:24): The Patriots went three-and-out on their second drive of the game. Tom Brady completed two short passes to Rex Burkhead and Rob Gronkowski to bring up 3rd and 1, then then handed off to Burkhead.

Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso dropped Burkhead in the backfield to stall the drive. Ryan Allen punted 47 yards to Miami wideout Danny Amendola.

Dolphins 7, Patriots 6 (5:32): On 1st and goal from the New England 7-yard line, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill found Kenny Stills for a touchdown to answer the Patriots’ initial strike. Tannehill marched Miami downfield with a 15-yard completion to DeVante Parker and a 13-yard scramble himself, then watched 35-year-old running back Frank Gore sprint for 36 yards and set up Stills’ score.

Patriots 6, Dolphins 0 (8:13): James Develin, who scored two touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings last week, burst through the Dolphins goal-line defense for six points to put the Patriots on the board. Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point.

Develin’s 2-yard touchdown punctuated a 12-play, 75-yard drive. Tom Brady led New England downfield, finding Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman on third downs to keep the drive alive before Cordarrelle Patterson raced 14 yards up the sideline and into the red zone.

Coin toss

The Dolphins won the toss and elected to defer. Tom Brady and the Patriots start with the ball.

Inactives

Dolphins: David Fales, QB. Xavien Howard, CB. Jake Brendel, C. Isaac Asiata, G. Zach Sterup, T. Jonathan Woodard, DE. Isaiah Ford, WR.

Patriots: James Ferentz, OL. Duke Dawson, DB. Keion Crossen, CB. Danny Shelton, DL. Keionta Davis, DE. Dwayne Allen, TE. Derek Rivers, DE.

Pregame scenes

Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn warmed up on the field before the game.
Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn warmed up on the field before the game. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Fans cheered as Tom Brady took the field for pregame warmups.
Fans cheered as Tom Brady took the field for pregame warmups.(Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Patriots fans, including one with a Santa hat and a sign with a Christmas wish list, were in abundance in the stands before the game.
Patriots fans, including one with a Santa hat and a sign with a Christmas wish list, were in abundance in the stands before the game. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Patriots fans make their way to Hard Rock Stadium.
Patriots fans make their way to Hard Rock Stadium. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
After a heavy rain storm came through the area before the game, a Patriots fan hurdled a puddle outside Hard Rock Stadium.
After a heavy rain storm came through the area before the game, a Patriots fan hurdled a puddle outside Hard Rock Stadium. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Pregame notes

■  A win will pull New England (9-3) within one of evening the all-time series between the franchises. Miami (6-6) leads 54-52 entering Sunday. In the Belichick era, the Patriots have gained significant ground in the series, going 24-13 vs the Dolphins since 2000.

■  The Dolphins have not done a good job protecting the quarterback, allowing 31 sacks for 247 yards of losses.

■  One of the few stats categories the Dolphins lead the Patriots in is turnover differential (Miami +8, NE +6).

■  A win will give the Patriots the NFL record for consecutive playoff appearances with 10, breaking a tie with the Cowboys (1975-1983) and Colts (2002-2010).

■  The Patriots defense has not allowed a 300-yard passer in five-straight games or a 100-yard rusher in nine straight.

■  Tom Brady needs one touchdown pass to become the NFL career for touchdown passes. He starts the day tied with Peyton Manning.

■  If James White catches four passes, he’ll set the Patriots season record for receptions by a running back. He also needs 26 receiving yards to set the Patriots single-season record for receiving yards by a running back.

Dolphins’ keys to victory

1. Miami heat: Defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn have to make Tom Brady sweat a little in the Sunshine State. If not, he’s going to burn you time and again.

2. Miami vise: Kiko Alonso & Co. have to put the squeeze on the running backs and prevent the Patriots from achieving the balance that has made them so dangerous the last few weeks.

3. Miami turnover chain: The Dolphins are good at taking away the ball (plus-8), and a couple or three would be huge for a team that is missing some of its top defensive players.

Patriots’ keys to victory

1. Heat lightning: Josh Gordon said he’s “as good as I’ve ever been” healthwise. It’s time to test a tattered secondary and see if he and Tom Brady can connect on some deep shots.

2. Heat index: The Patriots backs had a combined 45 touches in the win over the Vikings. Hitting those numbers again would help keep everyone fresh for four quarters.

3. Heat wave: Miami’s offensive line has struggled in pass protection. So, keep coming after Ryan Tannehill from every direction and hit him until he loses his will.

– Jim McBride

Pregame reading

■  Tara Sullivan: For Tom Brady, Miami is his house of horrors

■  Chad Finn: A win at Miami won’t come easy for the Patriots

■  Jim McBride: Scouting the Patriots-Dolphins matchup


Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.