FOXBOROUGH — So long, bye.
The Patriots kissed their potential week off goodbye Sunday, falling to the Dolphins, 27-24, in a game nearly as shocking as the miracle loss in Miami a year ago.
Like that improbable loss, this one ended on a goofy play complete with laterals, missed tackles, fumbles, and a bunch of dejected Patriots.
New England will host a wild-card game at Gillette Stadium next weekend. The loss snapped the Patriots’ streak of nine straight years with a bye.
In the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Era, the Patriots have not reached the Super Bowl without securing the coveted first-round bye.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores marched back into town and built a game plan that flummoxed a Patriot defense he helped build before flying south.
Using some trick plays and a plethora of crossing routes, Ryan Fitzpatrick carved up the hosts, throwing for 320 yards — his final dagger a 5-yard scoring strike to Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds left, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
The Patriots (12-4) were slow out of the gates and played from behind most of the game, falling behind, 10-0, 17-10, and 20-17 before taking their first lead (24-20) with just under four minutes remaining.
“To start fast and to play fast, you’ve got to execute,’’ said Rex Burkhead. “They outexecuted us today.’’
The Patriots’ go-ahead score was a 13-yard screen pass from Brady to James White, who received a lumberjack block from right guard Shaq Mason, who cut down safety Walt Aikens to open the path.
Suddenly a Gillette Stadium crowd that had been muted all afternoon came to life and it felt like a victory party was about to break out.
Then Fitzpatrick silenced the place again.
“We knew there was a lot of football left,’’ said Mason. “It was a big score, but we knew there was a lot of football left.’’
Fitzpatrick was a maestro on the final drive, completing 9 of 11 passes and spreading the ball out to DeVante Parker, Gesicki, Albert Wilson, and Isaiah Ford.
The Patriots’ top-ranked defense had no answers. Even shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore struggled in his matchup with Parker, who caught three passes for 37 yards on the final drive. Parker finished the day with eight catches (seven while being defended by Gilmore) for 137 yards.
Fitzpatrick said he was brimming with confidence and was champing at the bit to play spoiler after the Patriots took the lead.
“I was kind of happy they took the lead rather than tied it up, just so then it was really all on us to go down there and score a touchdown or not,’’ said the Harvard grad. “A great situation to be in with a lot on the line for them, and for us, maybe not as much on the line, but with the pride and all the things that we worked through this year, there was a ton on the line for us, too.’’
Miami (5-11) seized its 10-0 lead on a Jason Sanders field goal and Eric Rowe’s 35-yard pick-6 off Brady, who failed in his first bid to win his 250th game.
“Just a bad throw,’’ shrugged the quarterback, though there looked to be a bit of a miscommunication between Sony Michel and Julian Edelman, as Rowe raced between them and to the end zone.
The Patriots tied it when Nick Folk nailed 25-yard field goal and Michel, who shook off an illness to run for 74 yards, rumbled 4 yards to cap an 82-yard drive.
The Patriots appeared poised for the double score, getting the ball back with 57 seconds left in the first half and all their timeouts, but after Michel lost 2 yards on first down, they settled for the halftime tie.
Belichick said had the team gotten a first down, it would have changed strategies.
Fitzpatrick’s 2-yard run gave the Dolphins the lead but New England answered when Brady hit a wide-open Elandon Roberts on 38-yard touchdown.
Roberts, whose tip-toe down the sideline brought the first real signs of life from the offense and the crowd, is the 79th person to catch a score from Brady, including playoffs.
Sanders (32-yard field goal) gave Miami a 20-17 lead before White’s touchdown gave New England its one and only lead, setting the stage for the Dolphins to deliver their latest gut punch to the Patriots.
Just as they don’t spend much time celebrating their high points, the Patriots didn’t sound like a bunch of guys thinking about wallowing in their lows.
“Let’s not be moping around feeling sorry for ourselves. We’re in the playoffs in the National Football League and this is an exciting time,’’ said Matthew Slater. “Our team has to work and be appreciative where we are and make the best of it.’’
Burkhead said they’ll return to work Monday with a singular focus.
“It’s a quick turnaround and we have to quickly put this behind us and understand that we’ve got a playoff game to be played next week and do whatever we can to prepare and get ready for that,’’ he said.