Everyone watching the New England Patriots this season knew it was only a matter of time before they were eliminated from playoff contention.They weren’t going to go down without a fight but this team was too undermanned to have a real chance to make a playoff run but they still had a small chance. Miami finally put Patriots fans out of their misery with a 22-12 win in week 15.
The Patriots shutout the Dolphins in the first half, building a 6-0 lead. The biggest play of the half came at the end of a 15 play Dolphins’ drive that lasted over 9 minutes. On 3rd and goal at the New England 3 yard line, Tua tried to step up in the pocket, but saw pressure from Chase Winovich and Adam Butler, and instead fired an ill advised pass that was intercepted by JC Jackson. That play was huge because the Dolphins were driving and looking to go up 7-0 at the end of the 1st quarter. Instead, Cam Newton took over and led a scoring drive of his own.
The Patriots offense finally got on the scoreboard with two second quarter field goals by Nick Folk. Both scoring drives can be attributed to a strong running game, which had 66 yards in the first half, including 42 from Sony Michel. Cam Newton almost dug his team into an early hole with a fumble deep in Miami territory that was run back for 86 yards for a touchdown, but because CB Byron Jones fumbled the ball and his teammate touched it while out of bounds, the Patriots kept the ball and kicked a field goal. The Dolphins were given another chance to score right before the half with a 52 yard field attempt, but it sailed wide right. Talk about a huge sigh of relief but it wasn’t all good news after two quarters.
CB Stephon Gilmore left the game with a non-contact knee injury. I fear the worst because I’ve seen that type of knee injury before, but until I see an official report, I’m not going to speculate what it might be. Don’t be surprised if his season is over though. On a positive note, Bill Belichick’s defense sacked Tua twice, forced an interception and seemed to control the game’s pace with a strong running game. We needed more of that in the second half and then some.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins came out firing in the 2nd half scoring an opening drive touchdown and then forcing a fumble on a Jakobi Meyers catch on the next drive. That’s now 20 straight games where Miami’s defense has forced a turnover and they’re the only team to force a turnover in all of their contests this season. The Patriots were only able to manage a 3rd Nick Folk field goal to retake the lead 9-7 heading to the 4th but Miami ended the quarter driving. That way this game was going, it was going to come down to who had the ball last. This is what happens when you have two very well coached teams and as a result I was on the edge of my seat with my eyes glued to my TV. The Patriots playoff lives were at stake.
Tua took the lead right back, as he avoided a sack by JC Jackson and ran up the middle for a 3 yard score. To add insult to injury, Miami added a 2 point conversion thanks to a trick play. Former Patriot Isiah Ford caught a screen pass from Tua and then flipped it to RB Salvon Ahmed, who sprinted to the pilon for the 2 point conversion to stretch the lead to 15-9 with 12:55 left in the game. The Patriots kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 3 points and it was time for their defense too step up.
Unfortunately, the Patriots run leaky run defense ended any hope of an upset on the next drive. They surrendered 54 yards rushing on that drive and Tua punched it in with a 1 yard touchdown on a QB sneak with 3:17 left in the game. The exclamation point came on the next drive, when Newton was sacked on 4th and 3 by Emmanuel Ogbah. With this loss, the Patriots are officially eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2008. This will be the first time since 2000 that the Patriots will finish at or below .500. We have officially entered a new era of Patriots football and this season just was not meant to be.
Obviously the Patriots never reaching the end zone killed any chance of winning this game. Kicking 4 field goals against a defense of this caliber and a playoff bound squad will not get the job done. Cam Newton had an okay day under center. He threw for 209 yards and threw the air and his favorite target was once again Jakobi Meyers, with 7 receptions for 111 yards. The problem was he had some missed opportunities down field with some deep throws and the offense only converted 22% of their third down percentages.
Dolphins Run Game Outshines Pats Defense
The Patriots defense was simply overpowered by a resurgent Dolphins ground game. You simply won’t win many games surrendering 250 yards on the ground and it really showed in the 4th quarter when they consistently broke through tackles for multiple chunk plays. That is the second straight week that the Patriots rush defense was worn down and that resulted in Miami winning the time of possession battle 37:26 to 22:34. Keep in mind this was with the Dolphins not having their top three receiving targets: WR DeVante Parker, TE Mike Gesicki and WR Jakeem Grant. TE Durham Smythe and WR Lynn Bowden delivered through the air with 11 catches for 77 yards, but the ground game was front and center for Miami. Clearly the better team won.
New England heads home to face the Buffalo Bills (11-3) next Monday Night at 8:15 pm on ESPN. Buffalo won the AFC East with their win on Saturday night in Buffalo, so that game won’t end well for the Patriots. The only chance for the Patriots to win this season is when they face the winless Jets in week 17, so it will be a long couple of weeks in Pats Nation. Hopefully 2021 will be kinder to every Pats fan across the world but for now there will be no postseason run to enjoy this season.
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Happy Holidays everyone!
By: Whitney Dowds CruelFan.com