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The final play was a huge breakdown, but it wasn’t the only one the Patriots suffered

Brandon Bolden is off to the races on a 54-yard touchdown.mark brown/Getty

It was mayhem in Miami.

The sight of 45 Dolphins players — and innumerable staffers — charging across the Hard Rock Stadium turf to jump on Kenyan Drake after 11 Patriots had failed to, will be the indelible image of Sunday’s game, a stunning 34-33 Miami victory.

Drake’s journey through a disjointed and discombobulated New England defense came after a Ryan Tannehill pass and a pair of laterals.

The 69-yard game-ending play already has been dissected by everyone from North Berwick, Maine, to the South Florida Keys, so here’s just a short recap.

There were multiple mistakes, missed tackles, and mini-blocks that added up to the miraculous ending.


Related: Tara Sullivan: This has been Rob Gronkowski’s strangest, weirdest NFL season so far

It was curious that Devin McCourty, arguably New England’s best defender and one of the best open-field tacklers in the business, was not on the field. It was the only play the veteran safety missed all day.

It started with Jonathan Jones’s decision to play the ball rather than drape Kenny Stills, the original target. Had he just allowed the catch and then wrapped up Stills, it could have ended there.

J.C. Jackson’s body language made it appear that he thought a diving Kyle Van Noy had either tackled Drake or knocked him out of bounds.

Former Patriot Danny Amendola and Ted Larsen each got enough of Patrick Chung to prevent the Patriots safety from getting a clean shot at Drake.

And finally, Rob Gronkowski appeared indecisive as to what was the best angle to take as the last line of defense, then he slipped and couldn’t get to Drake.

“Just the way it ended, I mean, it sucked,’’ said Gronkowski, who for once wasn’t the life of the party during an end zone celebration. “I’ve never really been a part of anything like that.


“I feel it’s going to test our character big time, how we bounce back from something like that, and I’ve just got to make that tackle.’’

Upon further film review, here are some other things that stood out as the Patriots fell to 9-4 but still were able to maintain their No. 2 spot in the AFC playoff seedings.

■   Wholly unacceptable.

New England seemed caught off-guard by a Miami ground machine that had struggled this season and was averaging just over 100 yards per game. Brandon Bolden got more than half of that on his first carry as Miami chewed up 142 yards in the first half and 189 for the game.

Missed tackles were a big factor, but the Dolphins’ scheme involved a lot of shifting and stunting that led to big gaps and big gains. For example, take Bolden’s 54-yard run.

Bolden followed the block of tight end Durham Smythe, who had split the stunt of right tackle Ja’Wuan James and right guard Jesse Davis. Smythe whammed Lawrence Guy, and James set the edge by washing out Van Noy, creating a healthy lane. Davis, meanwhile, led a second-level convoy that featured Travis Swanson’s standup block on Elandon Roberts.

Bolden continued to follow the blocks before speeding around Duron Harmon and into the end zone.

  No push up front.

The Patriots arrived in South Florida with a potent rushing attack, having piled up 375 yards in the previous two games, wins over the Jets and Vikings. Against the Dolphins, that ground game was grounded.


Miami had struggled to defend the run all season but there was little evidence of those struggles in this one. The Dolphins were physical at the point of attack and New England’s offensive line either couldn’t sustain its blocks or missed them completely.

One of the ugliest plays was a drive-killer in the first quarter when Rex Burkhead was dropped for a 2-yard loss on a third and 1.

After directing traffic from his middle linebacker spot, Kiko Alonso blasted through the vacant left side (Chris Hogan was eyeing an upfield block and Trent Brown didn’t hit anybody) and cut down Burkhead.

The only thing uglier than the result was that halter top that Alonso was wearing. That thing needs to find a home in the Everglades.

  Brady on target.

Tom Brady’s first half, save for his self-acknowledged brain cramp on the final play, was brilliant. He finished the first 30 minutes with 231 passing yards and three touchdowns. His overall numbers (27 of 43, 358 yards, 3 TDs) were still good, but there was a big dip after his equipment malfunction following his scoring strike to Gronkowski.

Brady dropped to the turf momentarily after the play and was briefly attended to by trainer Jim Whalen. Brady told WEEI Monday that his knee brace “grabbed” in the wrong spot and he had “no concerns” about it moving ahead.


Prior to that, Brady was 16 of 20 for 212 yards and 3 TDs. Afterward, he was 11 of 23 for 146 yards.

Brady’s best throw was his 37-yard seam-shot TD to Cordarrelle Patterson that put the Patriots up, 20-14, in the second quarter.

Patterson lined up just off the line to Brady’s right and got a free release. He dusted Walt Aikens and Brady led him beautifully, dropping a vapor-trail pass into his receiver’s hands in the end zone.

  Flash forward.

The continued development of Josh Gordon has been a popular story line, and he added a big chapter Sunday. Gordon caught five passes for 96 yards — a whopping 19.2-yard average — and again flashed his brilliance after the catch.

On his first catch, Gordon hauled in an 8-yard slant from Brady at the 40-yard line, then dragged Miami defenders Minkah Fitzpatrick and Alonso for another 8 yards.

No veteran receiver has ever adapted to the Patriots playbook and/or developed a rapport with Brady quicker than Gordon.

  Flowers blossoming.

The defense took its lumps for sure, but Trey Flowers again showed why he’s going to be a man in demand if he hits the open market in the offseason.

On Miami’s final possession of the first half, Flowers was credited with sacks of Tannehill and Brock Osweiler in a three-play sequence.

First he power-drove James into Tannehill, with the offensive lineman stepping on his quarterback’s foot, knocking him from the game.


On Osweiler’s first pass attempt, Flowers disengaged from James and looped inside to flatten the quarterback.

On the first play of the second half, Flowers, who finished with four quarterback hits, forced a fumble. Flowers led a pass rush that totaled five sacks and nine QB hits.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.