Patriots breakdown: The best, worst (and everything in between)
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It was the scariest possible Patriots finish in a building that has had multiple names over the years but will always be best known to Tom Brady & Co. as the House of Horrors.
New England lost its wildest game in recent memory, the Dolphins pulling off a walkoff win when Kenyan Drake waltzed and whizzed his way to the end zone to end a 69-yard pass-and-lateral play with no time left Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
The play and the loss dropped the Patriots to 9-4, prevented them from clinching their 10th straight AFC East title, and delivered a blow to their hopes of securing the top seed in the AFC playoffs. New England is now two games behind Kansas City.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals, the second of which gave New England a 33-28 lead with just 16 ticks left.
The Dolphins, who improved to 7-6, were undaunted, however, coming back like they had all game, erasing their fifth deficit of the day on Drake’s score, which came after a Ryan Tannehill pass and a pair of laterals.
There were signs early on that this might be another Nightmare on Dan Marino Boulevard.
From Gostkowski’s missed extra point on the opening touchdown to Brady mistakenly thinking he had an extra timeout at the end of the first half, New England left a lot of points on the field.
“We missed a lot of opportunities,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “Miami played hard like they always do, and they just made one more play than we did.’’
And it was a historic one play. Drake’s touchdown is the longest play from scrimmage to win a game with no time remaining in the fourth quarter since the 1970 merger.
A HALF-BAD ENDING
Tom Brady was smoking for stretches of the first half, but it ended on a sour note after back-to-back botched plays.
After moving to the Miami 2-yard line on a Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski 13-yard completion, the Patriots called their final timeout.
After an incompletion on first down, Brady missed a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone on the next play with 14 seconds left. Brady was then sacked on third down as the clock ticked away. Instead of at least 3 points, the Patriots came away with none.
“That was a terrible play by me,’’ said Brady. “That should never happen. I lost track. I thought we had one timeout. We called the one, and we ran a couple plays, and I was just not thinking on third down. So, it was just a play that should never happen.’’
Lost in the loss were some flashes of brilliance from Tom Brady, who completed 27 of 43 throws for 358 yards and three touchdowns.
Brady had lots of zip on his passes and did a nice job of getting his top three targets involved. He relied heavily on Julian Edelman (nine catches, 86 yards), Rob Gronkowski (eight catches, 107 yards), and Josh Gordon (five catches, 96 yards).
Perhaps Brady’s best throw of the game, however, came when he fired a 37-yard frozen rope down the seam to Cordarrelle Patterson for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Brady wasn’t really in the mood to talk about the good stuff after the game, with the sting of the loss still fresh.
“We had some productivity. I thought we did a good job in certain areas. We left some out there,’’ he said. “I think we left a lot more points on the board offensively. That’s football.’’
KICK IN THE GUT
Stephen Gostkowski was 37 for 37 on PATs this season before slicing one off the goal post following James Develin’s 2-yard run that gave the visitors a 6-0 lead.
Later, Gostkowski sailed a 42-yard field goal wide right. It was the normally reliable Gostkowski’s fifth missed field goal of the season, and the lost 4 points obviously proved costly.
IN NO TIME
Miami’s five scoring drives were all lightning fast. Ryan Tannehill “engineered” drives of 5, 2, 6, 4, and 1 play.
In perhaps the weirdest statistical anomaly of the game, the Dolphins didn’t need to convert a third down on any of their scoring drives — and it’s a good thing because they were just 1 for 7.
The Patriots were gashed in the trenches, giving up 189 rushing yards to a team that had come in averaging a little more than 100. It was particularly painful in the first half as the Dolphins rumbled for 142 yards on the ground. A chunk of that came on two runs by former Patriot Brandon Bolden, who rushed just twice — the first a 57-yard touchdown and the second a 3-yard score.
The Patriots’ tackling struggles were odd because they had recently ranked as the best tackling team in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
“They had some plays where they just broke right into the secondary right away,’’ safety Devin McCourty said. “We will just have to see how that shows up scheme-wise and what we could’ve done better.”
New England’s own ground game, which had been on a roll lately, wasn’t able to make much ground against a Miami team that was ranked 30th in rush defense at 144.7 yards.
The Patriots collected just 77 rushing yards on 30 carries — a paltry 2.6-yard average.
“We’ve got to make more yards in the run game and control the line of scrimmage that way, too,’’ Tom Brady said. “They’ve got a good defense.”
Albert McClellan, who was signed last month to help bolster the special teams, blocked two punts in the first half. Both allowed the Patriots to start their ensuing possessions in the red zone, and the first ended with a touchdown.
The first block was recovered by Ramon Humber, who also was signed in part for his special teams prowess.
After the second, special teams captain Matthew Slater held up two fingers and stared down the Dolphins’ sideline on his way back to the bench.
McClellan spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Ravens and was a member of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship team in 2012.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Until I got in the end zone . . . I mean honestly, I’m sitting before you all and I still don’t believe it. I just saw it was Gronk in front of me and I was just like, ‘Look, I’ve got somewhere to be.’ So, I had to get in the end zone.”
Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, when asked at which point he thought the winning play might happen.
Patriots left tackle Trent Brown spent a short stint in the blue medical tent for an unknown reason, but he didn’t miss any playing time. For the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill was stepped on by a teammate and was forced to the locker room right before halftime. He had his ankle taped and returned for the second half.
NEXT WEEK: AT PITTSBURGH
Similar to last season, the Patriots now head to the Steel City fresh off a loss in South Florida. They were able to bounce back for a win in the best regular-season game of the 2017 season.
“We’ll just get back to work this week and try to go beat Pittsburgh,’’ Tom Brady said.
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